As much as you try to minimize the hurt that this process will cause your children, no divorce is ever perfect or easy. The most important thing you can do for your children as parents is let them know that both parents still love them, and then back up those words with your actions.
During a divorce, there are several questions you should ask yourself and decide upon with your spouse:
How will we make decisions?
Part of the process will include making a decision on custody — which refers to how major decisions about the children will be made, not the amount of time that each parent spends with the children. Joint custody means that major decisions will be made together, which is often preferable, unless one parent is unfit and unable to make reasonable decisions regarding the wellbeing of the children.
When will the children stay with me?
Often, both parents choose to equally divide the time that the children spend under their care. This is frequently scheduled as week-long blocks, with Sunday marking a natural transition day between parents (this is easier on the children, as Monday is typically a structured school day). When parenting time isn’t divided equally due to work or other restrictions, it is quite common for the week to be divided between parents and weekends alternated. Of course, only you and your spouse can make this decision in conjunction with the children’s extra-curricular activities. When deciding upon a schedule for parenting time, it’s extremely important that the time be consistent and predictable to avoid making the children feel as if they’re caught in the middle.
How flexible is our arrangement?
Though consistency and predictability is extremely important, both you and the children can benefit from some flexibility in the schedule. For instance, if you or your spouse has tickets to an event or show that the children would enjoy, being able to trade nights with your spouse will benefit the relationship that the children have with both parents. Always take the high road in conflicts over parenting time and trading nights — and remember that the most important thing to consider is what’s best for the children.
Will the children benefit from a counselor?
Quite often, having a counselor for the children to talk to can be helpful. If you decide to support counseling for your children, the counselor will be neutral and keep the conversations confidential (it is usually better for the children if the parents are not present during these sessions). In time, the children will not need a counselor to help them with their issues related to the divorce, though the length of time which children can benefit from sessions with a counselor will vary. Any portion of the cost for counseling which isn’t covered by the provincial health plan would normally be split between parents — either equally, or in proportion to each spouse’s income.