Listening to Children about Divorce
March 26, 2009
The Annual Family Law Institute in Minnesota
Every year at the end of March, the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Family Law Section ( http://www.mnbar.org/sections/family-law/ ) puts on the conference of the year for family law attorney: The Annual Family Law Institute. As we’re getting ready to attend this year’s conference, I am reminded of the excellent opening day speaker from the 2008 conference: Constance R. Ahrons, Ph.D. ( http://constanceahrons.com/ ), whose topic “Listening to Children About Divorce” confirmed what many of us in family law have been trying to explain to our clients – children are affected by how you and your spouse relate to each other and your children.
Family and Children after Divorce
Included in her talk was an overview of her article, “Family Ties after Divorce: Long-Term Implications for Children,” Family Process ( http://familyprocess.org/ ), Vol. 46, No. 1, 2007. Dr. Ahrons’ analysis of the long-term affects of divorce on the well-being of children offers a lesson for all parents now starting the divorce process:
“No single factor contributed more to children’s self-reports of well-being after divorce than the continuing relationship between their parents. Children whose parents were cooperated reported better relationships with their parents, grandparents, stepparents, and siblings. Most of all, the children said that they wanted to have relationships with both parents. What the children wanted was not for their parents to be friends as much as they wanted them to be cordial and not badmouth each other.”
Id., pp. 58-59.
If you are able to maintain a cooperative relationship with your spouse, even if you don’t ever like each other again, your children will have better lives for it.
Plan Now for Happier Milestones
When clients first come into the office and sit down and tell a story of heart ache and sadness and regret, and worse, I try to get them to think about the future, about when the divorce is done and it’s time to have a new start on life. I ask them to think about their children – when they graduate high school, or college, or get married, picture being at their wedding and getting along with your former spouse for the sake of your child. If you alienate your children and put them in the middle during the divorce, and subject them to the fighting that is going on between the two of you, then both parents might not be invited to those events. If you want to make sure your children are going to have happy milestones that include you, make sure you have a relationship that means it can include your former spouse as well.
I’m Emily M. Matson:
I’m family law and trusts and estates attorney at Moore Family Law: www.moorefamilylawMN.com
3350 Annapolis Lane North, Suite C
Plymouth, MN 55447