Q: Can parents in a divorce put their children’s needs above their own?
You hear the phrase all the time—“in the best interests of the child”. It’s the backbone of Divorce law in cases with children in Arizona. But what does it mean exactly and how can parents act like parents when they are going through Divorce or Divorce Mediation?
Arizona follows a shared parenting policy where the children of divorce spend equal or close to equal amounts of time with each parent and the parents continue to co-parent and make child care decisions in a more equal way as well—unlike some states that award physical custody to one parent and the other has limited access, visitation, and involvement in the children’s lives or care. And in most circumstances, that’s believed to be in the best interest of the children because it brings them a greater sense of safety and stability.
Unfortunately, parents often intentionally or unintentionally put their children in the middle of their divorce, sometimes using them as pawns against their ex. They talk negatively about their ex in front of the children. Or they make decisions– or fight for conditions or terms of custody– just to be confrontational or hurtful to their ex. They act with emotion instead of reason when considering the decisions and conditions that would be in their children’s best interests. Some things parents fight over include which school the children should attend, who they should live with, and what the visitation schedule should be. If they don’t act like parents, their kids can’t be kids.
Despite the emotion, anger, and pain you may be feeling toward your ex, parents should always remember and fill the following important needs of their children:
- To be safe and secure in their parent’s care
- To be kept out of the middle of their parents’ disputes
- To have access to and a relationship with both parents
- To be loved by parents who are fair yet firm
- To feel that their parents are united and on the children’s side.
If parents can behave themselves in the same room, and there are no issues of spousal abuse or substance abuse, divorce mediation may be a faster, less expensive option for couples to work out the terms of their divorce in a less adversarial manner. A mediator will help the couple learn how the divorce process works and assist them in coming to an agreement on all the necessary terms, including property and debt distribution and child custody and support. When mediation is not feasible or fails, divorce may be the next step.
Whether you have children or not, if you are thinking of divorce or struggling with a family law matter, you need an experienced and compassionate attorney by your side to guide you through the process. Cohen Family Law serves clients in the greater Phoenix area. For a free consultation, call today at 602-714-8898 or contact us here.