According to the most recent data, in 2009, about 33,000 couples got divorced in Michigan. Many of those divorces impacted children, and our Facebook viewers wanted to know more. What issues do they face and how can they cope?
We talked to a few professionals who've dealt with thousands of divorces. They say divorce is never easy, but there are ways to make the process easier. It all comes down to communication and cooperation.
"I've heard it said before that 'Mom has a new house, Dad has a house, but I don't have a home,'" says attorney Karl Numinen.
Numinen said he's worked several thousand divorce cases in the last 20 years. He says it's never easy, especially when custody disputes are involved.
Children are very rarely asked to testify in court, but the judge may ask them who they prefer to live with.
"In divorces that have a high degree of conflict, the kids suffer," Numinen said. "I recommend to my clients to get counseling for the children."
Facebook viewer Adam Frank agrees there is a huge impact on kids. He writes "My parents divorced when I was a year old...the pain visited upon the children of divorce is much more than the parents."
Counselor Susan LaFreniere says clarity is the key to 'healthy divorce' right from the moment a decision is made and what will happen in the future. Maintaining stability is also crucial for the kids. That means allowing them enough time with their pets, for their after school activities, and even time in their home.
"It's easier for the parents to come and go to the marital home until that decision is made," LaFreniere said. "By that, the parents are coming and going and having a schedule."
Finally, keep conflicts private and work together to establish standards for rules for effective parenting.
"I think it's really important to remember that the children are from both people, and it's good for them not to have to hear things about their other parent," said divorcee Patience McCarthy.
"The other parent is still their parent; they have a right to love them and have their parent there, even if you are choosing to surrender that person," LaFreniere said.
LaFreniere says there are also a few basic dos and don'ts that apply for most divorce situations:
Love them with words and actions.
Remind them divorce is not their fault.
Avoid bringing kids into feelings of resentment or anger/frustration with the other parent.
Remember kids have a right to both parents; it's important to facilitate that relationship.
Reassure kids they are safe; support relationship with other parent.
Allow kids to express their fears or feelings.
Maintain a feeling of discipline, structure, consistency and limits in both homes.
Bad mouth or criticize other parent in front of child.
Don't expose child to details of divorce that are adult issues.
Don't use children as messengers.
Don't buy a child's love.