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How to Explain Child Custody to a Child

In Arizona family courts, judges often do everything in their power to keep divorce proceedings from negatively impacting children’s emotional well-being, especially when there are contentious custody proceedings taking place. Most judges discourage parents from even speaking to the children about custody disputes. However, at some point parents getting a divorce will eventually have to explain the divorce and custody arrangements to the children. It will have to be done regardless of the type of custody arrangement the court ultimately orders.

Explaining custody to a child can be a bit difficult if the child is still quite young. The process may be easier for an older teen, but they are still emotionally vulnerable as well. You can always ask for family Law help in Scottsdale to get pointers in explaining custody arrangements to children. Here are several tips from divorce experts who have navigated these waters before you:

Tell Them the Important Facts of the Custody Arrangement

You don’t need to explain the intricate legalities of joint or sole custody to children. However, you will have to explain terms of the custody arrangement as simply as possible, because it will affect them more profoundly than you. Here are the things you should tell children:

  • With which parents the kids will stay, or how much time they will have to spend at each parent’s house. These courts ordered parenting time allocations are not optional and must be followed by both parents, and the children.
  • The parent who will drop them off and pick up from school.
  • The parent who will handle transportation.
  • Repeatable schedules with each parent.
  • Living arrangements for the summer or annual vacation times (e.g. Spring or Fall Break).

Avoid Distressing Subjects

You don’t have to explain to children why the custody arrangement is the way it is, or why the parents went through a divorce. Do not bad mouth the other parent in front of the children, either. Doing some of these things may even land you in trouble with the court. Do not discuss child support, alimony or other money issues with the children either. If something is not of immediate concern to the wellbeing of the child, avoid the subject.  Money and property and other adult issues should remain discussed between counsel and the parents, not the minor children.

Let Them Know They are Loved

Children of divorced parents may experience a host of negative emotions, including feelings of abandonment or guilt. Some children feel like it is “their fault” that Mom and Dad split up.  It’s important to let the children know that both parents love them even if the parents are now divorced. Don’t leave any room for them to be alarmed about the custody arrangement. Show them that it is in their best interest. If the children have to spend time at two locations, tell them it is so because both parents want to take part in both their lives. Explain custody in a positive note so children are not unnecessarily distressed and worried with the new realities post-Decree.

Let them Feel Comfortable with Lawyers and Mediators

Children in the middle of contentious divorces may have to put up with strangers whom they keep encountering like lawyers and court-appointed advisors or interviewers. It’s important that children become familiar with these people and this process and not feel ambushed.  If explaining custody is too much for you, you can ask your lawyer to gently break the news to them. The lawyer will be familiar with what information is allowed by the court and what is not, to tell directly to the children.

It’s never easy to discuss divorce or custody with children. Hopefully, the above suggestions will help.  Regardless, you should rely on your chosen legal professional to help you navigate these critical and choppy waters.

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