Divorce with Children

Divorce is tough enough in and of itself. Divorcing when kids are involved can bring a lot of complex issues into the forefront.

How to File for Divorce with Kids

The process of divorce is slightly different when you have children. You will need to choose a lawyer specializing in family law as well as make decisions for your children’s current and future needs.

Breaking the News

Planning in advance of how to tell the children is so important.  If possible, sitting down together to break the news to them may be helpful to you and the children.  Also, remember that no matter how old they are or how bad things have been in the family home, this is likely to be a major shock for them. Anticipate how they may respond and how each of you will console and reassure them that everything will be okay.

Prioritize the Happiness of your Children

The welfare and happiness of your children is going to be the number one priority at this time, more than any other.

The children may feel responsible for the breakup of your marriage.  Make sure they know that divorce is a grown-up decision and not anything that they did or did not do. 

Attempt to make sure they feel secure by surrounding them with love from both of you as well as extended family members. This may help to maintain consistency and broaden their support system.

Avoid being negative in front of the children even when stressed over your situation.  Negativity may cause them to become anxious.  Maintain a cordial relationship with each other and keep any heated discussions away from your children.  This allows them to love both of you without feeling caught in the middle of parent’s problems.

If you are the parent who will be moving from the family home, make plans with your kids so they know when they will be seeing you. If you have physical custody of the children, be open that the other parent has more than adequate parenting time. You may feel anxious about this in the initial stages, but it will allow time to take a well-deserved break. 


If you have children, one of the biggest decisions you will have to make is where they are going to live.  Will you have custody of your children or will they live with your spouse? Will they live equally between your two homes?

If you can reasonably consider what custody arrangement will work not only for both parents but also for the children’s schedule, this will keep everyone’s needs at the forefront and easier for all concerned.

Developing a new Relationship with your Spouse

Unlike a divorcing couple with no children, you will need to develop a new and ongoing relationship with your spouse. It’s important that the kids see you treat each other well. Some spouses may find this complicated as issues surrounding divorce are fresh and impacts his/her emotions. In order to develop a new relationship, you may need to set boundaries according to defining what is private time versus ex-spouse’s involvement time? You may both agree that only when each parent is exercising custody of the children, their life should remain open to their ex-spouse.  This will be necessary as they communicate with the children and should be kept up to date of any issues surrounding them.  When each parent is not exercising custody, this is now private time and doesn’t need to be shared with one another. Learning to separate parenting involvement versus private time can lessen future relationship problems.

You may have buried your marriage contract but your parenting responsibilities will be ongoing. Learning from the beginning to place your feelings aside and put into practice good long-term relationship skills with your ex-spouse toward meeting your children’s needs has to become priority.

Learning to Co-Parent

Your spouse is not a mind-reader therefore both parents will need to be open and honest about what each of you want in regard to time spent with the children. Parenting across two homes while maintaining well - balanced children mentally and physically can be accomplished if the kid’s needs are well planned for in advance. 

Co-parenting involves communicating with each other about the children.  It will be necessary to decide how you will accomplish this, especially if ending your marriage on less than cordial terms.  Divorce Tool Box knows how difficult it is for emotions to get in the way of effective co-parenting that’s why we stress creating a communication plan that will work for your family. 

Allow your children to create their own space at each parent’s home.  Having clothes, toys and essentials at both homes will minimize the need to pack as if they are going on vacation every time that they switch homes.  If they are forced to pack everything they will need each time they change custody, this can add an element of stress.  Allowing them to have necessities as well as creating their space within each parent’s home will help to create a feeling of belonging rather than visiting.  If they carry items between homes, make sure to return the items to the other parent so your kids don’t go lacking at either parent’s home.  They may want to pack some special items that you insist they bring home again, but overall, try to go easy on them and allow them to take and leave things freely between your two homes.

Children will grow up learning how well each of you worked with the other parent to meet their needs.  When they are grown, will they look back and say what a great job you did co-parenting or have regret from their childhood resulting from the lack of good co-parenting?

Make it a priority to take advantage of the co-parenting tips within our Divorce Tool Box program in order to create positive co-parenting memories.

Uncontested Divorce with Children

If you have kids, there are many decisions that must be made on their behalf.  In an uncontested divorce, both parents agree to the marital assets, liabilities, personal property, custody agreements, spousal support if any, and other decisions without the need to take their case to trial. 

If the couple fails to agree, the divorce becomes contested and you will need an attorney to represent you.

Alimony / Financial Support

Contributing financially towards the upbringing of your children is one of the obligations of being a parent.  When divorce occurs, it is likely that one parent may be responsible for financial support, especially if you do not choose 50/50 custody. 

Laws governing financial support for children vary from state-to-state, therefore, you will need to apply your state statutes

No Guilty Feelings

Your children need to be happy to spend time with both of you and your respective families without feeling that they are ‘abandoning’ the other parent or letting them down.

Children should be allowed to love both parents and have the ability to express their love for both.  This can be hampered if parents lash out their anger about the other parent in front of the children.  Learn to vent to your friends, find a counselor or even learn to journal but not to your children. Having the ability to love both parents unconditionally will help with their overall adjustment to the changes that accompany divorce. 
Divorcing with kids requires extra consideration, which is why we’ve created a guide to help you. Our Divorce Tool Box will help prepare you for the impending divorce, and will help you navigate the financial, emotional, and co-parenting aspects. Our tool box will help you prepare mentally and continue to guide you through the most important stages of divorcing with kids.

For guidance before, during, and after divorcing with kids, review our Divorcing With Children Program.