www.dailymail.co.uk recently published an article with the headline "Divorce after a child turns seven makes them more likely to perform badly at school." The article cites a study conducted by the Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre that was published by the Department for Education. The government-funded study found that children whose parents divorced after the child had turned seven are more likely to perform poorly and have behavioral problems. The article opined that the lesser impact on children under the age of seven is likely because divorce may have a lesser effect on younger children as they cannot fully understand the implications.
Divorce was one of the 40 factors looked at by the study for its effects on a child's scholastic achievement and behavior. Among the other factors looked at were number of siblings, number of hours spent in front of the television, the way in which rules are enforced in a household, grandparent involvement and general parenting skills, to name a few. The study projected that the effects on children at the age of seven are likely to continue into the child's teen years and adulthood. The study highlighted the importance of family separation, conflict and divorce on the development of children.
Of course, divorce is in some cases unavoidable. In those cases where divorce must occur, what can San Diego parents do to minimize the conflict and the effect on their children?
One tool parents can utilize is a well thought out parenting plan. When an issue of custody and visitation is brought before the court in San Diego, the parents are required to participate in custody mediation. They can do so either at Family Court Services, which is a free program run by the San Diego Superior Court, or they can opt for private mediation at their own expense. The stated purpose of this custody mediation is to reduce the conflict which may exist between the parties and to develop a custody and time-sharing agreement which is in the best interests of the children. It is not uncommon, however, that San Diego parents are unable to reach an agreement through mediation. In that case, the mediator issues a report and recommendation which is then considered by the court in making its ruling of the custody and/or visitation issue. Frequently, in these recommendations we as divorce attorneys see language included in the proposed parenting plan that is geared towards reducing conflict between the parents. Some such provisions which immediately come to mind are:
"Neither parent shall make negative statements about the other in the presence of or hearing of the children or question the children about the other parent."
"The parents shall communicate directly with each other in matters concerning the children and shall not use the children as a messenger between them."
"The children shall not be exposed to court papers or disputes between the parents, and each parent shall make every possible effort to ensure that other people comply with this order."
Such language may be included in a parenting plan at the recommendation of the mediator, but can also simply be included by agreement between the parties.
Another tool for parents is the resource Kids Turn. Kids' Turn is a San Diego non-profit organization dedicated to working with the entire family to achieve an amicable and healthy divorce.
The study published by the Department of Education did qualify its results by stating that "Some children do relatively well despite unpromising circumstances and some do relatively poor despite having a good start." It's nonetheless helpful for San Diego parents to be aware of how a divorce might impact their children and to take steps that may be appropriate to mitigate any negative impact there may be.
Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Whether you are considering divorce, legal separation, or simply would like to evaluate your options in San Diego, choosing a family lawyer with experience is paramount. Nancy J. Bickford is the only divorce attorney in San Diego who is a Certified Family Law Specialist, and also is certified as a public accountant (CPA). In addition to this expertise, Ms. Bickford holds an MBA, making her a powerhouse divorce attorney. Contact us today for more information on the consultation process at (858) 793-8884 or at www.BickfordLaw.com