What is the best time to divorce?
If your relationship with your spouse is low-conflict – and this encompasses more than half of all divorces – deciding when to file for divorce is a very different calculation than in the cases of violent or high conflict marriages. In such instances - - and different from violent or conflictual relationships where it is almost always best for the relationship to end as soon as possible - - parents might want to take into consideration the ages of their children and how they will react to a divorce either now or later. Considering such factors will help low-conflict parents decide whether it is best to end their marriage immediately or, perhaps, wait a few years, if such waiting would be in the best interests of the children.
Perhaps not surprisingly, preschool age children tend to have the hardest time during the breakup of a marriage, and sometimes for many years afterward. Young children often find that their relationships with their mothers are particularly impacted by divorce. For example, many women who were able to stay home part-time with their babies during the marriage are required to re-enter the workforce full-time after divorce. Mothers who took care of their little ones with long bedtime rituals, reading together, and playing favorite games, sometimes find after divorce that they have to cut back these pleasurable activities - - not because they want to - - but because they no longer have the time or energy after a long day at work. In light of this, some parents may want to delay their divorce until their youngest child enters school and adjusts to the school day routine. Once a child is in school, he will have an interesting world outside your home and a school structure that supports activities and friendships. As he begins to find his own interests and friends, you may be better able to protect him from feeling that he has lost more than he has gained with your divorce.
The second most vulnerable age for divorce is early adolescence, when children are developing rapidly and need a strong family to guide and protect them. If you have a preteen child in trouble – failing at school or not keeping up with peers in some important regard – it may make sense to hesitate before getting a divorce. Your child may be too troubled at this age to adjust to the demands of a post-divorce family. That said, before you make any moves, consider whether your child is developmentally on target. If not, try to get her some help including with an experienced adolescent therapist, if appropriate, before you embark on the divorce.
Of course, sometimes best laid plans may go astray and you find yourself filing for divorce at one of these pivotal times in your child’s life. If this happens to you, keep in mind the importance of maintaining the stability of care with young children and the special vulnerability of children entering adolescence. This is the time to call on your family and friends for help and to work - - as best you can - - with your spouse to set up plans for your children before you separate.
For more information, contact Walsh Law.divorcemag.com