The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers recently surveyed its membership to find out what are the biggest mistakes divorcing couples with children make. Here are the results.
Putting your spouse down in front of your children is the biggest mistake you can make during and after divorce, followed closely by using your kids as messengers and interfering with visitation. These were some of the findings of a recent survey of some of the top divorce and family law attorneys in the U.S.A.
“It’s imperative that divorcing parents put their children before their legal battles,” said Mike McCurley, past-president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML). “It’s important for parents to remember that their actions during divorce can have long-term consequences. Children are part-mom and part-dad and need both parents in their lives.”
In order of frequency, the biggest mistakes parent make are:
- Denigrating the other spouse.
- Using the child as a messenger.
- Interfering with visitation rights.
- Sharing intimate details of the other spouse’s infidelity, behavior, etc.
- Failing to pay support/adequately supporting the children.
- Immediately introducing the children to the parent’s new love interest.
- Moving the child as far away as possible from the other parent.
- Listening to the child’s conversations with the other parent.
- Having the child read all the legal pleadings or having him or her contact the lawyer.
- Having the child request money from the other spouse.
The AAML has pursued several child-related initiatives, including creating a video — “A Look at Divorce Through the Eyes of Children” — and a booklet — “Stepping Back from Anger: Protecting your Children During Divorce” — as well as 30 public service announcements to create awareness of the profound negative effects a hostile divorce can have on children.
According to the lawyers who participated in the survey, some of the worst examples of parental misconduct they’ve witnessed include:
- Fleeing a jurisdiction with an infant, changing names and saying the mother was dead.
- Forcing children to testify in custody proceedings.
- Causing the arrest of the spouse, then photographing the spouse in handcuffs and showing the photo to the kids.
- Using false allegations of child sexual abuse to gain custody of the kids and/or the favor of the court.
“During my year of service as president of the Academy, my focus was on the devastating effects of divorce on children and what our organization could do to mitigate that damage,” said McCurley. Producing and distributing the video and the booklet are positive first steps towards this goal. To order a copy of the video or the booklet, call (800) 422-6595.
Children’s Bill of Rights
The AAML’s booklet entitled “Stepping Back from Anger” contains a Bill of Rights useful to both parents and children. Make copies for you and your kids to read.
1. You have the right to love both your parents.
And you have the right to be loved by both of them. That means you shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting to see your dad or you mom at any time. It’s important for you to have both parents in your life, particularly during difficult times, such as divorce.
2. You do not have to choose one parent over the other.
If you have an opinion about which parent you want to live with, let it be known. But nobody can force you to make that choice. If your parents can’t work it out, a judge may make the decision for them.
3. You’re entitled to all the feelings you’re having.
Don’t be embarrassed by what you’re feeling. It’s scary when your parents break up, and you’re allowed to be scared. Or angry. Or sad. Or whatever.
4. You have the right to be in a safe environment.
This means that nobody is allowed to put you in danger, either physically or emotionally. If one of your parents is hurting you, tell someone — either your other parent or a trusted adult, like a teacher.
5. You don’t belong in the middle of your parents’ break-up.
Sometimes your parents get so caught up in their own problems that they forget that you’re just a kid, and that you can’t handle their adult worries.
6. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are still part of your life.
Even if you’re living with one parent, you can still see relatives on your other parent’s side. You’ll always be a part of their lives, even if your parents aren’t together anymore.
7. You have the right to be a child.
Kids shouldn’t worry about adult problems. Concentrate on your school work, your friends, activities, etc. Your mom and dad just need your love. They can handle the rest themselves.
To order a copy of this helpful booklet, call (800) 422-6595.