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Can you have a child-centered divorce?

When someone becomes a parent, their child becomes the center of their world. Parents make decisions and shift their priorities to ensure their child is safe and happy. These behaviors should not change when parents split up.

Thus, having a child-centered divorce or separation can be an important goal for parents.

What does child-centered divorce mean?

As this article explains, it is unusual for parents to focus on their own needs and interests during a divorce. With a child-centered divorce, parents prioritize solutions that most benefit their children and make it easier for them to recover from this event.

The fact is that divorce can have a tremendous impact on children, who have little or no control over their circumstances. Rather, their lives change based on what their parents say and do during their split.

When parents acknowledge this and focus their efforts on protecting their children, the process can be far less damaging for all concerned.

How can we accomplish this?

Ontario parents hoping to make divorce easier on their child can do so with a child-centered divorce. But what does this look like, exactly?

First, it can mean staying out of court and seeking peaceful, cooperative solutions. These typically involve mediating your divorce with the help of a neutral mediator who can facilitate agreements based on commonality of interests and compromise.  There is also a very effective process that combines mediation and arbitration; it’s called “med-arb”.  Another very popular modality is the “collaborative law” process.  At our firm, Jenny Kirshen is trained in this healthy dispute resolution process.  To sum it up – court is not the only solution.  

A child-centered divorce should galvanize the parents to compromise when it comes to parenting plans. In most cases, the best solution is that children spend equal time with each parent. (It is no secret that our firm strongly believes that the law should be amended to provide for a rebuttable presumption of equal shared parenting.)  Parents may end up with less time or fewer holidays with their child so that their child can spend as much time as possible with both parents.  The role of the family law lawyer should be to help parents find solutions to the age-old family law quandary that there are only so many hours in a day (week, month, year).

Further, a child-centered divorce can mean refraining from certain behaviours.  Things like lying about finances, bad-mouthing an ex, and dragging out the process happen when a person wants to punish the other parent. However, these behaviours will surely harm your child, so avoiding them is crucial in a child-centered divorce.

Focusing on the future

If protecting your child’s best interests while in the throes of separation and divorce is your priority, you can accomplish this with a child-centered approach.

Of course, complications can and do arise along the way.  But with legal guidance and emotional support, you can overcome challenges and focus on a better, brighter future for you, your child, yes even for your former partner too, and don’t forget grandparents and extended family!  The responsibility that you have is awesome.  Be child-centered and you are halfway there.

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