Major Life Challenges Blog Series

We are taking a closer look at some of the big issues we all can face in our lifetime. Each topic will be featured as a blog series.

Making 'Cents' for Your Children When Divorced

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For those divorcing who have kids, there can be considerable anger between the parents.  Unfortunately the ones who suffer the most from this anger are the children.  The emotional toll divorce can take on children is well-documented and alarming. I have seen the effects first hand; I am a divorced father of one, a re-married stepparent of four, and even am a child of divorce myself. Just as impactful, and a facet of the emotional impact, are the financial changes that many children endure as part of the divorce process. Through my considerable experience in dealing with children and divorce, I have some tips to help parents who are facing divorce on how to mitigate those financial impacts so that your children are not the ones paying the price.

Document Your Child Support Expenses (depending on if you are providing or receiving said support)

Child support is a hot button topic for divorced parents, no surprise; we are talking about money, which is one of the leading causes of divorce. The parent providing child support is often suspicious or critical of how the payments are being utilized for their children. The parent receiving the payments is typically concerned that the amount is insufficient to cover the myriad of expenses that come with having kids. Although you may never solve these perceptions, you can take a proactive approach to documenting the expenses like you would a budget. Take the time to clearly identify each expense covered by that child support payment. Having your ex see how this money is being applied to the children's needs can help diffuse some of that tension. Plus, it's just a good idea to document everything. Sometimes things are just contentious and documentation is the court's best friend.

Your Divorced Future Together

Recognize that if you have children, despite divorce, you and your ex-spouse still share a future together and this future needs to be planned for.  Divorced parents often think only in terms of child support and nothing beyond the age of 18. That is a problem because so many expenses parents incur extend long beyond 18. I am talking about college, weddings, cars, home ownership, grandchildren, and the not-so-happy things like illness, car accidents...inexplicable life events.  Think about these things now, not later, and come up with a plan for how you both will contribute toward said expenses, or how you want to manage them. Perhaps for your daughter's wedding you will split vendors and location, or maybe for college you will each pay two years. Obviously this is dependant on your respective financial situations, but be prepared to talk about the future.

Two homes that should feel like home

Work together to ensure that your children have all of their essentials in both of your homes. Make sure that you communicate which brands they prefer; you may even want to consider for the younger ones, replicating bedroom sets and related items. This may seem a pricey extravagance, but it goes a long way to providing some consistency for your children. Bouncing from one parent to the other can be disconcerting enough without having to adjust to completely different everything. Some replicated creature comforts can go a long way for helping kids settle in each of their 'homes.'

Divorced parents often feel more sensitive about their parenting. There is a guilt that can creep around in the back of your mind about whether your choices have damaged your offspring. Although not on my list above, another tip is to be kind to yourself. You have not failed your kids just because your marriage may have failed. Married or divorced, parenting is tough work and you need to remember that the most important thing you can do is to love your kids and appreciate the time you have with them as 'kids.' 

Do you have concerns about how to protect your kids through a divorce? Have you mastered some tips that help you and your ex-spouse work together on behalf of your children? I can use all the help I can get, so share your tips in the comments below!

Here are some great resources for divorced parents: 

More from the Divorce & Debt Series:

Divorce & Debt: An Introduction to a new Series

Divorce & Debt - Divorced and re-entering the workforce???

Mark Kline

Mark is a Ph.D. candidate in Clinical Psychology from Indiana University. Mark is also a swim coach, father, and stepfather to four children. Feel free to ask Mark about the effect of divorce on children and how to deal with divorce and financial hardship.


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