Monday, May 3, 2010


Today I interviewed 5 children, whom I have been appointed to represent in a neglect case against their mother for failure to protect them against her boyfriend, who uses corporal punishment to discipline them. This was such a sad experience, considering the youngest one kept asking for his mother, since they are all in foster care now. Now, I can do my best to get these kids out of harms way and back to their mother in a safe environment, and I can even counsel them and be there for them enough to get them through this horrendous process they are going through, but I wonder if parents going through a divorce or family court action know what they can do for their kids to leave them emotionally and psychologically fit. After all, after all of the bags are packed, furniture split and every other major issues argued about, your kids are still left with two parents to deal with (in most cases) and their baggage.

5 Tips for what parents can do to make the Divorce and Family Court process easier for the children involved:

1. Do Not “Alienate” The Other Parent: Unless your spouse is a danger to you or your child do not let your anger and resentment of that individual stand in the way of the child having a meaningful relationship with that spouse. Restrain any urge you have to argue with that spouse in front of your child, even if it is over the phone and your child can hear your one sided conversation. Refrain from bad mouthing the other spouse to the child. In my experience the child grows up, and instead of agreeing with your negative comments, in most cases, resents you for keeping them from their other parent, or for always speaking badly about the other parent. For the sake of your child, foster a relationship between your child and the other parent so that your child has many individuals who love him/her. Do not make your children deliver messages from you to the other spouse or put them in the middle forcing them to take sides in your arguments.

2. Do Not Let the Divorce Consume You: You want to create a stable and loving home environment for your child. A Divorce or Family Law Matter can seem like, and be as exhaustive, as a second full time job. Do your best to take a step back and realize that long after you are divorced your child will still be there and needs guidance, love, support, and your time every day. So, continue to give your child as much attention as possible even though your attorney or the court has given you homework. Also, do not bend the rules. Children thrive on consistency and stability, and if you let the divorce consume you, you may let your kids get away with things they normally would have been disciplined for. Even if your children test their boundaries stick to the routine or they may feel even more insecure about every thing in the long run.

3. Take Time for Yourself: If you are not healthy, both mentally and physically, then you will not be able to take care of your children. So this goes hand in hand with the “Do Not Let The Divorce Consume You” portion of this article. Really make sure that you take time out for yourself, by either going for some retail therapy, going to a gym, salon, or spa, or if it’s nice outside take a walk to clear your head, read a good book to take your mind off of things, or figure out any way you can to get some time just to yourself to make sure that you are staying strong and healthy for the sake of your children. A divorce or family court battle can be the most trying and difficult time of your life, but again if you have children you must remember that they are your first priority and for them you must stay SANE!

4. Educate Yourself: The more knowledgeable you have about the Court process, the law surrounding and governing your issues and just what to expect, even though it is a very unpredictable process, the less stressful and chaotic the whole process will be. So, go on Google and research New York Laws of Divorce and/or Family Court, Custody, Orders of Protection, etc. Go to your local library and read about what you are going through. Look up other blogs on Divorce and Family Court Matters, and read what others have been through. Not only will you be well prepared for what lies ahead, but you will also realize that you are not alone. The less stressed you are, the less stressed you will be with your kids, the less irritated you will be with them and the more peaceful a home environment they will have throughout the process.

5. Have A Third Party To Speak To About What You Are Going Through and Make Sure Your Children Have The Same: Whether it’s a good friend or a professional counselor, it is incredibly important for you and your children to have an impartial third party to discuss the divorce or family court process with, discuss the feelings and insecurities caused by such a process, discuss fears and doubts and just every day life. For a parent to have someone to turn to is incredibly important so that they can cope with the emotions and fears caused by the process and, therefore, refrain from taking certain things out on their children, but for the children it’s even more important so they just get every thing off their chests without feeling guilty about their feelings or scared about the parent’s reaction to their wishes and wants and fears. A child might want to reside with one parent more than the other, or be more bonded to one parent than the other and might be too scarred of hurting one parent’s feelings to say anything to that parent, so having an impartial third party to help the children through their insecurities and thoughts is incredibly beneficial during such a trying time. Lastly, do not turn to your children for counseling or sympathy, turn to your friend or counselor.

Having represented hundreds of parents and dozens of children going through the Divorce and Family Court process, the above suggestions should be read and re-read if you have children and are going through the process. The children often get the most emotional and psychological pressure put upon them during a divorce or Family Court ordeal, but are often not acknowledged or safe-guarded. A parent might not know how much they are affecting a child negatively by their actions, so it is important to always be mindful of your actions every day and put your child(ren) first.

Until next time,

Helen M. Dukhan, Esq., LL.M. @

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