Over the years, the number of couples with children who are separating has been increasing. Thus, the number of children with separated parents has also been increasing. And, this is the part of separation where it gets messy: the custody of the children and the agreed arrangement between parents. It could be stressful on the part of the parents, and it could be damaging and traumatic on the part of the kids.
But not only that. The entire process of coming up with an agreement can be stressful, complicated, and costly. Not to mention it can take a series of lengthy discussions on the part of the former couple. But as with anything, it can be attained with proper discussion.
This is where mediation comes in.
The impact of separation on children
According to Census data, in 1968, around 60 million American children below 18 years old lived with their two parents present. But, come 2020, this number declined to just 51.3 million.
In 1968, 7.6 million children below 18 years old lived with just their mother present. In 2020, it rose to up to 15.3 million children living with only their mother. Meanwhile, only 0.8 million children were living with only their father in 1968. But, in 2020, it increased to 3.3 million.
Also, in 1968, an estimate of two million children had no parents to live with. This number increased to three million in 2020. According to Census data, most of those who lived without parents lived with a grandparent at home.
These government statistics only show the impact of the separation of parents to children. The more couples part ways, the more children are left alone without experiencing a complete family all their lives. It is normal and understandable for marital problems to arise. It is a given truth that some marriages do not work out.
Yet it is the responsibility of couples, whether together or separated, to continue being parents to their kids. Parents’ duty to support the needs of their kids does not end just because the marriage ended.
It should, therefore, be a mutual decision for former couples to co-parent. Certain terms should be agreed upon. The most important are the custody of the children and the visitation agreement. While child custody laws differ from state to state, the general principle for decision-making is for the child’s best interest.
No matter how complicated co-parenting is, every decision boils down to discussing the best for the kids. As they say, proper communication is the key. Here are some questions to be considered by parents when deciding on co-parenting terms:
- Who between the two parents should the kid be living with?
- How much time should the other parent get to spend with the children?
- What are the visitation terms? How frequently can they visit?
- Who gets to decide on important matters related to health and education?
Former couples can discuss and decide on these terms if they are civil with each other. But, for couples who are not on speaking terms, family lawyers are hired to mediate between the two. The lawyers are trained to come up with co-parenting terms that are both fair and beneficial to the parents and are for the children’s best interest. Once both parties agree, the terms are presented to the court for the judge to decide.
Having lawyers oversee the co-parenting process is crucial when problems arise. Just like what happened during the pandemic, when co-parenting processes were challenged by restrictions and limited operations of courts.
According to a study published by the National Library of Medicine, some parents could not secure a court date to adjust their custody arrangements. Others struggled with court closures. Some parents had to ask their lawyers to adjust their co-parenting terms because of their financial struggles during the pandemic.
Having a legal expert to seek advice from and oversee the custody arrangement despite the pandemic could help relieve the stress among co-parents. Because custody and visitation orders are bound by the court, the lawyer could give legal advice given the pandemic’s unforeseen circumstances.
Separation of parents could be scary for the kids. But they shouldn’t be the ones the shoulder the burden. The parents should do their best to make it lighter for the children. Co-parenting is all about what the kids need and what the kids want. As long as both parents agree to do what’s best for their kids, there’s no doubt a co-parenting plan will be agreed upon.