25 Tips for Parents Whose Children are Getting a Divorce
By Laura Johnson
Here are some do’s, don’ts and tips to help you handle things when your son or your daughter says, “Mom and Dad, I’m getting a divorce.”
Don’t become personally involved in your child’s divorce.
Don’t ask your friend, the lawyer, to represent your son or daughter.
Don’t go to meetings between your son or your daughter and his or her lawyer.
Don’t let your son’s or daughter’s divorce affect your relationship with your other children.
Don’t interfere with your son-in-law’s or daughter-in-law’s visitation rights with your grandchildren.
Don’t say bad or derogatory things about your child’s spouse in front of your grandchildren.
Control your protective instincts and avoid becoming caught up in the nastiness of the “he said—she said” side of divorce. Recognize that divorce and family break ups are highly charged emotional events and can easily erupt into violent situations. Take precautions to protect your family’s safety.
Do listen to your son or daughter if he or she confides in you about the break up of the marriage; be supportive, but don’t say things that will fuel feelings of anger, distrust, anxiety, or hopelessness.
Don’t help your child hide money or assets. If you’re caught, in addition to becoming a party to your child’s divorce or a legal action after the divorce, you could jeopardize your own assets.
Do pay extra attention to your grandchildren. Their mom and dad may become so caught up in their own feelings about the divorce, that they will unintentionally fail to spend enough time listening to and doing things with their children.
Realize that your grandchildren’s schedule of life will be drastically changed. They will be shuffled between dad’s home and mom’s home and each parent may jealously guard his or her time with the children. You may have to make special plans, weeks in advance for family get-togethers so that you have time with your grandchildren.
If either of your grandchildren’s parents will not let you have time with your grandchildren, learn about the grandparent visitation laws in your state, and take legal steps enforce those rights if necessary.
Your grandchildren need you during and after their parent’s divorce. Call them on the phone, write letters, send cards, and spend time with them.
If your son-in-law or your daughter-in-law will have custody of your grandchildren, talk to him or her about your access to your grandchildren. Understand that it will be probably be uncomfortable for everyone and that you may be met with resistance, resentment and suspicion. Plan, in advance, for ways you can reduce those feelings.
Become involved in making “new” family traditions for your child and grandchildren to replace those lost in the ending of your child’s marriage.
Attend your grandchildren’s special events, such as sports games, recitals, and school affairs where families are invited.
If there are allegations that your son or your daughter has abused or neglected your grandchildren, be prepared for the possibility that you may be ordered by the court to supervise his or her time spent with your grandchildren. Take this responsibility very seriously and assume that you will have to tell the judge, under oath, about what occurred during the times you supervised your child’s access to your grandchildren. During the time that you are charged with this responsibility, never leave your child alone with your grandchildren and be prepared for the possibility that you will become a target of your child’s spouse or ex-spouse.
Do help your child become educated about the divorce process, financial planning, child custody, and recovery from divorce.
If you own property, especially real estate, with your son and daughter be prepared to be named as a party to the divorce proceedings. This is so the court can “divide” the property in which you have an ownership interest.
If your son or your daughter moves into your home during the pendency of his or her divorce, set rules about household chores, payment of household bills, transportation, and payment for room and board. Have your child sign a lease evidencing your agreement and require regular payments.
If your grandchildren, as well as your child, live in your home during the pendency of your child’s divorce, discuss with your child how your grandchildren’s day care, transportation, discipline and social life will be handled.
If your child doesn’t have any money, receive sufficient financial support, or have enough income to pay for everything that he or she is supposed to, plan for the possibility that you may become a secondary source of financial support for your child and grandchildren.
If you loan your child money to pay for your child’s or your grandchildren’s living expenses, always do it with a promissory note. If possible, secure your loan with any property that your child may receive in the divorce or with your child’s future earnings. Make sure that you charge a reasonable rate of interest and expect monthly payments.
Plan for the possibility that your child may ask you for large sums of money to pay divorce lawyers and other costs of litigation. If you do provide money, always do it in the form of a loan, charge interest, and demand repayment, but expect that it will take a long time to get your money back, if you ever do. If possible, secure your loan with any property or fee award that your child may receive in the divorce.
Tell your child and your grandchildren that you love them. Give them lots of smiles, hugs and kisses. They need them more than ever during and after a divorce.