Your marriage may be ending but your love for your children is a forever love. Your children will take their cues from you as to how to approach the divorce and their new life going forward. You can make it easier on them by working with a mediator to create a detailed joint parenting plan that puts their needs first and by keeping the lines of communication open.

1. Make a detailed joint parenting plan.

Work with your mediator to create a detailed joint parenting plan that addresses many different topics with a lot of specificity. Address all the issues the mediator highlights for you even if they don’t seem relevant at this stage of your child’s life. It’s possible that you and your ex-spouse will simply toss the finished plan into a drawer and life will proceed with situations handled if and when they arise, but it’s good to have a joint parenting plan when you need it. Consider your joint parenting plan your backup plan in case conflict arises in the future. Working carefully on the plan now will give you piece of mind, create stability for your child, and help you avoid costly conflicts in the future.

2. Anticipate the future, but be flexible, especially when it comes to holidays and major life events.

When you are getting divorced, make sure you do not finalize your case until you have a concrete schedule that includes regular, holiday and vacation parenting time. Anticipate future events specific to your culture, like a Bar Mitzvah or a confirmation, and create a plan for those events. Try to be as specific as possible. It’s not a surprise that Christmas is on December 25th each year. This should not be a source of ongoing conflict between you and your ex in the years to come. Let your children know that you want them to enjoy the holidays no matter where they celebrate. Do not make your children feel like they are always missing something when they are away from you.

Be flexible and anticipate that there may be changes as your child grows up. Your child may want to go to your town’s Fourth of July parade with you when he is five, but it is unlikely he is going to want to be seen in public with you at age 15, let alone waving a flag and waiting for a clown throw candy at him.

In the future, you will want your child to be present with you at unexpected life events, such as weddings and funerals. Be considerate when your ex-spouse asks you to switch the regular parenting schedule around to accommodate his or her own such events. Your children will want to stay connected with relatives on both sides.

3. Determine who is responsible for what and let your children know.

In your Joint Parenting Agreement set out who will be responsible for specifics like, pick ups from school, buying sports equipment, and hiring tutors. When an unexpected issue arises, let your children know that you will communicate with the other parent and work it out. Do not communicate with your ex through your children. Let your children know that the grown ups are still in charge and they have not been forgotten as you all move on with your new lives.  

4. Have one set of rules in both homes.

Once you are divorced, you can live your life without the approval, or even participation, of your ex-spouse, but your child still needs some consistency. When you are working with your mediator, try to agree on some overarching themes. For example, set one curfew for both homes, one policy about homework, and one age when dating will be acceptable. You can each fill in all the small details, but your children will have comfort and stability if there is one set of consistent general rules to live by.

5. Talk about your divorce.

Talk to your children. Children can see what is going on and will draw their own conclusions if they don’t get the answers from you. Reassure your children that they are not the cause of the divorce and that they are still loved by both parents. Answer their questions in an age appropriate way. Seek advice from a school counselor or children’s therapist. Ask your mediator for a recommendation of a therapist who is experienced working with children experiencing divorce.

6. Discuss your new partner with your child.

Your children look to you to introduce them to adults and navigate their relationships with strangers, so don’t try to hide a new dating relationship. Think of an age appropriate way to introduce a new partner to your children at the right time. Most importantly, make sure your new person is worthy of being around your child! Take small steps. You may be completely happy and excited about your new partner, but don’t be surprised if your children are confused and even resentful at first. Take your time. A step-parent can be a wonderful influence in a child’s life, but it takes time to build the relationship.


Rachel Moore
Rachel Moore Law, LLC
One Northfield Plaza, Suite 300
Northfield, IL 60093


Appointments also available in Libertyville, Evanston