A child custody case can be extremely stressful for everyone involved, but it can be particularly difficult for children. If you and your spouse or partner have separated and are working to come up with a custody arrangement, it’s imperative you put your child’s best interests first and find intentional ways to focus on their mental well-being. Their overall happiness, academic success, self-esteem, sense of belonging, and more can depend on how you handle these challenging times. For ways to put your child first during a child custody case, read on.
Hire an attorney who will look out for your child’s best interests.
The first thing to do when looking to determine legal custody, visitation time, child support, and more during a separation or divorce, is to hire an experienced family law attorney. A family lawyer with years of experience will understand the stressful situation you and your child are experiencing and can be helpful when it comes to offering legal advice and looking out for the best interest of the child.
Many people make the mistake of assuming a family lawyer doesn’t do much more than show up at a divorce trial to sort through the property and financial matters. The reality is that an experienced family lawyer can help with everything from negotiating physical custody of a child to helping you determine appropriate custody orders and child support specific to your situation.
If you lived in New Orleans, for example, and were looking to come to an agreement on the physical custody of the child with your ex-partner, a lawyer would be able to help you interpret Louisiana child custody law before ever heading into Louisiana court. This, alone, could help ease you and your child’s anxiety when it comes to the final outcome of your case. That is, by having proper legal advice, you’d be in the position to make better decisions regarding the welfare of the child and to prepare them about what might become.
Find a family therapist to work with your family.
Whether you and your estranged partner plan to split amicably and share joint custody or if parental rights are of concern, there’s no doubt that the important decisions you and your co-parent make regarding child visitation, the custodial home, and even how you interact will impact your child. The best way to help a minor child through this stressful situation is to hire a family therapist who can meet with you, your partner, and your child as a unit and individually, too. A licensed therapist can help walk minor children through the normal grief process that comes with their parents’ separation and guide you on things like effective anxiety and depression clinics for your older kids. The reality is, it’s not uncommon for family members to experience symptoms of depression, and having a family therapist on hand to help you and your child work through normal loss processing could be important.
Before bringing your child to a family therapist, have an age-appropriate conversation about whom the therapist is and what your family will see them for. Kids who have experienced a form of psychotherapy before might have more willingness to attend than kids who are new to the idea of therapy; both reactions are normal. Do what you can to normalize any sadness your child is feeling and explain that a third party could help everyone in the family work through their feelings.
Be transparent about changes in age-appropriate ways.
Most separations come with big changes. Maybe you’re planning to move back to your hometown in Maryland and have spent weeks searching for the right and affordable mover in Maryland to help you move your belongings and storage solutions for your material needs. While you might be excited about the change, starting over, and being closer to family and supports, don’t make the mistake of presuming your child feels the same way. For your child or children, a move could be viewed as another loss. For this reason, it’s important to have open conversations about how your child is feeling. While some of these discussions could be saved for meetings with the family psychologist, it will be important to let your child know they can talk to you any time they need to alone.
Learn to co-parent responsibly.
For most people, it goes without saying that taking poorly of your co-parent or faulting your partner for your separation in front of your child is never a good idea. Have an honest conversation with your former spouse or partner about how you’ll handle arguments and disagreements and agree not to fight in front of your child. Things that can’t be worked out privately can always go through lawyers in medication or in sessions alone with the psychologist. It’s in your child’s best interest to keep problems between you and your ex to yourselves.
In the end, your child is never at fault for the ending of your relationship. As adults, it’s important that parents make a conscious effort to stay positive and remind their children that they are in no way responsible for separation and that there will still be happy times ahead. By working with your former partner to put your child’s best interests first, you’ll increase your child’s odds of a happy and successful future.