If you do mess up your marriage or relationship, please don't mess up your children in the process

2013-03-15 13:57

The welfare of children in a divorce or separation is the most important aspect of any divorce. Although most couples believe children’s welfare is one of the most important factors to consider in a divorce, a great percentage of parents that divorce or separate see conflict as an inevitable part of the process and are determined to fight battles in court.

From time to time one comes across an intransigent parent who is incapable of objectivity when considering what is best for the child. It may well be that you do not like your partner, but the child's view of the parent is different. He or she will have love and trust for that person, capable of transcending even the most dreadful scenes that may have been witnessed.

Unfortunately it occurs often that one parent use the machinery of the law in a wrongful manner in an attempt to “legally abduct” or alienate a child by making false allegations against or about the other parent.  Often one would find that a parent will for example falsely accuse the other parent of sexually molesting the child or accusing the other parent of emotional abuse towards the child. In a recent matter a mother who was the custodian parent brought an application for a protection order against the father on behalf of their 8 year old daughter because according to her the father abused the child emotionally, when the father in fact only disciplined the child. The father was trying to make telephonic contact with his daughter for days but the mother frustrated the contact by not answering the phone and replying to his sms messages. When the father eventually did manage to speak to his daughter he disciplined her over the phone for not contacting him. The child burst out in tears and the mother used the incident as the basis for a protection order against the father for alleged emotional abuse of the child. The court granted an interim protection order in the father’s absence and the father was only able to see his child under supervision, previously the father had contact with his child every alternate weekend. A social worker was then appointed as well as a psychologist to investigate. Needless to say the child was dragged through court appearances at the Children’s court.

A child prevented from seeing a parent, they still love will eventually turn the resentment against the one trying to enforce the unenforceable. Parents often fail to comprehend the impact on the children of the conflict in their relationship. The adults in the child's life, can make the divorce and separation experience for a child much less harmful by being aware of several ways to help the child:

The child must feel and experience unconditional love from each parent.

The child must feel free of fault for the divorce and separation.

The child must feel that each parent respects the rights of the other parent.

The child must feel that he/she will be okay after the divorce and separation.

The child must feel that each parent will be okay after the divorce and separation.

Children sense and feel their parent’s emotions and especially the parent’s emotions toward one another. During a divorce and separation, adults experience some very strong and difficult emotions. It is difficult for a human being to understand how he/she could have so much love and passion for another person at one point in time, and then later have so much disdain and even hatred for that same person. It is okay for parents to talk to the child about the fact that they don't love each other any more  but the child must hear, sense, and feel that while the parents don't love each other any more and don't want to live in the same house, they do respect each other's rights as a parent to the child. For example, both parents should encourage the child to spend time with the other parent, to respect to the other parent, to obey the other parent, and to love the other parent. This can be very difficult when a parent thinks the other is making poor decisions.

The goal for divorced or separated parents should always be to maintain the best co-parenting relationships possible by moving past previous relationship issues and focusing on children’s well-beings. Conflict within a relationship or marriage where there are children involved or after a divorce or separation is the most harmful thing parents can do for their children’s development. If children go through their parents’ divorce, they have lost some access to both their parents to an extent. If the parental combat continues, the children have not only lost that access, they are still involved in that conflict and it harms children. Focusing on the children instead of the relationship problems can help divorced couples to be better parents, not messed up parents.

Bertus Preller

Family Law Attorney

Abrahams and Gross Inc. - Cape Town

Twitter: bertuspreller

Web: http://www.divorceattorney.co.za

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