Helping Kids Understand Divorce Law

August 26, 2014
Ron Shulman

Article written by Ron Shulman

Divorce can be difficult for everyone, but it is always the most difficult for children:  they are not only vulnerable emotionally, but are often too young to understand the legal and practical implications of the separation and divorce process.

The emotional part of the transition must be dealt with on an individualized basis (since each child will have specific needs, strengths, and vulnerabilities, and each parent will likely put their own particular “slant” on the situation), but the legal aspect has more of a factual component that may be easier for parents to convey in a dispassionate manner.

Here are some tips:

  • While you may be understandably preoccupied with navigating your own way through the process, it is important to dedicate time toward helping your children do so as well.   Set aside some one-on-one time to explain – to the best of your own knowledge – how the legal process works in a general sense, and give information on any upcoming legal steps that will be involved as well.
  • Answer any questions the children may have, no matter how rudimentary or far-fetched:   all too often children have formed their view of what separation and divorce entails from watching too many overwrought television and movie dramas. (Think of classic kids’ films such as Cinderella, with the wicked stepmother).
  • Avoid blaming the other parent or otherwise tainting the factual discussion with personal views on matters such as the merits of the case, or the value or cost of various court or other proceedings that may be in store.
  • Ensure that this discussion is geared to be age-appropriate.  Younger children may need only a high-level understanding of the overall legal process;  in contrast, older children may benefit from understanding some of the intricacies of the court system and the judge’s involvement in finalizing the divorce and property-division aspects.
  • Emphasize the legal element of the any settlements or orders.   Children may be confused by the structure and mandatory nature of new living arrangements and court-ordered custody and access schedules, and may not understand why the other parent is not full accessible to them in-person as had been the case when the family was intact.
  • Avail yourself of the many resources available for both parents and children.  For example, the Ontario government provides a useful guide for children called Where Do I Stand?  A Child’s Guide to Separation and Divorce.

Do you have your own questions about legal processes involved in separation and divorce?  Contact us for a consultation.