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Keeping Children Uninvolved in Divorce and Family Law Proceedings

Categorized as Child Custody, Child Custody & Visitation, Divorce Litigation, Family Law

Keeping children uninvolved in any divorce or family law proceeding is important to minimizing the difficult nature of these legal disputes.  The Family Law Courts in Illinois believe that it is generally not in their best interests for them to be involved in litigation between their parents.  Children should be involved in parenting time or visitation cases as little as possible.  Going to Court can be terrifying and/or intimidating for a minor child.  Being asked specific questions by a Judge or an attorney regarding their preferences as to where they will live places the children directly into the middle of a conflict which is between their parents.  The parents, often so entrenched in their positions, think that the children should be able to voice where they want to live, or complaints that they have about a parent.  In certain circumstances, they may be correct.  However, this is generally the exception and not the rule.

Follow These Tips to Keep Children Uninvolved in Family Law Issues

Here are a few reasons why you should avoid involving your minor child in your divorce process as well as areas that often become problematic for parents:

  1. Don’t Talk to Children About Money

Talking about money issues with your kids causes unnecessary stress.

You may think that you are letting your child know something that they have “the right to know” when you tell them that their other parent is behind on child support.  Or, when you tell the child to ask the other parent to buy them something, because you do not believe you are receiving enough child support or maintenance.  Or, you tell them to ask the other parent because “that is what child support is for”.  You may feel like you say these things because you cannot afford the request, or because you want the child to know that the other parent has more money than you do so that they can ask the other parent to contribute.  The truth is, you’re putting them in the middle, and making them feel bad.  They are simply a ball bouncing back and forth between the two parents, and their needs are not being met. You are entrenching them in your issues with your ex-spouse.

How to avoid this? Don’t tell your child to go ask the other parent. A proper response would be “let me talk to mom/dad about it and get back to you”.  Have the argument regarding an expense with the other parent directly  – do NOT tell the child to go talk to the other parent.  If the parents cannot work out the expense, then turn to your attorneys, mediation, or the Court to help you adjudicate the issue.  At all costs, though, do not bounce your child back and forth like the proverbial “ball” when trying to figure out who pays for what.

Don’t Talk to Your Children About What to Say to a Guardian Ad Litem or a Child Representative.

Children often have to meet with a Child Representative or a Guardian Ad Litem as part of a divorce.  When parents try to “prepare” their children for these meetings if often backfires.  Young children are too honest and will tell the attorney that their parent told them to say “XYZ”.  Older children won’t be able to properly justify their positions or will repeat something that sounds like it came out of the mouth of an adult.  So, how do you handle this? Tell your child to be honest and tell the truth.  Don’t try to pre-plan what they will say and don’t tell them what to say. Encourage them to be truthful, forthcoming, and honest.  These attorneys can tell when children have been “prepared” and that is not good for your case, or for your children.

Don’t Let your Children “Drive the Bus” with Parenting Time.

Children do not want to go back and forth between their parents’ homes. That is understandable. They adjust to “their house” and “their room” and they usually feel as if one home is more their “house” than another house.  That might be due to where they grew up, or remarriage, or for a variety of other reasons.  However, they should not be in control of where and when they go for parenting time.  Keeping children uninvolved with the implementation of parenting time is vital. Stick to the schedule and encourage them to go to the other parent’s home.  Give them ideas of things to do there, or things to look forward to, to prepare them for the visits.  Don’t have a negative attitude or show them that you are sad that they are leaving, either.

Don’t Avoid Seeking Family Therapy – for Everyone.

It is a good idea to engage a therapist for yourself as well as your children both during and after the divorce process.  Divorce can bring a lot of feelings up for children and adults, and having a healthy outlet with a professional to address these feelings is always a good idea.  It also helps to ensure someone is listening to your children (as they may not want to tell you everything) and that you have someone to listen to you, too, so that the children don’t end up enduring hearing about your problems, as those will also stress them out.

Involving Your Child in Family Law Proceedings Can Be Damaging

Most parents who have an Allocation or Custody Judgment of some sort address the issue of not talking to the minor children regarding court proceedings or financials, such as child support. However, during the process of many family law and divorce cases, people who do not have such orders will sometimes engage in these behaviors. This can be very damaging to their children as well as to their case, for the following reasons:

  1.  Judges hate it. Family law and divorce judges absolutely cannot stand hearing that parents talk to their children about court or child support.
  2. Parenting Time is not conditioned upon payment of child support. The law is very clear on this, yet people still discuss it with their children and try to raise it as a defense to not letting the nonpaying parent exercise parenting time.
  3. Guardian Ad Litems/Child Representatives hate it. This is a pet peeve of anyone who is involved in the case who is looking out for what is in the minor children’s best interests.
  4. It is not in the minor children’s best interests to discuss these things. Court proceedings cause the litigants enough anguish, anxiety, and stress. It is not hard to imagine what this sort of information would do to a minor child. It is not in the best interests of a minor child for any of these topics to be discussed with them and any parent who does discuss these things with them will be frowned upon by the Court and the GAL/Child Representative.

Keeping children uninvolved in your divorce, custody or other family law proceeding can have a lasting impact on both your child and your case. Working with a skilled and experienced Chicago divorce attorney can help improve the process for you and your children. Please contact our family law attorneys today to schedule a confidential consultation if you have concerns about your ex is alienation your children and how to prove.

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