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Insulating Kids from the Conflict

September 2019

A good portion of the parental population now understands that kids need to be insulated from the conflict between adults that inherently comes along with divorce or child custody disputes.  However, an alarming portion of that same population still needs to be informed that directly involving children in the facts, circumstances, adult concerns, and legal wranglings of divorce and custody disputes is harmful to children.  This article is aimed at educating that portion. 

Regardless of how educated a parent is about this topic, breaking up a household through litigation can undoubtedly incline any parent to vie for the attention and affection of a child.  But the parent in this circumstance fails to realize that he or she typically already has the love and affection of the child.  Intentionally communicating with the child in a manner designed to diminish the opposite parent’s relationship with the child hurts that child emotionally.  Parents under stress sometimes forget that children lack the capacity to deal with adult situations as another adult would or should.  It is extremely common in divorce or custody cases to find children who merely love and respect both of their parents, have some level of anxiety already over the break-up, and generally wish to see their parents get along, if not reunited.   Making a child feel conflicted about his or her love or affection for a parent is unnecessary and harmful. 

Generally speaking, parents in custody litigation should avoid talking to their children about court proceedings, court orders, child support, lawyers, or judges.  Parents should also avoid speaking to children about attitudes or behaviors of the other parent meant to lower (or having the effect of lowering) the opinion of child about the other parent. 

Often, parents in custody litigation rationalize sharing negative information about the other parent on the basis that they are merely “telling the child the truth.” These parents selfishly forget that children are routinely insulated from truthful information for good cause, whether it be about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the details of armed conflict between nations.  Kids are insulated from harmful truths precisely because they are children. 

Sometimes, a parent is approached by a child about a disputed topic in a legal case.  The child wants answers.  Still, a parent must remain a parent.  There is rarely a true need to engage in conversation about harmful facts with a child in a legal case.  The parent in this circumstance would be better served by letting the child know he or she is loved by both parents, the child should focus on their childhood pursuits, and the topic not open to discussion.  A parent who cannot manage this sort of conclusion to the discussion may find that the court is not impressed by his or her parenting abilities. 

Courts expect parents in custody litigation to let children be children.  They should enjoy all the frivolity that comes with childhood without having to bear the anxiety of the conflict between their parents.  Parents should keep parental discussions at the parental level and strive – to the greatest extent possible – to leave the child out of any contentious discussion between the parents. 

The preeminent legal standard where children are concerned is what is in the child’s best interest.  There are cases where parents so dislike one another that a neutral disposition toward the opposite parent is the most that they can manage.  However, neutrality or indifference is not best.  What’s best is the promotion of all that’s good in the opposite parent (as far as the child can perceive).  Even where there is true discord between parents, children will benefit if they see that their parents have demonstrated respect and regard for one another as co-parents. 

It should be noted that certain extreme cases can merit parental conduct contrary to the advice given above.  Severe parental impairment, abuse, or criminality can, in a particular case, create an environment where a child would need access to greater information.  Generally, such cases should be guided by therapists, if at all possible. 

There will be a day when the child-custody litigation is over.  When that day comes, parents should be able to enjoy birthday parties, team sporting events, weddings, and eventually grandchildren without continuing animosity. 

Custody disputes routinely involve disputed facts which ought to be kept from children during the litigation.  It is imperative to create a strategy which navigates the legal landscape while also insulating children from adult matters at all times.  The Law Office of David A. Kazen can help you create that strategy.  Call and schedule a private consultation with the Law Office of David A. Kazen to address your important legal matter.