Divorce and Your Children

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One question that divorce attorneys are routinely asked when counseling a client about divorce proceedings is about the effect a divorce will have on his or her children and how they will cope with Mom and Dad living apart. There is no easy answer to that question. Attorneys typically suggest that they consider the following in making their decision.

Without a doubt, a couple that is unhappy and constantly arguing over an extended period of time can be very detrimental to children. Sometimes this situation is exacerbated further by physical abuse, but even without physical abuse, a divorce could potentially benefit both the parents and the children. On the other hand, there is an enormous amount of evidence from research about divorce and children to support the hypothesis that children whose parents divorce are more prone to suffering emotional trauma upon the separation of their parents.

Regardless of the situation, children sometimes believe that there is only one family relationship -- one that includes both mom and dad. When that relationship is reconfigured, many children seem to have difficulty understanding why their parents were unable to work through whatever problems existed during marriage. As a result, the children sometimes end up harboring resentment for the parent that they perceived to be the cause of the split, or both parents.

A study by Judith Wallerstein, a psychologist whose works span 20 years between the 1970s and the 1990s, revealed that children continued to suffer fear of failure, loss, change and conflict for 25 years or more after a divorce. As one would expect, these children had difficulty establishing any kind of meaningful romantic relationships of their own, often making bad choices in choosing partners, giving up too easily if conflicts arose, or resisting relationships altogether.

While the children of divorce cope with the emotions of Mom and Dad being apart, the parents often struggle to find someone who will meet their physical, sexual, social, and economic needs. The resentment and confusion are magnified when a new spouse enters the picture, with step parents, step grandparents and step siblings. This new configuration of the family unit often rehashes the trauma of divorce during holidays, birthdays, graduations, marriages and births of children. Including extended family in these events can create conflict and emotional turmoil for everyone involved, but particularly for children. Unfortunately, the high divorce rate of second marriages forces some children of a divorce through yet another devastating loss.

While not all children of parents who divorce will have these problems, the odds increase for poor academic performance, psychological distress, drug and alcohol abuse, or engaging in criminal activity. Regardless, the breakup of a child's parents will almost always color his or her view of life and relationships in the future.

Since most divorces are not something that happens overnight, couples should take the time to do everything possible to salvage their relationship and turn it into a happy marriage for them and their children alike. It will take a strong commitment and lots of work by both parties. Marriage counseling can help couples come together by utilizing better and more open communication skills. Divorce might seem like the only solution but, it will not be an easy fix for either you or your children.

If after trying everything to stay together and determining that reconciliation is not possible, then it is always advisable for you to seek the advice of an attorney experienced in family law matters who can provide compassionate legal advice in this difficult time.

Allan R. Manka is a family law attorney based in San Antonio, Texas, who has nearly 40 years of experience helping clients facing a wide variety of family law matters, including divorce. His practice includes New Braunfels, Boerne, Bulverde, Seguin, Pleasanton, Jourdanton, the area Air Force Bases and throughout South Texas.

Contact us at 210-807-8629 or 866-621-7085 (toll free) to set up a time to come in and discuss your situation and your options.

Other Resources:

How Could Divorce Affect My Kids?, Focus On The Family

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