Tag: children of divorce

Parenting before, during, and divorce litigation By Braxton Mounteer, Legal Assistant

Divorce is already hard enough on the parties involved, but it is even harder on the children of the recently separated family. I speak as a child of divorce, who had to live through it and who has experienced the effect that divorce has had on me and on and my siblings.

When your divorce is contentious or negotiations have broken down, you shouldn’t use your children as messengers between your spouse and you on divorce-related subjects. Your children are not the proper avenue of communication between you and your estranged or ex-spouse.  You’re the adult. Communicate like one.

The worst thing you can do is force your children to choose sides. Forcing your children to pick a side causes damage that may be irreparable. This isn’t just forcing Tim and Susan to choose to live with Mom or Dad. How confident are you that they would choose you anyway (or for how long)? For all of your and your spouse’s faults and failings, you are the children’s parents and your children need you to work (and deserve to have you work) together for the children’s benefit. You need to start (if you have not already started) acting in your children’s best interest and stop thinking of them as problems and/or as solutions to your problems.

Don’t bad-mouth your ex-spouse to your children. Your children are literally a part of their parents, and (except in truly dysfunctional situations) they love both of their parents. If you tell your children their mother or father is a loser, an abuser, or other kind of scoundrel, your children may (and likely will) start to believe that they are that way too. If you’ve disparaged your ex-spouse (whether what you said is true or not), act like the adult that you are, swallow your pride, and apologize for including your children in something you had no business discussing with them.

In the early stages of a divorce, you may be tempted to buy your children’s affection. While it is not the worst thing you could do, it has unintended adverse consequences. If you try to buy your children’s affection in an effort to get a better outcome in the divorce case, only to “cut off” this level of affection or material exchange with your children after the ink dries on the decree, this sends your kids the message that you see your children as pawns for self-serving purposes. If you try to buy your children’s affection for the rest of their lives (or at least the duration of their minority), you’re throwing good money after bad, you’re engaging in an unsustainable practice. Kids will quickly tire of movie tickets and theme parks and start expecting cars and luxury experiences. How long can you keep that up? And how insufferable will your children be if they become accustomed to getting whatever they want?

You reap what you sow. The path of least resistance makes for weak parents and for weak kids. Do right by your children, for their sake and yours.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Which is more difficult for children: parents getting a divorce or parents getting an annulment?

Both result in Mom and Dad no longer living together with their children.

Divorce ends a marriage, and annulment results in a legal and religious ruling that the marriage does not exist and never did. If you were curious, modern law has been passed by the legislatures in most, if not all (I haven’t bothered to research that question), so that children of annulment are not made illegitimate by the fact that their parents marriage was annulled.

In my opinion, I don’t believe the difference between a divorce or annulment are distinctions that most minor children would appreciate or understand. The effects of divorce and annulment are, for all intents and purposes, the same on minor children.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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My estranged father keeps asking me for money, what do I do?

My parents are divorced, my father has no savings, he didn’t work for the entire period of their marriage, we were estranged for a while and now we are back, but now he keeps asking me for money, what do I do? 

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I fully acknowledge that is easier said than done, but that doesn’t excuse any of us from doing the right thing.  

If your father is a moocher, he has not right to mooch and you have no obligation to enable him in his mooching, just as you have no right to mooch. 

If your father is in real need and you have the ability to help him, help him. He is your father, and we are commanded by God to honor our parents, and that commandment is not qualified to apply only to good parents. I can’t claim to understand why this is (just as I can’t always understand the “reason” behind every one of God’s commandments in every situation), but I believe it. Honoring our parents does not mean turning a blind eye to their faults and misconduct. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Is appointing a guardian ad litem helpful in custody cases?

Is appointing a guardian ad litem a positive tool to help with custody cases? 

[I will respond to your question based upon my experience with guardians ad litem in Utah, where I practice divorce and family law. Each jurisdiction will have a different system governing the appointment, use, and powers of a guardian ad litem, so understand that in reading my response.] 

In my professional opinion, rarely. 

It is not worth the risk, in my experience. There is too much of a chance of the GAL being more of a detriment than benefit to anyone. What do I mean? 

Nobody and no thing is perfect, but as long as you meet certain minimal, essential standards, you’ll stay out of jail and stay employed. As long as institutions meet certain minimal, essential standards will do and continue to do more good than harm.  

But there are many things that sound good in concept, yet just clearly don’t work well in practice. The guardian ad litem (GAL) is such a thing.  

So why do GAL programs still exist? Why are GAL’s appointed so frequently still? Two big reasons stand out in my mind: 

1) In my experience, courts like appointing GAL’s to relieve themselves of some of the fact-finding burdens. That’s not an inherently bad idea, if a GAL could be counted on to bear those fact-finding burdens competently. But they usually don’t. 


2) The idea of a child having his/her own attorney to “stand in the child’s shoes” and “give the child a voice” sounds noble, perhaps even crucial. And I am sure that if one looked hard enough, one could find a GAL who accomplishes such objectives. In my experience, however, GAL’s are too afraid and/or apathetic to do their jobs well and are incentivized (or dis-incentivized, as the case may be) by the legal system to do minimal, mediocre work yielding equivocal results that keep the GAL out of hot water. And that’s the best I can say about GALs. Worse, most GAL’s are among the least competent attorneys and are often motivated by self interest to recommend what they subjectively want done, as opposed to where the evidence points. In my experience, the GALs don’t perform with due diligence or provide insightful, impartial analysis. Instead, they base their ostensible findings and recommendations upon personal biases, agendas, and lazy (but safe-sounding) assumptions. I find many (not all, but many) GALs to be extremely petty and judgmental. Be or do something irrelevant, but that the GAL disapproves of (like holding certain political, religious, or other views contrary to those of the GAL), and don’t be surprised if the GAL’s recommendations aren’t in your favor, regardless of the actual factual and legal merits of your case. 


When a proposal is made to appoint a GAL, I oppose it. There are far better, far more reliable, less time-consuming, and less expensive ways to obtain accurate, useful information that a GAL is intended to produce, but rarely, if ever, does produce. There is no need to appoint a third party to “give the child a voice,” when the child can speak for himself/herself. If the child is too young to talk or to testify competently, there is little that a GAL could provide of any substantive value anyway. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

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How does being a child of divorce change the way you approach marriage?

I saw something on Facebook recently that is applicable here. Two brothers had followed divergent paths into adulthood. One was a lonely alcoholic bum. The other was a successful and respected family man. When asked how he came to his current circumstances, each had the same answer: because my dad was an alcoholic. 

As bitter a pill as it is to swallow, it is no less true: how we respond to adversity determines our trajectory. 

That stated, most children of divorce are at greater risk of fearing commitment, of engaging in risky and shallow personal relationships as adults, of perceiving marriage as a cause of great personal suffering, and concluding that the odds of a meaningful and worthwhile marriage are slim. 

But that’s the fault of the people who let their parents’ divorce sour them on marriage. Be honest with yourselves. Marriage is in the problem. It’s one or two dysfunctional people engaging in dysfunctional behavior in a marriage who is/are the problem. 

Some people see their parents’ marriage come to a bitter and disappointing and and vow that their marriage will not suffer the same fate. I fully realize that no one can ensure that his or her spouse will not file for divorce against him or her. But fearing failure of marriage is no reason to deny yourself the blessings of marriage. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. 

Men and women are meant to be together in a marital relationship. A doesn’t mean that marriage is easy, but we can’t reach our full potential without marriage and family as part of our lives’ work and experience. Plenty of people fail to reach their potential because they fear failure. It’s understandable, but it’s equally understandable as to where the blame lies for this kind of failure. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

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How did your parents’ divorce when you were a child affect your adult life?

My parents did not divorce, but I base my answer to this question on the experiences of my clients, whether it be how their own children reacted to their divorce or how my clients felt as children when their parents divorced.

Overall: divorce is, with rare exception, catastrophic for children. It is devastating emotionally, psychologically, and physically. I cannot overstate how damaging divorce is for the overwhelming majority of children. It scars and cripples most children emotionally and psychologically for life.

This is one of the reasons why, after more than 20 years practicing law as a divorce attorney, I am convinced that “staying together for the sake of the children” is a noble, even a sacred, sacrifice that parents make, if they 1) agree to stay together for the sake of the children until they reach adulthood; and 2) agree that even if they aren’t happy as spouses, they are committed to ensuring their innocent children aren’t made miserable by their parents’ divorce. I know that’s not a popular sentiment in a world that treats marriage and family so lightly, but the convenient claims that “kids of divorce are resilient” or that “kids fare better when their parents divorce and stop fighting all the time” is, frankly, B.S.

Children of divorce:

  • are sicker than other children and more likely to develop health problems, and not just as children, but throughout their lives;
  • are far more likely to suffer mental health and emotional disorders and behavioral problems, and twice as likely to commit suicide
  • do more poorly in school, less likely to go to college, and are more likely to have lower paying jobs
  • are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs
  • are more likely to commit crime and engage in reckless, risky behavior
  • are more likely to engage in premarital sex as children and to get pregnant out of wedlock
  • are less likely to marry and more likely to divorce

Just read the accounts. They are plentiful and repeat the same tragic tales:

  • “I find it hard to trust anyone”
  • “I feel worthless, unlovable”
  • “I find it hard to make friends, make intimate connections with people”
  • “I am afraid to marry and to have children of my own”
  • “I don’t see the point of marriage and family”
  • “I use people because I can’t care for them or muster the will to care for them”
  • “I hate my parent(s)”
  • “I was robbed of a happy childhood”
  • “I’m insecure, anxious, depressed, angry, resentful”
  • “I don’t have hope for the future. I don’t see the point of trying.”
  • “I can’t function normally. I can’t relate to people in an emotionally healthy way. I don’t take very good care of myself. I do self-destructive things.”

Don’t believe me? Ask any adult who was a child of divorce. They will almost all have at least one of the problems on this list. With rare exception, their parents’ divorce was a traumatic blow. Sure, there are some couples who need to divorce, some kids who would be, on balance, better off if their parents divorced. But even kids whose family was moderately or even severely dysfunctional suffered as a result of their parents’ divorce. Even if the net benefit of divorce is positive for kids (such as when a parent divorces to protect the children from abuse), kids are still heart- and head-broken by divorce.

Dealing with Your Spouse During the Divorce Process

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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