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Timing of Divorce in Violent or High Conflict Relationships

Joseph Coupal - Friday, January 11, 2019

What is the best time to divorce?

Walsh Law Office, Hingham, MAThe trouble is that there's no simple answer. It all depends on what's going on in your family, what kind of parents you are, how much you can cooperate, and what your child’s age and temperament is.

Of course, if there is chronic violence at home, the answer is "the sooner the better," regardless of your child’s age. Violence means physical attack – hitting, kicking, throwing objects – or chronic threats of physical violence. Exposure to such violence has serious consequences for a child's development that may last well into adulthood. As a result, the sooner that a child can stop being exposed to such violence, the better.

Filing for divorce sooner rather than later is also preferable when there is repeated high conflict in your marriage like yelling, screaming, and pounding the table. Whether these behaviors emanate from serious differences between you and your spouse, or whether they erupt over relatively insignificant issues like grocery bills, local politics and less than stellar report cards, such high conflict can be terrifying for children to witness. In such an environment, children can lose the capacity to trust or even to feel. The longer such conflict goes on, the worse it will be for your children. Again, the sooner the children can stop being exposed to such conflict, the better.

Unfortunately, while divorce in violent marriages provides important, and often immediate, relief for one or both parents, it does not always instantly help the children. When children have witnessed violent behavior, they will typically need therapy during and after the divorce to, among other things, learn new and healthier models for spousal relationships. In the same vein, divorcing a high conflict partner alone is not enough to immediately help children who have grown up under such conflictual conditions. These children, too, will likely need therapy to help them resume their development without a distorted view of how people treat each other.

Naturally, in such violent and high conflict households, the children are not the only ones who benefit from therapeutic intervention. The parents who terminate such marriages also need help, not only to protect their children but also to learn how to let go of their fear and anger. Engaging in such therapy will often help these spouses become better parents to their children and may even allow them to learn to co-parent (to the extent that such co-parenting is safe and appropriate) in the future.

For more information, contact Walsh Law.


Timing of Divorce in Low-Conflict Relationships

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, January 03, 2019

What is the best time to divorce?

Walsh Law Office, Hingham, MAIf your relationship with your spouse is low-conflict – and this encompasses more than half of all divorces – deciding when to file for divorce is a very different calculation than in the cases of violent or high conflict marriages. In such instances - - and different from violent or conflictual relationships where it is almost always best for the relationship to end as soon as possible - - parents might want to take into consideration the ages of their children and how they will react to a divorce either now or later. Considering such factors will help low-conflict parents decide whether it is best to end their marriage immediately or, perhaps, wait a few years, if such waiting would be in the best interests of the children.

Perhaps not surprisingly, preschool age children tend to have the hardest time during the breakup of a marriage, and sometimes for many years afterward. Young children often find that their relationships with their mothers are particularly impacted by divorce. For example, many women who were able to stay home part-time with their babies during the marriage are required to re-enter the workforce full-time after divorce. Mothers who took care of their little ones with long bedtime rituals, reading together, and playing favorite games, sometimes find after divorce that they have to cut back these pleasurable activities - - not because they want to - - but because they no longer have the time or energy after a long day at work. In light of this, some parents may want to delay their divorce until their youngest child enters school and adjusts to the school day routine. Once a child is in school, he will have an interesting world outside your home and a school structure that supports activities and friendships. As he begins to find his own interests and friends, you may be better able to protect him from feeling that he has lost more than he has gained with your divorce.

The second most vulnerable age for divorce is early adolescence, when children are developing rapidly and need a strong family to guide and protect them. If you have a preteen child in trouble – failing at school or not keeping up with peers in some important regard – it may make sense to hesitate before getting a divorce. Your child may be too troubled at this age to adjust to the demands of a post-divorce family. That said, before you make any moves, consider whether your child is developmentally on target. If not, try to get her some help including with an experienced adolescent therapist, if appropriate, before you embark on the divorce.

Of course, sometimes best laid plans may go astray and you find yourself filing for divorce at one of these pivotal times in your child’s life. If this happens to you, keep in mind the importance of maintaining the stability of care with young children and the special vulnerability of children entering adolescence. This is the time to call on your family and friends for help and to work - - as best you can - - with your spouse to set up plans for your children before you separate.

For more information, contact Walsh Law.


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