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Law Matters / Post divorce, unify your goals for kids

Published 7:10 pm, Wednesday, December 5, 2012
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By Susan F. Filan

You have gotten the divorce. Your finances have been divided. You know how much money you pay or how much money you receive. You know who lives where and who owns what. You also have a schedule for sharing the children. So the uncertainty is over, and you have begun your "new" life.

Now your kids go back and forth between mom's house and dad's house. The backpacks go back and forth, so do the books, homework, projects, assignments. So do the iPads, iPods, iPhones. So does the teenage angst.

You have a teen, in middle school or high school, with lots of homework, after school activities, social lives, and changing bodies. Friendships are getting complicated. Facebook, texting, emailing have morphed the social landscape from what happens in the lunch room and playground to a drama that unfolds 24/7.

How to keep track of the childrens' school lives and inner lives as they go back and forth?

Children learn very quickly to spot their parents' weaknesses and exploit. One parent is too busy with work to check the school website every night, so homework slides. Another parent doesn't understand technology, so texting occurs late at night under the covers.

It is hard enough to raise children with two parents under the same roof, but problems compound when households expand from one to two. Add to the mix stepparents and stepsiblings and there are more variables to consider.

It is increasingly important for parents to bury the hatchet post divorce and communicate, cooperate and coordinate so that they can support their children by being on the same page with attitudes and rules about texting, homework, and behavior. It helps if parents have a shared vision for their children, and can agree on what they expect from their children. Of course, each parent will parent in their own way, and the other parent is likely to disagree as to their method. But sharing a method is less important than sharing a goal. Different teachers teach the same subject in different ways, but agree on what has to be taught. Same with divorced parents.

The more parents can put aside their grievances with one another and share the load of raising their kids, the better it is for the children. Growing up is hard enough these days, and parental support, while not always appreciated by the child, is critically important.

Keep the focus on your child, not your ex. The more you can partner with your ex as your ally, the more you can help steer your teen through the enemy territory of changing hormones, and ever increasing school and social pressures.

Susan F. Filan is a lawyer with a practice in Westport. She is a former state prosecutor and has been a legal analyst for NBC News, MSNBC and CNN.