Interviewer: Our Tip of the Month is about encouraging the children affected by divorce to express how they feel. Do you have any success stories where you felt the children were really protected during the divorce process despite the conflict between the parents?
Attorney Jeanette Soltys: On occasion I have a client who impresses me with their ability to co-parent and put aside differences with their soon to be ex for the sake of the children. In one situation, the father purchased a home in the same neighborhood as the marital residence so the children could freely go back and forth between the parents. I’ve even seen a few couples keep the children in the marital residence long term, with the parents taking turns spending time in the residence with the children.
Interviewer: What were the basic circumstances?
Attorney Jeanette Soltys: In all of these situations, it was a fairly typical divorcing couple, and what differentiated these cases from others was the ability of the husband and wife to set aside their negative feelings toward each other and continue to work as a co-parenting team.
Interviewer: What were the issues the children were facing?
Attorney Jeanette Soltys: The issues faced by all children of divorce, which is their entire life being turned upside down by their family unit changing dramatically.
Interviewer: How was it all resolved?
Attorney Jeanette Soltys: These families found a way to divorce while disrupting the children’s lives as little as possible by keeping the children in the same home or in one instance the same neighborhood.
Interviewer: What did you see the parents do that you thought was so effective?
Attorney Jeanette Soltys: These parents were able to set aside their emotions about what happened in the marriage so they could recognize the importance of the children’s continued relationship with the other parent and also focus on minimizing the changes in the children’s lives. Most couples are so focused on their own feelings of hurt and anger that they are unable to focus on the needs of the children. Once the divorce is over, all of the actions of your ex-spouse will eventually seem irrelevant, as you move on with your life, find happiness, and the hurts from your marriage are just part of your past. However, the children’s relationship with both parents continues. It’s a mistake to get so caught up in your own temporary feelings that you are emotionally unable to protect the children during the divorce process.
Interviewer: How can other families use this story in their own situation?
Attorney Jeanette Soltys: While living in the same neighborhood or continuing to share a house aren’t workable solutions for most divorcing couples, an important lesson we can take away is the importance of putting the children’s needs first. Our own negative feelings can cloud our perception of the children’s needs. This means we must set aside our own pain or anger in order to think clearly for the sake of the children. This often takes a lot of work. When I have a client struggling with this issue, I recommend regular therapy along with practices that help reduce stress and improve clarity, such as prayer or meditation and getting regular exercise.