Family Law: Parent Behavior Toward Children

If you love your children, avoid involving them in your dissolution or custody disputes. The information below is something that everyone should follow, no matter how angry or upset they are toward their former partner.

  • Do not poison your child’s mind against the other parent by discussing his or her shortcomings. Continuing anger or bitterness toward your former partner can injure your children far more than the dissolution itself. The feelings you show are more important than the words that you use. NEVER engage in conflict with your spouse or former spouse in the presence of your children. Conflict between the two of you hurts your children.
  • Assure your children they are not to blame for the breakup, and they are not being rejected or abandoned. Children, especially young ones, may feel that some action or secret wish of theirs has caused the trouble between their parents.
  • Do not force or encourage your child to take sides. To do so often hurts the children by creating frustration, guilt, and resentment.
  • The break up of a marriage is always hard on the children. They may not always show their distress or realize at first what divorce will mean to them. Parents should be direct and honest in telling children what is happening and why, and do so in a way a child can understand. This will vary with the circumstances and with each child’s age and comprehension.
  • The guilt parents may feel about the marriage break up may interfere in their disciplining the children. A child needs consistent control and direction. Over-permissiveness or indecisive parents who leave a child at the mercy of every passing whim and impulse interfere with a child’s healthy development. Children need and want to know quite clearly what is expected of them. Children feel more secure when limits are set. They are confused when grown-ups seem to permit behavior which they themselves know to be wrong and are trying to outgrow.
  • Encourage the children to spend time with the other parent. Your spouse divorced you, not your children. The children should have and be allowed to display photos of both parents.
  • Time with the children by the non-residential parent is for the benefit and better development of the children. No matter what the difference of feeling or opinion between the parents, physical custody or visitation should never be withheld or threatened to be withheld. Failure to receive child support is NOT grounds for withholding the children from the non-paying parent and is specifically prohibited under RCW 26.09.160(1).
  • The parent with whom the children live must prepare the children both physically and mentally for the residential time or visitation with the other parent. The children should be available at the time mutually agreed upon, or the time specified in the Parenting Plan or the most recent court order relating to physical custody.
  • Never refuse an opportunity to see or spend time with your children. You demonstrate your commitment to your children by being available to them, even if you are inconvenienced. Take the time and make the effort to show your children that they are a high priority in your life.