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Examining the Negative Effect That a Toxic Divorce Can Have on Children

Posted on in Child Custody

Wheaton family law attorneysThe decision to get divorced is one you should take seriously. If children are involved, you should be especially diligent in making the right decision for the family unit. Divorce can hurt kids, even when the parents are agreeable, but the effect may far worse if the interactions between parents become toxic. 

In knowing this, most parents put forth the effort to thwart toxicity in their situation. However, that is not always the case. Learn how continued toxicity in your divorce can negatively impact your children, and discover what you can do when faced with a parent who is consistently making poor, selfish, or negative decisions regarding your children and/or matters involving them in your Illinois divorce. 

Examining the Potential Effects of a Toxic Divorce 

While each case may vary based on a range of factors (i.e. the temperament of the child, level of toxicity, the form of toxicity, or whether additional forms of abuse are present in the marriage or family environment, etc.), children who witness a toxic divorce situation often share similar traits and issues. Some of these include problems with:

  • Academia and Behavior – Children are often confused about their feelings over the divorce and do not know how to verbalize it, so they may act out in school. They may start having behavioral problems and/or their grades may start to slip;
  • Separation Anxiety – The loss of time with either or both parents as a family unit is a time of grieving for a child, just like it is for you. The difference is that you understand why, whereas the kids usually require some reassurance. Psychology Today addresses separation anxiety and its effects that result in regression, whining, bed-wetting and other behavior that demands the parents’ attention;
  • Anger and Resentment – Older children, like adolescents, tend to become more aggressive about divorce. They will act out in rebellion and feel angry about the situation. They may even actively work to get back at their parents, whereas younger children will try to get their parents back together through regression; and
  • Feeling at Fault – Sadly, children often feel like it is their fault that their parents are divorced. Consistent reinforcement that it is not because of them helps, but that reassurance may need to be repeated for years, and in some cases, it may warrant assistance from a therapist. 

Family counseling is a good way to resolve emotional issues between parents and child during and after a divorce. You can even continue family counseling, long after the divorce. After all, it is only your family's structure that changes in divorce; at the end of the day, you are still family.

What Happens When These Issues are Not Addressed?

The long-term effects of divorce can create undesirable effects when left unaddressed. Examples can include: addiction, dropping out of school, and even partaking in minor to serious crimes. Mental health issues, including those that may result in significant or severe behaviors, may also surface after a divorce (i.e. severe depression, anxiety, etc.). In these instances, the effect is often life-long, and for a small percentage, the issue may become debilitating. 

How Can Parents Prevent Toxicity in Divorce?

Though it can be difficult to predict whether toxicity will arise in a divorce, there are specific steps that you can take to prevent it from happening in your case.

First, determine what your "hot topic" divorce issues will likely be. Now identify which ones are most important to you, and why. Now do the same for your spouse. Are your issues aligned? Are there areas where your spouse may be willing to make concessions to get something that is more important to them or vice versa? Perhaps your spouse would be willing to give you more time with the children if you took over an added responsibility (i.e. keeping the insurance with your employer, and offering to help with school supplies). It is amazing what parents can come up with when they put their differences aside, focus on their children, and strive for a peaceful outcome! 

What if You are Co-Parenting with a Toxic Ex-Spouse?

The situation can be extremely difficult to navigate when one parent is toxic and one is civil. That places more pressure on the civil parent to do most of the work to keep things positive and healthy for the kids. 

The civil parent must avoid triggering negative reactions from the toxic parent, especially around the kids. Even though an incident can still occur, the civil parent must be as diligent as possible to avoid confrontations that affect the kids.

Here are a few tips for co-parenting alongside a toxic parent:

  • Avoid negative speak around the kids when referring to the other parent;
  • Encourage the relationship with the other parent when it is healthy to do so;
  • When speaking with your toxic ex-spouse, be sure to only engage in communications regarding the children. Refer all other matters to your attorney; and
  • Limit contact with the other parent to email or text only.

The goal is to be as positive and as civil as possible. Co-parenting is the responsibility of both parents respectively. The court’s primary objective is to do whatever is best for the child(ren). 

When one parent holds on to bitterness, it can create a problem for the best interest of the child. Judges have been known to remove the children from the situation and place them in foster care or in the care of family members when both parents refuse to cooperate for the benefit of a child. 

Contact Our Chicago Family Law Attorneys

At Davi Law Group, LLC, we consider preparation to be a key strategy in a potentially toxic divorce. In all others, planning and forethought can improve the outcome for all involved parties - especially the children. Our DuPage County divorce lawyers can help you prioritize and protect your child's happiness, safety, and best interest in a toxic situation. We can also help you prevent a potentially toxic situation from arising in a currently amicable separation. Whatever your family's needs, we strive for a positive outcome possible. Call 630-580-6373 and schedule a consultation to get started on your case. 



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