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Children and Family Law

"What you must remember, first and foremost, is that you must love your children more than you hate your ex. Because your child doesn’t have a choice in this. Your child is stuck in the middle and you cannot treat them like they have to pick mommy or pick daddy -- it’s just wrong."

Actress Valerie Bertinelli, December 2012, speaking about how she and her ex-husband Eddie Van Halen transformed their rocky post-divorce relationship into one so amicable they attended each other's subsequent wedding ceremonies.

Learn more about:
Child Custody   |   Child Support   |   Paternity
Domestic Violence   |   Children and Family Law
Recommended Reading With Your Children
Timeless Advice for All Divorcing Parents
Special Needs Children

A huge percentage of marriages today end in divorce.  Couple that with the number of families which exist where the parents are not married to each other which also end in a break-up and we find that an alarming number of children are affected by the dissolving of these relationships.  Family law in Kentucky is largely focused on protecting the interests of these children, particularly the matters of child custody and child support.

All parents worry about the impact the divorce or breakup is going to have on their kids.  While the grown-ups may become preoccupied with the legal aspects of the situation, it's critical that the parents also focus on protecting the children and making decisions that are genuinely in the best interest of the kids.

Remember:  Mom and Dad are getting divorced or breaking up -- not the kids.  Mom and Dad are going to be pivotal figures in their children's lives for decades to come.  The choices and decisions that the parents make today are going to have an enormous impact on rest of their children's lives.  Please try to make the best of this difficult situation for the sake of your children.

Children are frightened by divorce and confused by what they perceive to be a threat to their security.  A divorce can easily be misinterpreted by children unless the parents sit down and explain what is going on, how the kids will and will notbe involved, reassuring the children that the divorce is not their fault and talking openly about how everyone's lives will be changing.

Children very often blame themselves for conflict between their parents.  It's important to reassure your children that the divorce is not their fault.  It's also good for children to know that they are not the only ones going through a situation like divorce.

Please consider taking your children to a mental health professional such as a therapist so the kids can talk openly about their fears and feelings, particularly if you observe changes in your child's behavior, performance at school, increased sibling squabble, defiant behavior, etc.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recommends:

  • Do not keep the divorce a secret or wait until the last minute.

  • Tell your children together with your spouse.

  • Keep things simple and straight-forward.

  • Tell them the divorce is not their fault.

  • Admit that this will be sad and upsetting for everyone.

  • Reassure your children that you both still love them and will always be their parents.

  • Do not discuss each other’s faults or your problems with the children.

Starting a conversation with your children about Mom and Dad getting a divorce is going to be difficult.  To help get the dialogue started, we recommend that you visit your local library, book store or shop on-line for age-appropriate books geared toward children which can help them understand their changing family dynamics.  Just to get you started, here are a few examples:

More about children and Family Law

Other pages on our website deal with:

Children are impacted by many aspects of Family Law.  Most of the time, that impact is negative, particularly when:

  • Mom and Dad are getting a divorce and the children feel it's their fault.

  • Dad and Mom have a fight, it gets physical and the children witness the domestic violence.

  • The parents are frequently squabbling over "little" things.

  • Mom and Dad are already divorced, but there is so much animosity and bitterness between them that the children become alienated against one parent or the other.

  • Dad has custody of the children and Mom is supposed to pay child support.  If Mom is late with her payments, Dad talks badly about her in front of the children or argues with her in their presence.

  • Dad's late with the child support.  He shows up to see the kids and Mom refuses to permit him to have visitation with them.

  • Mom remarries and her new husband gets transferred to France.  She and Dad have joint custody of the children, but she is the "primary residential custodian".  Mom decides to move to France with the children and her new husband, which effectively cuts off Dad's opportunities to see his children on a regular basis.

Timeless Advice for All Divorcing Parents

Please take a minute to read the 197 words below containing blunt advice from a retired Minnesota family law judge on how to protect your children from the uglier side of divorce.  These nuggets of wisdom have been circulating for years among judges, attorneys and child advocates as powerful words of advice for all parents going through a divorce.  We hope you'll take the time to read them!

Your children have come into this world because of the two of you. Perhaps you two made lousy choices as to whom you decided to be the other parent. If so, that is YOUR problem and YOUR fault.

No matter what you think of the other party -- or what your family thinks of the other party -- these children are one-half of each of you. Remember that, because every time you tell your child what an 'idiot' his father is, or what a 'fool' his mother is, or how bad the absent parent is, or what terrible things that person has done, you are telling the child half of HIM is bad.

That is an unforgivable thing to do to a child. That is not love! That is possession. If you do that to your children, you will destroy them as surely as if you had cut them into pieces, because that is what you are doing to their emotions.

I sincerely hope that you do not do that to your children. Think more about your children and less about yourselves, and make yours a selfless kind of love, not foolish or selfish, or your children will suffer.

Judge Michael Haas retired in December 2002 after 26 years of service as a Judge in Cass County, Minnesota.  In a letter written to advice columnist Abigail Van Buren as early as October 1994 by attorney Paul J. Kiltinen of Baxter, Minnesota, Mr. Kiltinen shared the following remarks by Judge Hass in a particularly difficult divorce case, describing the Judge's remarks as "some of the most profound words of wisdom I've ever heard from the bench in all my years as an attorney.  His philosophy could provide insight to all parents, especially those who are involved in difficult dissolutions."

Judge Haas' concise advice is so well known and so widely respected that it has been referenced in multiple appellate court decisions, including Burke v. Burke, Tennessee Court of Appeals, No. M2000-01111-COA-R3-CV, Aug. 7, 2001 and Krupp v. Cunningham-Grogan, Tennessee Court of Appeals, No. M2005-01098-COA-R3-CV, August 29, 2006.  It's also been cited in Lawyers Weekly USA, No. 9921543 and in Don R. Ash's law review article, "Bridge Over Troubled Water: Changing the Custody Law in Tennessee", 27 U. Mem. L. Rev. 769, 771-72 (1997).

This message was "resurrected" in 2000 when it was republished as a letter published by advice columnist Ann Landers (the twin sister of "Dear Abby").  Two decades later, Judge Haas' moving words are sprinkled all over the Internet, found on court websites, blogs, attorney webpages, in court decisions and in law journals.

We don't know if Judge Haas was making prepared remarks on the record or if these 197 words above were purely "off the cuff.  Regardless, this message will always remain profound and powerful advice when parents are ready to engage in custody battles for their children.