Which lasts longer, the anger you feel during a contentious divorce, or the damage done to your family? When laid out in stark terms, the price of a family feud during a divorce becomes clear: your future relationships with children, extended family, and the mother of your children.

The Unintentional Injury to Children of Divorce

The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) tells us that the strain of divorce, for childless couples or families, is one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. Yet for children with divorcing parents, AAMFT says:

“Children experience extreme stress when one parent hurts the other physically and/or emotionally, when the conflict is about them, or when there is verbal aggression. Children are also stressed by unresolved fights and use of the silent treatment.”

Preventing this unintentional psychic injury to your own children should be paramount, but for a Virginia dad stretched beyond his breaking point, sometimes the children do not come first. The kids’ own mother may also be struggling to process and survive the divorce. She may take out much of her frustration, anger and resentment on the children who are constant reminders of her husband.

Surviving divorce is one thing, and it is no easy thing. Surviving the family feuds that are often part of a messy divorce is another, far harder thing. Five strategies to avoid or survive the feuding can help both parents.

Collaborative Divorce

When both parents consciously enter a divorce acknowledging the possible unhealthy stew of emotions, they can work together one last time. Their common goal: avoid the feud entirely. A collaborative divorce, says AAMFT, could be a way to get to Yes-Yes without going to court. Attorneys for both sides draw up a settlement that reflects both parents’ best interests. The settlement is reached through negotiation, not adversarial conflict.

Collaborative divorce calls for outside, unbiased help. Besides experienced family law attorneys, you may need the services of:

  • Marriage and family therapists
  • Communication coaches
  • Mental health professionals acting as “child specialists”
  • Financial planners
  • Accountants
  • Appraisers (both for real estate and personal property)

Co-Parenting Counseling

Psychology Today recommends another approach, called co-parenting counseling. Here a therapist or trained, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) guides parents through the minefield of conflict:

  1. Contentious custody exchanges — Do you really want your nine-year-old to hear adults behave like six-year-olds?
  2. Intrusive, incessant communication between the children and the non-custodial parent when the children are with the custodial parent
  3. Asking or ordering children to act as spies — They are ill-equipped, they have no training, and they are not your employees; they are your children
  4. Social media shaming — Why advertise your anger with your estranging spouse?

All of these are so much kindling for the embers of anger to reignite. To prevent these from flaming up and consuming the divorce, both parents need to remember the huge social-emotional damage any one of these has on their children.

Parenting Coordination

Staying compliant with a court-decreed parenting plan, or resolving minor conflicts while carrying it out, can help avoid family feuds and conflicts. The parenting coordinator, says AAMFT, acts as a go-between to mediate the problem and prevent it from flaring into an inferno that consumes the child-parent relationships.

The focus here is not therapeutic; it is a business transaction, meant to speedily resolve practical problems in getting custody exchanges, transportation, and compliance issues resolved.

Extended Family

What does a general do when she or he sees troops losing on the battlefield? You bring up reinforcements, which in this case means extended family.

But before you call on Grandma Eleanor and Cousin Sue to rally to your cause, consider our first thought. What will last longer, the shattering wounds on the family structure, or the momentary conflict the divorce causes?

Remember these helpful tips:

  1. Your children matter above all other relationships
  2. Enlist only those family members (and friends) you can trust 100 percent; you need not involve the whole family in your drama
  3. Recall that you can only control what you do and how you react; you cannot control your estranging wife
  4. Deflect, do not return, her verbal attacks

Call Our Family Law & Divorce Attorneys

Your experienced family law attorney will remind you that the divorce process may be long, but eventually it ends. After it is over, you should still have healthy, loving relationships with your children. Keep that in mind and remember, no matter the pain and anger you feel, put your family first.

We at The Firm For Men want you to not only survive, but thrive during and after your divorce. We work exclusively with Virginia men to help them protect their rights, preserve family relationships, and safeguard their financial futures. Contact us today, or telephone our Virginia Beach office at 757-383-9184, to speak with an experienced, caring family law attorney.