Navigating Child Custody and Visitation During Divorce

How to Navigate Child Custody and Visitation During Divorce or Separation

When you are in the depths of a divorce or separation, it is not hyperbole to state that you are likely in one of the most emotionally difficult times of your life. You will have no shortage of strong emotions kicking around, making day-to-day life a struggle.

Yet, for children of parents currently in the midst of a divorce or separation, their day-to-day lifestyle will be of paramount concern. Children will want to know what is happening, where they will sleep, if they will see a certain parent and when. These questions are extremely common for children in this situation.

Unlike after a divorce or separation where a co-parenting arrangement can be created, during a divorce or separation is often a turbulent time to make these arrangements. Yet, it is important that you do so.

Today we’ll be exploring how to best navigate child custody and visitation during a divorce or separation, and provide you with the tools and insight to make the best of this difficult time in your life.

Keep The Child Informed

Before we delve into the specifics of how child custody and visitation will work from your perspective, it’s important we quickly outline the child’s perspective. Children are intelligent, even at a young age, and they will know their life is changing.

To best support your child through this time, we recommend you:

  • Are as honest and up-front as you can be with their questions, as long as the answers are appropriate for a child,
  • Reassure them that they will still see both parents, even if one parent is away during divorce proceedings,
  • Inform them about the changes to their life, and how you are navigating the situation,
  • Ask them what they want in a co-parenting arrangement. Such as “Do you want Daddy to pick you up from footy practice?” or “Do you want to be with Mommy on the weekend?”
    • Important: Refrain from asking these questions as a method of skewing the co-parenting arrangement in someone’s favour. Instead, approach these questions with the intention of giving your child agency over this change in their life.

Two Roads Ahead of You: Legally Defined or Not

Divorce proceedings will often go down two different roads. You will either be pursuing divorce with legal representation, or you will be filing for an uncontested divorce (Also known as a no-fault divorce) through the legal system, but won’t actually require any legal representation.

The nature of how you are pursuing a divorce will dictate the tools you have at your disposal when it comes to visitation and child custody. Let’s explore both of these in a little more detail, and see how each will differ when it comes to child custody and visitation.

Traditional Divorce Proceedings

For couples working through a more traditional divorce proceeding, each with their own legal representation, mediation services and procedures will be available to help you create a stop-gap arrangement for child custody and visitation.

The process is quite straightforward, involving the legal mediator sitting with both parents and discussing a fair co-parenting arrangement that works for both of you. It’s important to note that unless there is any danger to the child (In the event of violence, abuse, etc) then this agreement will strive for equality.

A judge may be required to approve the agreement, ensuring that fair and equal grounds have been met and that the child’s safety, security, and care are the priority of the agreement.

A Temporary Child Custody Order will then be signed by both parties, outlining a structure for your child’s life, each parent’s responsibilities, drop-off times, as well as any other finite details that need to be straightened out. You can see this as a temporary parenting plan, and it will serve as how you’ll operate until the divorce is final.

Uncontested (No-Fault) Divorce

If you are pursuing an uncontested or no-fault divorce, then you will not have these legal frameworks available to you. This won’t come as a surprise, as if you are pursuing a no-fault divorce, then you and your ex-partner have managed to agree to fair terms to your split that don’t involve legal mediation.

This carries over to your co-parenting responsibilities for your child. To have a no-fault or uncontested divorce granted by a judge, then the court will need to see that you have created an effective co-parenting arrangement for any children under the age of eighteen.

This is why it’s a good idea to sit down and create an official parenting plan, even if it only serves as a temporary arrangement until the divorce is finalized. The agreement should outline all facets of your child’s life, including:

  • Where they will sleep on what days,
  • Drop off and pick up locations,
  • How to handle birthdays and holidays,
  • Who will take the child to certain activities,
  • And more…

Handling Visitation During a Rocky Divorce

It’s important we acknowledge that there will be divorces with more serious circumstances. This could include elements of substance abuse, domestic abuse, and more. If this is the case with your ex-partner, then it can be tempting to cut off visitation, or difficult to come to an arrangement that doesn’t cause significant emotional turmoil.

As tempting as it is, we urge you to allow visitation if an amicable and safe arrangement can be made. Family courts will often look down on any attempt to prevent a child from seeing their parent, as long as that child is safe to do so.

If you feel unsafe, or simply can’t communicate with your ex-partner to make this arrangement, then legal mediation is a good option to form this arrangement. However, it is not required, and a simple arrangement of regular visitation can be made verbally.

You are free to dictate the terms, but you must strive for a fair arrangement when it comes to your child. As difficult as it is, you must separate the circumstances of the divorce from how your children interact with their parents. The courts will expect that attitude from both parties, regardless of the kind of divorce proceedings you are taking.

In Conclusion

Trying to ensure a secure and loving future for your children during a divorce or separation can be a deeply exhausting task. It’s easy to see why many couples in the process of divorce or separation can get this wrong, making mistakes that could affect their child’s well-being in the long run.

Thankfully, with the information outlined here, you now have a more solid understanding of what is expected of you from legal divorce proceedings. As well as how to handle creating a temporary custody order, and managing visitation during the divorce proceedings.

Never hesitate to reach out and find support for yourself in this trying time. Everyone can do with a helping hand, and there is no shortage of resources out there to ensure you get the support you need.

Outcomes of Divorce on Children: Infants to Adults

Outcomes of Divorce or Separation for Infants to Adults

It’s no secret that we can never truly know how our children will mature into adults. As parents, we like to think we have a solid grasp on who they are as people, but deep down, we understand that the adult world will often shape our children in ways out of our control.

Much of our effort as parents is focused on the time we do have control over, specifically our child’s formative years. As these years will shape a considerable amount of our child’s demeanour throughout their adult life.

Sadly, a divorce or separation can have a profound effect on a child’s growth. Research has shown that a wide range of behavioural, emotional, and even philosophical changes caused by a divorce or separation can shape children in their adult years.

Today we’ll be exploring those changes, and specifically outlining what this may mean for the adult your child will one day become.

Outcomes of Divorce or Separation: By Age Group

Depending on the age of your child when the divorce or separation happens, the effects can differ. We’ve explored these effects in detail, across our other in-depth articles on the subject. For a better understanding, we recommend you also read those.

Today we’ll be taking a broad-stroke look at how each age group responds to divorce. Providing you with a foundational understanding of what your child may be going through.

Then, we’ll discuss how these effects can manifest in developmental and growth outcomes for your child as an adult.

Birth to 18 Months

Although this may come as a surprise, divorce or separation can have an effect as early as birth. Infants may sense a conflict between their parents and in the house, but they are unable to comprehend why it is happening. If the stress persists, babies may exhibit frequent emotional outbursts, and become irritable and clinging, especially around unfamiliar individuals. Additionally, they could regress or have developmental delays.

18 Months to 3 Years Old

Children between the ages of 18 months and 3 years might experience emotional and psychological effects from divorce. A child’s primary link with their parents throughout the toddler years makes any significant upheaval in the home environment challenging to accept and understand. Furthermore, toddlers are egocentric and could believe they are to blame for their parent’s divorce. They may frequently scream and demand more attention than normal, regress and resume thumb-sucking, fight toilet training, grow afraid of being left alone, have difficulty falling asleep, or have difficulties sleeping by themselves at night.

3 to 6 Years Old

Divorce is a challenging topic for kids between the ages of 3 and 6, mostly due to the terrifying amount of uncertainty it brings. No matter how stressful their home life may be, pre-schoolers do not comprehend the concept of divorce and do not want their parents to split.

Pre-schoolers, like toddlers, could think that they are ultimately to blame for their parent’s divorce. They can feel apprehensive about the future, repress their anger, have unfavourable thoughts or ideas, or have frequent nightmares.

6 to 11 Years Old

Children between the ages of 6 and 11 who are in school may experience emotions of abandonment as a result of divorce. Younger children, particularly those aged 5 to 8, may not comprehend the idea and believe their parents are divorcing them. They can be concerned about losing one of their parents and have fantasies about their parents reconciling. Kids frequently think they can “save” their parents’ union.

Children between the ages of 8 and 11 may hold one parent responsible for the breakup and side with the “good” parent against the “bad.” As they show their rage in many ways, such as by fighting with peers, lashing out at the outside world, or becoming worried, withdrawn, or sad, they may accuse their parents of being cruel or selfish. Some children have physical signs of divorce, such as unsettled stomachs or headaches brought on by stress, as well as fabricated illnesses that cause them to miss school.


The Outcomes Moving into Adult Life

Starting in their teenage years, children will begin to demonstrate many of the psychological effects on their personality, growth, and philosophy, that a divorce or separation may have caused. It’s important to note that it’s no guarantee these effects will take root, but we will be outlining them under the assumption they have.

As outlined in the academic research paper “Children of Divorce:  An Investigation of the Developmental Effects from Infancy Through Adulthood” by Leeann Kot and Holly M. Shoemaker, adults (and teenagers) of divorced parents exhibit a higher likelihood of:

  • Depression,
  • Anxiety disorders,
  • Anger issues,
  • Poor communication/social skills, especially with their parents,
  • Insomnia,
  • Emotional instability or sensitivity,
  • Inferiority complex,
  • Disillusion with future marriage prospects,
  • Poor academic engagement,
  • Nihilistic attitude towards relationships in general,
  • Anti-social or destructive behaviour.

In Conclusion

Whilst research into children of divorce and their adult development can be daunting, it’s no cause for alarm. Research has reflected time and time again that children with a strong support network, close connection with their parents, and an honest dialogue to discuss what they are feeling, will often overcome these issues early.

There are no guarantees in life, but being there for your child, and educating yourself on what they’re going through, is the most effective step you can take. Never forget, there is no shortage of support out there for you as well.

Adolescent Adjustment to Parental Divorce

Going through a divorce or separation is a turbulent time, with a wealth of emotions going around on all fronts. It’s no secret that navigating through this is a monolithic task, and we are not always going to do our best.

Yet, for parents of adolescent teens, this time can be difficult for a much different reason. Unlike young children, adolescent teens have the emotional capacity to comprehend fully what is going on. Sadly, they are rarely equipped with the emotional maturity, and introspective tools, to process this healthily.

This can leave adolescents in a rough spot when it comes to adjusting to this new reality of their parental unit. As parents, it can often be difficult to fully understand what our adolescent children are feeling, and how to best help them cope.

Today we’ll be exploring what research into adolescent adjustment to parental divorce has shown us when it comes to understanding how your child may feel, how to best support them and help put them on the right path to processing this tectonic shift in their lives.

Unpacking What Is Going Through an Adolescent’s Mind During Divorce

Just like their parents, an adolescent teen will be feeling and thinking a lot during this time. For some, this may be the first major change in their entire lives. Let’s cover what your child may be feeling, and what their practical concerns maybe once they learn the news.


  • They may feel relaxed, even happy if this is something that has been building for some time. It’s not uncommon for adolescents to identify this moment as a fresh start,
  • Overwhelmed with feelings of guilt, if they think they are the cause of the divorce or separation,
  • Resentful that you’ve made this choice, changing their life and forcing them to deal with your problems,
  • They may feel relieved if the relationship with one parent is tense, and they see this as a method of distancing themselves, or resolving a longstanding conflict,
  • Worried about losing contact with one of their parents, or even both of you, due to the parents no longer wanting to be together,
  • Anxious about the future, not knowing what’s going to happen, or how it’s going to happen.

Practical Concerns

  • Where are they going to live?
  • Will they have two houses? Can they stay in one house as a primary residence?
  • Will they have to move schools, states, or even countries?
  • Will both parents still support them in the future?

It’s important to note: These feelings and concerns, on the surface, may seem short-sighted, selfish, and perhaps even annoying or stupid given the context of your divorce or separation. However, the human mind is rarely a purely rational being.

It’s vital that you don’t pass judgement on how your child may be feeling, or what they are thinking. In a lot of ways, your child will be in crisis mode.

Let’s discuss how to address these feelings and concerns down below.

Helping Your Adolescent to Adjust to a Divorce or Separation

There is a range of methods you can employ to help your adolescent child adjust, and they’re not difficult.

Let’s explore them one by one:

Maintain Normal Routines

It will be simpler for your child to adjust to the change in your family if they can maintain their daily routine, continue living in the same home or neighbourhood, attend the same school, and continue participating in usual activities like sports.

Shield Your Child from Conflict

Being exposed to hostility and constant disagreement between you and your child’s other parent is bad for your child’s mental health.

Therefore, it’s preferable if you can refrain from discussing the problems of the separation with your child or disparaging their former parent. When your youngster isn’t there, speak to a friend or member of your family if you need to vent your irritation. Another option is to speak with a counsellor.

Provide a Safe Space to Talk Openly

Your adolescent will need the opportunity to voice their thoughts once you have had your say. This might happen when you initially speak to them or afterwards when they’ve had some time to reflect.

This can help them better manage challenging emotions and worries by talking about them. Active listening may also assist you in determining the best way to soothe your kid when they are ready to speak.

Your child may express the desire to chat with another trusted adult, such as an aunt or uncle, a family friend, a teacher, or a counsellor if they find it difficult to talk to you about the separation. This is perfectly healthy, and you shouldn’t take this personally.

Reassure Your Child

Teenagers will often be feeling a lot of emotions, and have a lot of questions about their future. Regardless of what they’re feeling or thinking, it’s important that you’re there to reassure them, and have an honest conversation about their concerns.

Your child will need to be reassured, often several times. You may find you can’t provide reassurance for everything, but continue to be honest and open with them. Providing them with a space to get reassurance when they need it.

In Conclusion

There is no secret trick or hack to helping your adolescent adjust to a divorce or separation. Simply being present, open, and honest are the key pillars that will help your child to navigate this difficult time.

As parents, this can be overwhelming. Rest assured that there is no shortage of support out there for you as well. We all need a helping hand, and research has shown countless times that a strong support network is beneficial for everyone.

Parental Divorce and The Consequences for Children

Parental Divorce and The Consequences for Children

Choosing to divorce or separate is never without its complications. There are often unique elements to this choice for every couple, with varying degrees of emotional, financial, and lifestyle impacts depending on your circumstances.

However, children are one key factor that undercuts this choice for everyone. It’s no secret that the choice to separate or divorce can profoundly impact your child’s growth, and may play a key role in how they develop into an adult.

This can be a paralyzing reality that many couples face when they choose to divorce or separate. Often leading to anxiety about how to best prepare, support, and nurture your child through this foundational change in your child’s, and your own lives.

Today we’ll be exploring the consequences of divorce or separation for children. Specifically, we’ll be taking a research and academic-based approach, to equip you with the information you need to make this transition in a healthy and supportive manner.

Do Not Fear the Headlines – The Truth About the Consequences

It’s vital that we first outline an important piece of information, before exploring the consequences a divorce or separation can have on your child. The important word in that sentence is “can”. 

When parents research this topic, it is very easy to become alarmed. The truth is, there are many different aspects of your child’s life, growth, and personality that can be shaped by divorce or separation.

Yet, as is outlined in a wide range of academic papers on the subject, including “The Impact of Parental Divorce on Children’s Educational Attainment, Marital Timing, and Likelihood of Divorce” by Verna M. Keith and Barbara Finlay, these effects are merely more likely.

Unpacking The Statistics: An Example Dissected

To provide an example: Research has shown that children who have divorced or separated parents are more likely to be prone to mental illness later in life.

On the surface, that’s an alarming piece of information. Until you learn that the increase is merely a few percent. Meaning only a fraction of children with divorced or separated parents has suffered this consequence.

When reading the consequences below, you must keep this reality of statistics in mind. Your child may suffer none of these effects. They may not suffer these effects as a result of your divorce or separation either. 

The overwhelming majority of research into this subject has underlined one key factor to a child’s future after divorce. If they have love, support, and a strong connection with their parents, then they have everything they need to grow into perfectly healthy adults.

Emotional Consequences

A divorce or separation will have many immediate emotional effects on your child. This may be the first time your child is faced with a range of emotions, especially depression, stress, and anxiety. Because of this, there is a range of emotional consequences that can present themselves.


Children often lack the introspective tools adults rely on to process a significant change in their lifestyles, such as a divorce or separation. Yet, research has shown that children will often become introspective regardless.

Because they are ill-equipped to properly process this sudden introspection, this can manifest itself as depression. It is common for children to blame themselves, and think they played a key role in their parent’s divorce.

In the long-term, research has reflected that children of divorce suffer a higher rate of depression in adult life.

Anxiety & Stress

Both anxiety and stress will be the most present consequence your child faces on an emotional level, as the result of a divorce or separation. If your child is under the age of eight, this is likely the first time they’ve experienced these two emotions as well.

Your child will likely become hyper-focused on the smaller parts of life. What’s for breakfast? Do I get a juice box? Can I play with my toys later? What are you doing?

Questions like this, whilst innocent on the surface (And expected from almost any child) are a sign your child is stressing out, or anxious, over small details. These questions will likely become more frequent as a result.

Lifestyle Consequences

Tackling lifestyle consequences is difficult, due to the broad nature of our lives. No two lives are the same, and the consequences your child will face as a result will differ. Yet, there is one key consequence that the vast majority of children will face as the result of a divorce or separation.

Two Homes – How to Adjust?

This is a complex topic, and we highly recommend you read our more in-depth article exploring this in more detail. However, we can provide some small insight into how to better handle this reality in the short term.

Honest and open communication is the key to helping your child adapt to suddenly having two homes. Simply be upfront with them, explain the situation, and provide your child with their own space in each home.

In the long term, our article goes into more detail. However, there are no research-based findings that suggest any lasting negative effects as a result of this lifestyle change.

Behavioral Consequences

Perhaps the most explored area of research for the consequences faced by children of divorce is behavioral consequences. This is primarily a result of how children, especially before their teenage years, primarily communicate.

As parents, we will be attuned to the behavior of our children. A shift in their typical behavior is easy to spot, and research has shown that a majority of children will present drastic shifts in their behavior in the short term.

These consequences include:

  • Sudden destructive behavior,
  • Arguing,
  • Shouting, temper problems, or tantrums,
  • Lashing out physically,
  • Being quiet, not wanting to be around others,
  • Crying.

These behavioral consequences are to be expected in the short term. Your child will be struggling with complex emotions. Research has shown that in the long term if left unchecked, this can lead to anger problems, depression, anxiety disorders, as well as a range of other mental illnesses.

In Conclusion

The consequences faced by children of divorce are diverse and complex. Presenting what can often feel like an impossible quandary at an already difficult time. Whilst the statistical likelihood of your child developing long-term negative effects is small, that likelihood still exists.

Thankfully, this reality is not without its silver lining. Now equipped with a broader understanding of the short-term and long-term consequences a divorce or separation can have on a child, you have the tools you need to provide support for this drastic change in your child’s life.

For more in-depth analysis on many of these topics, we highly recommend you browse our wealth of information on this topic.