When parents make the difficult decision to file for divorce, the impact on the children’s lives can be devastating if the parents cannot (or will not) co-parent. Co-parenting is part and parcel to the legal concept of joint legal custody. Michigan divorce law favors joint legal custody so that both parents are involved in making decisions that affect major aspects of a child’s life (i.e. health, education, religion). It is now rare in Michigan divorce law for one parent to have sole legal custody. As a result, the parents must cooperate, or co-parent in a way that shows the children that even though the parents are no longer married, they still love their children enough to continue working together to ensure the children lead happy and successful lives.
Too often one or both parents cannot look past the emotion of the divorce and the children get stuck in the middle as the parents argue over even the most mundane issues. However, it is very important for parents, even if they have to act, that they show they children mom and dad are making joint decisions regarding their children’s lives. Kids catch on quickly. . . if they feel they can play one parent against the other, they will do it. Or, the parents’ failure to get along can cause the child to feel like he/she was the cause of the divorce.
Parents must try to put their differences aside so that their children don’t get caught in the cross-fire. If you notice your child is acting differently, perhaps withdrawn or temperatmental, then you should work hard to try and be on the same page as your ex-spouse. Several courts have programs that provide education to parents (i.e. SMILE program) to show them the benefits of co-parenting and to also discuss the damage that can be caused to children when parents cannot get along following a divorce.
Parents should also consider taking the children to counseling so they can share their feelings with someone they are not afraid to disappoint. The counselor may want to involve the parents in the counseling so parents should go into counseling with an open mind. Eventually, the goal is for the parents to get along after the divorce so that they can work together for the benefit of the children.