PARENTING AFTER DIVORCE
When Parents choose to get a divorce, they have to understand how it affects their children. Arizona law requires that both parties take a class on divorce. This class is given when the first papers have been filed in superior court, and both parties must attend. The curriculum covers a wide range of topics:
- Alternatives to divorce
- The impact divorce has on children
- This course is mandatory, even if the parties agree on all custody/support issues.
Both parties must attend: failure to attend could lead to loss of parenting time. Don’t risk losing time with your children because you think the mandated course is a foolish idea. You’d be foolish to risk loss of custody or face restricted visitation.
Speak the Language
Dissolving a marriage is a journey and you’ll be going through new experiences once the divorce petition has been filed and answered. First of all, Arizona does not use the phrase ‘custody’. It is now called ‘legal decision making’ possibly because the parent who has custody of the children has the power to make decisions for the children. The other parent has ‘parenting time’ with the children. Whether you get to make decisions for the children, or have parenting time with them, you should observe the following rules.
- Never fight in front of the children.
- Don’t try to turn your children against their father or mother.
- Children of divorce do better when their parents work as a team.
You may no longer be husband and wife, but you will always be their mother or father. Take your parenting roles seriously.
The “New Beginnings” Program
For almost 20 years, Arizona State University has been offering a “New Beginnings” program for newly divorced parents. The program is available in Coconino, Maricopa, Pima and Yuma Counties. At the present time, there is no fee, and free child care is provided. There are separate groups of Mothers and Fathers, who are taught how to better communicate with their children, how to deal with the ex-spouse without involving the children, and share feelings with parents undergoing the same ordeals.
Why This Program Works
Parents meet in small groups, directed by a professional. There are usually 6-10 members in the class, and the leader ensures the group doesn’t turn into a gossip or bull session. The parents learn how to talk to their children, and more importantly, how to listen to them. Results taken from the two decades of the study show that participants’ children:
- Earn higher grades in school
- Have better self esteem
- Are less likely to engage in drug use or sexual activity.
While most children can handle their parents’ divorce without any problems, some children are more vulnerable, and need help to get through it. Parents planning a dissolution of marriage should talk to their lawyer about counseling for their children. You do not want to be a spouse, but you will always be a parent, and have to share parenting with the ex-spouse. Ask the lawyer, and contact the Superior Court in your county to find counseling programs.