Considering the Needs of the Children in Family Law Cases

Three toddlers eating at pink table

You have probably heard the expression, “Children do not come with a manual.” Clarity about what to do with the children during a family crisis, such as a divorce, becomes especially critical as the decisions made today will affect the children for the rest of their lives. When the separation process involves children, decisions are guided by the best interests of the child, not what’s best for the child’s parents or guardians. Involving a professional will assist in understanding and preparing for the needs of the children.

An agreement is considered to be in a child’s best interests if it protects or provides for the child’s physical, psychological and emotional safety and well-being. Other factors, such as the history of the child’s care, the child’s views (unless inappropriate to consider), incidents of family violence and the parents’ capacity to parent, are also considered (see section 37 of the Family Law Act and section 16 of the Divorce Act for full lists of the best interest factors). The most important thing is to keep the child healthy and safe and empower the relationships with caring adults who will be involved in the child’s life.

In the collaborative process, a neutral Co-Parenting (or Divorce) Coach or two aligned Coaches can assist parents in discussing and negotiating what is in the best interests of their particular children.  If the children are old enough to have formed their own views, a Child Specialist can interview a child and report back to the parents and their professionals about the child’s views or the effect of certain decisions on a child.

Look for a future blog post with more details to come regarding the importance of a child’s voice in the separation process.

When it comes to co-parenting children, we need a recipe to follow. Knowledge and skills is just not enough. The recipe is important because once we experience the healing and joy that comes with a good parent-child relationship, we realize that we are actually pretty good at being great parents.

Written by Gerry Bock, MA, RCC (Co-Parenting Coach and Child Specialist) and Alysha Kramer, MCP Intern

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