Child Custody: Keeping The Peace For Your Child’s Sake

Having a pleasant relationship with your ex may not seem possible. However, if you have kids together, your attitude towards their other parent could make or break their childhood. Here are some things to consider:

1. The child didn’t have anything to do with your divorce. He doesn’t understand why you can’t or won’t live together. He would like to know both of you, and wants to feel free to love each parent.

If you and your ex can’t be in the same room without being angry, he is in the middle. You can say it isn’t his fault until the cows come home. You can assure him that you both love him, and that your disagreement is strictly with each other, but what you say won’t mean a thing if you can’t treat each other with respect when you are together.

2. You both should have incentive to work together. Imagine that you and your ex are surgeons who have to perform a delicate operation.If you don’t cooperate, the patient will die. The patient knows you aren’t destined to be the best of friends, but she is dependent on you to pull her through her difficult illness or injury.

Your child is like the patient. She has to work through her childhood knowing that the two people she is most dependent on can’t stand each other. If one calls for a scalpel, the other one will yell for a clamp. She may not die on the operating table, but she will grow up feeling like a rag doll torn between two fighting children.

She won’t be free to meet the world on her own terms. She will be too busy trying to figure out what she should be learning from her parents. If they are unkind to each other, or cold and rude, she will feel she has to make a painful choice each time one of them wants her to do something the other one doesn’t. She is going to disappoint one of the two people she loves most in the world, no matter what choice she makes.

3. Your child should be free to enjoy his triumphs and mourn his losses. However, when the two most important people in his world can’t even sit in the bleachers together to cheer him on, why should he trust them when he has a bigger question. Say, he needs to talk about sex, drugs or any of the big things kids encounter when they are in school every day.

How can he go to one of his parents if they hate each other’s guts? How can he make a mature decision when the people he should be able to rely on don’t even respect each other? Wouldn’t he be better able to do what is best if his parents cared enough about him to be able to offer him unqualified support?

You and your ex need to declare a truce. Your marriage didn’t work out. Your incompatibility is why you got divorced. Pretend your marriage never happened. It may seem hard to do, but you only have to deal with each other over your children, and you can certainly bury the hatchet long enough to do that.

Don’t act like the other parent is so bad you can’t even talk about her. That sends a message that the child’s mother or father is so bad he can’t even be discussed. Ask the child about him. Help the child prepare for special days, like the other parent’s birthday or mother’s or father’s day. Take the child Christmas shopping, for a gift for his other parent.

Try to share important events with the child. Sit together during his football banquets. Plan her birthday celebrations together. Exchange information about what presents the child may especially enjoy or appreciate.

Let the child be a full member of both families. Encourage him to go to events on both sides. She will be much more secure if she is a part of weddings, funerals, birthdays and reunions that occur in the other parent’s family. Don’t look at the visitation schedule when permitting arrangements to be made. If an important event occurs on your weekend, be gracious and encourage the child to participate.

Your child isn’t a possession. You may have “won” custody, but the child has “lost” his other parent. You can lessen the loss by giving the child the freedom to be part of his other parent’s life.

He also needs his other parent. In fact, that need is greater than anything else you can provide for him. Holding your tongue and acting civil towards someone you aren’t fond of is a small enough price to pay for your child’s healthy adjustment in life.

About The Author If you’re getting divorced, you would like to know what to expect, right? Lucille Uttermohlen has been a family law attorney for 27 years. She’ll tell you all about the divorce process at and will answer any questions you have at

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