by: Kent Elliott
In this blog, I’d like to expand on how the courts are handling things differently now than they did a generation ago. In light of how much easier it is to get divorced today than it was in the past, and how prevalent it is in our society, courts are leaning less on traditional guidelines for alimony and custodial arrangements, and looking more to the child’s best interest, equity, and emotional security. There is a move in the courts to evolve, albeit slowly, and to look at the interests of the whole child and the health of the whole family, in spite of the split. In this light, this is why parenting classes have become a mandatory part of divorce.
While the good news is there is often less societal stigma to divorce than there was in the past, and many more resources for your family to draw upon for support, nevertheless, divorce impacts children. Before I became a paralegal, I spent ten years as a teacher in early childhood education. Speaking as an educator, I can tell you what you probably already know, which is that children who are experiencing anxiety in the home are more likely to have trouble in school, academically and emotionally speaking. I’m not telling you this to make you feel guilty. I’m bringing it up because I know you are probably worried about this as you contemplate divorce. You may have questions in this regard and want to know what you can do to lessen the bad effects of a family dissolution.
The parenting classes mandated by the court may at first glance seem a burden. You may feel that you are already a good parent, or that you don’t have time to sit through class when you have a job and a family to care for. This may seem an added layer of stress. I encourage you to go into it with an open mind. Research shows that it is not the divorce, but the level of conflict within a family that creates negative psychological outcomes (Kirk, 2002). Also, a single-parent home that is harmonious and includes proper parenting, may be more effective than a hostile two-parent home (Hetherington & Stanley-Hagan (1999). The parenting classes are meant to be a resource for you. They will provide you with information that you can draw upon from multiple sources, and put you in touch with people who can answer your questions and support a healthy co-parenting, post divorce relationship with your ex.
It may not seem like it now, while you are going through the worst of it, but it is possible to move one day beyond the sadness, pain, and bitterness, to a strong parenting partnership. It doesn’t happen all at once. Just as it took time to go through the marriage and come to a final decision to divorce, it will take time to heal the pain and create a new kind of co-parenting relationship. Every situation is different, and of course it is not possible in all situations to have a harmonious outcome. However, to the extent that you and your ex can find common ground and create emotional security for your children, the better off they will be. Our website provides a list of support materials you can access now and links to parenting classes in the area. Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have. We are here to help.
Also find parenting classes here: http://www.mass.gov/courts/court-info/trial-court/pfc/pfc-parent-education-providers.html#Middlesex
Kent Elliott is a paralegal and title examiner with experience in family law, probate law, and real estate. In a prior life, Kent was an early education teacher. Kent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hetherington E., Stanley-Hagan M. (1999). The adjustment of children with divorced parents: A risk and resiliency perspective. Journal of Child Psychology And Psychiatry; 40 (1), 129-140.
Kirk A. The effects of divorce on young adults’ relationship competence: The influence of intimate friendships. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage [serial online]. 2002; 38 (1-2): 61-90.
See also: https://artifactsjournal.missouri.edu/2014/08/parental-divorce-and-student-academic-achievement/