You may have a tumultuous and strained relationship with your ex. The two of you may name-call each other in person or to others. You both may have ongoing frustrations with each other that won’t cease. Having strong negative feelings about your former partner after a break-up is normal. How you deal with those feelings reflects on who you are as a person and, more importantly, as a parent.
When you have children together, you do not get to bring the kids into the discord. If you do, you are not doing what is in your child’s best interests and that can have an impact on the outcome of your case.
In Colorado, the court uses a number of statutory factors to determine the allocation of parental responsibility. Each factor is applied to the unique facts of a case and the court weighs the factors equally in relation to each other.
Two of these factors would come into play if a parent is “over sharing” with the children about parental conflict. The first factor states in pertinent part that the court considers “[t]he ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other party.” The other sets forth that the court weighs “[t]he ability of each party to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs.” These are two of the most important factors that a court considers in allocating parenting time and decision making.
When one parent shares information about parental conflict with the children, then they are putting the child in the middle. One such example was illustrated in a “Dear Amy” column that recently ran in the Denver Post.
In the column, a parent shares with her 4-year-old daughter that the reason her father cannot come into the house during parenting time transitions is because he was mean to mom. The columnist reminds the mother about the importance of not burdening the child with adult issues. The child has neither the maturity nor the context to appropriately process this information.
The mother in the column was concerned about being “honest” with her child, but the real issue is over sharing is not necessary and can be detrimental to your child. Ultimately, being supportive of the child’s relationship with the other parent is critical to your child’s emotional well-being. In the case discussed in the “Dear Amy” column, the mother admitted that the father was a good parent to the four-year-old girl.
If you give a child information that her father is or was a mean person and then send her out to be with him, this is a mixed message and is confusing for the child. This also brings the adult drama into the child’s life. If the two adults are not dealing well with one another, imagine the confusion the child faces, attempting to figure out how to please two people who dislike one another.
Before you decide to over share, take a moment to consider whether you are burdening your child with unnecessary information. You may reconsider your choice and realize that your desire to be candid comes at a cost.
If you cannot get past the type of feelings and interactions described in this article, do not give up hope. A skilled family law attorney can help you find the right sources to be able to move to disconnect, move forward and protect your children.