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How to Really Put Children First During A Divorce

Written by Bruce Feinstein, Esq. on . Posted in Divorce Blog


Putting the needs of children first is vitally important during a divorce proceeding, but these needs can too often be forgotten when parents’ personal issues and emotions come to the forefront.

There are also too few resources available to parents for properly navigating this difficult time. Fortunately, a new publication released by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) hopes to resolve this issue with helpful information and tips on making informed decisions about family time and childcare. “AAML Child Centered Residential Guidelines” provides knowledge about properly dividing family time, and we want to share this information to help our clients find the best ways to spend quality time with their children.

Divorce in New York is centered upon maintaining the best interests of the child, and this new guide follows the same approach to setting up parenting time, previously known as visitation. Dividing up time needs to be done in a way that is the least disruptive the child’s overall development. An article by the Huffington Post on this subject says, “the guidelines feature crucial advice from experts, recommended time schedules that spouses can adapt, and practical suggestions for arriving at a cooperative plan for the entire family.”

The guide is intended for anyone who influences the outcome of the divorce proceeding, such as parents, judges, lawyers, and mediators. Its main priority is to reduce the amount of parent conflict that can result from establishing time-sharing for their children. As a divorce lawyer in New York, my main focus is to maintain the best interests of the child. This means creating a home environment and helping to establish a schedule that is most conducive to their safety, development, and relationships with their parents.

This guide details the environment in which children perform best, as well as decisions parents unintentionally make that can negatively impact a child. Examples include using the child to resolve the parent’s personal problems, or unnecessarily exposing the child to legal proceedings. Parents can easily fall into the trap of using their children as a pawn during the divorce, whether it’s done by having them send messages to another parent or missing planned parenting time. This can cause a great deal of distress to the child, even if the parent doesn’t see it that way.

The guide then goes into a set of developmental plans created for each stage of the child’s life. According to the Huffington Post article, it “offers an essential model that ultimately stands apart from the generally accepted traditional alternating weekend visitation pattern followed by many courts throughout the country.”

These family plans and assessments include each child’s relationship with the parent and vice versa, as well as the child’s temperament, age, and stage of development. The plans go into creating parenting time arrangements, understanding the child’s specific needs during the transition, and examples of good parenting plans. This guide is centered on the fragile and important needs of a child depending on age, which is a great approach. For example, the priority of an infant is to develop trust in the parents, and the priority of children ages 3-5 is establishing security in their routines. These nuances are vital to helping a child adjust during this difficult process.

The AAML guide us based on the simple tenants of communication, respect, and understanding that each parent must have, and builds its guidelines off these basic rules. Even the smaller suggestions like dropping off rather than picking up a child to show parental support for the transition are so helpful for parents. I am looking forward to using this information in my practice to help families through the divorce process in New York and to better meet the needs of their children.

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