Divorce is an emotional process.  When there are kids involved, parents have to decide how and what to tell their children.  Here are some tips to tell your children about the divorce and what to tell them while the divorce is pending.

  1. Plan ahead and tell together.
  2. Be truthful and provide the logistics.

Tips for Talking to Kids about Divorce in Nebraska

Tell Together

Plan ahead how the children will find out and the key is to plan with the other parent.  Early in the process, plan together how you will tell the children.  Tell them when the divorce begins so they find out from the parents.  If at all possible, tell the children with all children present and both parents present and with a united front that a divorce is happening.

Prepare yourself emotionally beforehand and treat it as a business meeting.  Think of how a pair of CEOs might act if they were letting the employees know some news that the employees may see as very bad news.  Keep your emotions in check and don’t go into detail why the marriage is ending.  Even if it was one CEOs fault the company was failing, how should the other CEO talk about this when the CEOs are telling the employees together the bad news. Though a younger child might understand things differently from an older child, telling the children at the same time prevents the children from having to keep secrets from each other or consult each other for information that they see as being hidden from them.  Be clear that it is not their fault and was not caused by their actions.

Be Truthful

HONESTY with your children that it is a process and that it might be difficult at times.  Think of the CEO analogy, how much information would a CEO give the employees regarding the details of the company being bought out?  The CEOs would likely explain how the buy out will affect an employees’ day-to-day work and do so in a matter-of-fact way. Details would be kept to upper management.  Using this analogy, resist treating your older children as upper management and keep all children on the same need-to-know only basis.

Generally children only need to be told the logistics of what days they will spend with each parent and who will be taking them and picking them up.  For the timeline of the process, the children generally just need to know that a divorce is usually a longer process (a number of months but usually not years) and that they will be told of the trial date.  Generally children don’t need to know the other hearing dates or much else about the process.

Provide the Logistics

Explain the logistics of how it will affect each child’s every day routine.  If you don’t know an answer, be truthful and say so.  Some parents have an agreement from the beginning as to parenting time and can share this information early with the children.  In a contested custody case, the parents may have to just explain the logistics for now and be truthful that there hasn’t been a decision reached for the logistics going forward and that you will share with the children the logistics when the judge decides.

A contested custody cases, there are usually two times that custody is decided:  the temporary hearing and the trial.  The temporary hearing is generally very early on in the case (usually in the first 2-6 weeks in Nebraska).  After the temporary hearing, the children will need to be told the logistics of the parenting time as set in the temporary order.  Generally it makes sense to tell the children the trial date when it is known but the children generally don’t need other information as to the timeline or general process.

Questions

Sometimes older children ask about whether they talk to the judge and sometimes express an interest in talking with the judge.  Parents should be especially careful with this topic.  Judges really don’t want parents discussing a case with their children and generally avoid having children provide testimony in a custody case.

Most custody cases settle prior to trial and often children are not called to testify even in contested custody cases.  For answering questions like this, think of what the CEO might say and do.  A child that wants to testify, they might respond that the child’s preference will be taken into consideration but that they likely won’t testify in front of the judge.  They might explain that if the judge does decide to hear from the child that they will be given the date and more information at that time but that since it is likely they won’t testify there isn’t more to discuss at this time.

Following these two rules keeps your children out of the intense emotions and conflict that sometimes goes with a divorce and will likely make this transition period easier on them.

Fowler & Kelly Law, L.L.P. 

Divorce, Child Custody & Child Support

If you are faced with a:

  • divorce
  • child custody, or child support action

Shouldn’t you hire an attorney you can count on? Because trial is not always the best option, our clients also count on us to fight for them at all the pretrial stages of their case. We work to resolve issues outside of the courtroom when possible to keep costs low and tensions to a minimum.

If you are faced with a divorce, child custody, or child support action, Fowler & Kelly Law, LLP, represents clients in Omaha, Lincoln, Fremont and all other areas throughout the eastern part of Nebraska. Other cities include Blair, Bellevue, Nebraska City, Papillion, and Plattsmouth.

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The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.