Expected Behavior for Divorced Parents Concerning Children
If you love your children, avoid involving them in your dissolution or custody disputes. The information below is something that everyone should follow, no matter how angry or upset they are toward their former partner.
Do not poison your child’s mind against the other parent by discussing his or her shortcomings. Continuing anger or bitterness toward your former partner can injure your children far more than the dissolution itself. The feelings you show are more important than the words that you use. NEVER engage in conflict with your spouse or former spouse in the presence of your children. Conflict between the two of you hurts your children.
Assure your children they are not to blame for the breakup, and they are not being rejected or abandoned. Children, especially young ones, may feel that some action or secret wish of theirs has caused the trouble between their parents.
Do not force or encourage your child to take sides. To do so often hurts the children by creating frustration, guilt, and resentment.
The break up of a marriage is always hard on the children. They may not always show their distress or realize at first what divorce will mean to them. Parents should be direct and honest in telling children what is happening and why, and do so in a way a child can understand. This will vary with the circumstances and with each child’s age and comprehension.
The guilt parents may feel about the marriage break up may interfere in their disciplining the children. A child needs consistent control and direction. Over-permissiveness or indecisive parents who leave a child at the mercy of every passing whim and impulse interfere with a child’s healthy development. Children need and want to know quite clearly what is expected of them. Children feel more secure when limits are set. They are confused when grown-ups seem to permit behavior which they themselves know to be wrong and are trying to outgrow.
Encourage the children to spend time with the other parent. Your spouse divorced you, not your children. The children should have and be allowed to display photos of both parents.
Time with the children by the non-residential parent is for the benefit and better development of the children. No matter what the difference of feeling or opinion between the parents, physical custody or visitation shall not be withheld or threatened to be withheld. Failure to receive child support is NOT grounds for withholding the children from the non-paying parent and is specifically prohibited under RCW 26.09.160(1).
The parent with whom the children live must prepare the children both physically and mentally for the physical custody or visitation. The children should be available at the time mutually agreed upon, or the time specified in the Parenting Plan or the most recent court order relating to physical custody.
Never refuse an opportunity to see or spend time with your children. You demonstrate your commitment to your children by being available to them, even if you are inconvenienced. Take the time and make the effort to show your children that they are a high priority in your life.
Your former spouse is entitled to make his or her personal plans during his or her time with the children. Do not interfere by failing to abide by the terms of the residential arrangements. Be on time. Return the children on time.
Do not fail to notify your former spouse and your children as soon as possible if you are unable to keep your arranged times. It is unfair to your children to keep them waiting — and worse to disappoint them by not coming at all.
Make your time with the children as pleasant as possible by NOT questioning them regarding the activities of your former spouse and by NOT making extravagant promises which you cannot, or will not, keep.
Never miss an important date — Christmas, birthday, graduation, etc. If you cannot be there, call or write.
If your former spouse has plans for the children that conflict with yours, be adults and work out the problem together. Consider the children’s wishes, but do not ask them to take sides.
Do not expose your children to any immoral conduct between you and any person with whom you may be emotionally involved.
Do not use your pick up and return of the children as a means to continue arguments with your former spouse. You are the role models for your children. Conduct yourselves accordingly.
Do not be in the presence of the children if you are intoxicated. Do not visit your children at unreasonable hours.
Under no circumstances shall the question of maintenance or child support payments be raised in the presence of your children.
Be prompt in paying child support as ordered. You will not be credited with presents, clothes, etc., as part of your child support payment. Withholding of residential time is NOT grounds for withholding child support and is specifically prohibited under RCW 26.09.160(1).
Think first of your children’s present and future emotional and mental well-being before acting. This will be difficult because of your own feelings, needs and emotions, but try, try, try.