Before You Divorce With Kids

Father comforting son
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Often, parents who are thinking about getting a divorce will ask what age is best for their kids. While there's no magic number that defines when kids are most resilient, age is a valid consideration. But it's not the only one. If you're thinking about filing for a divorce, here are some factors you should keep in mind.

Navigating Divorce With Kids

Divorced parents need to keep their kids' best interests at the forefront of the many decisions they will have to make. Children should be able to continue their relationship with both parents. Their lives should have as little interruption as is possible, such as not having to change schools if possible. Ex-spouses should be cordial and cooperative as they transition to being co-parents. Communication should happen between adults; co-parents should not pass messages through the kids.

Considerations Before Divorcing

When considering a divorce, it's important to consider your kids before making a final decision. Here are some things to think about and discuss with your spouse if possible.

Kids' Parental Attachments

Consider how attached your children are to each parent. Kids who have a strong attachment to both parents may have a more difficult time coping because they feel compelled to be loyal to both of you.

In addition, remember that your kids have the right to maintain the same connection to each parent that they enjoyed before the divorce.

So if your kids are close with both of you right now, you may need to go through the divorce with the expectation that you'll share custody.

Recent Losses

Grief affects children just as strongly as adults. And if your kids have recently gone through the loss of a loved one (or even a pet), moved, or changed schools, divorcing at this point may affect them more deeply.

Conflict at Home

How much conflict the kids witness at home on a regular basis, as well as how intense those conflicts are, are important things to think about. Exposure to a lot of intense conflict at home doesn't always make separation easier for kids, but it can temper the disappointment some.

Economic Stability

Think about how a divorce would impact your kids' economic stability in the short- and long-term. Statistically, women and children are more likely to be left with less money post-divorce. As you decide what to do, and when, consider your ability to pay for your kids' necessities—like shelter, food, and clothing—as well as any activities or extras they've grown accustomed to.

School Changes

Obviously, changing schools would compound all of the other changes a divorce would set in motion. Consider how strongly your children are attached to their friends currently, and how moving to a new town would affect those relationships.

Support From Friends

Sometimes it helps kids adjust when they have friends who've gone through a family divorce. Knowing other kids first-hand who've also experienced divorce could help your children feel less isolated as you go through the process.

Ability to Collaborate

Think about whether or not you'll be able to collaborate with your ex. Demonstrating a willingness to communicate with your ex effectively, and often, will convey to your children a sense of stability as you go through this time of intense family change.

Consider your ability to set aside your own pride, at times, to do what's best for your kids—even when doing so will be extremely difficult, emotionally.

Parents' Coping Skills

Each parent's ability to personally cope with the changes associated with the divorce are important to think about as well. Consider how you'll each tend to your own self-care so that you'll be able to demonstrate the strength and resilience your kids will need.

Kids' Coping Skills

Every child experiences divorce differently. But if you have a child who has a hard time with transitions, in general, you should be prepared for the experience to be even more difficult.

Kids' Ages

Very young children will have fewer, if any, memories of living together as a family, but they are also very sensitive to changes in routine. The more your children associate their identity with the family unit you've created, the harder it is to accept that change and move on.

None of these factors should be considered clear-cut reasons for or against divorce. You and your spouse are the only ones who can make the decision about what's right for you and your family.

A Word From Verywell

As you reflect on how a divorce would affect your kids, consider scheduling a few sessions with a family therapist—either on your own or together. A professional can help you either work on the relationship and reconsider divorce, or take healthy steps toward the changes ahead.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Clark B. Supporting the mental health of children and youth of separating parents. Paediatr Child Health. 2013;18(7):373-7.

  2. D'Onofrio B, Emery R. Parental divorce or separation and children's mental health. World Psychiatry. 2019;18(1):100-101. doi:10.1002/wps.20590

  3. Leopold T. Gender differences in the consequences of divorce: A study of multiple outcomes. Demography. 2018;55(3):769-797. doi:10.1007/s13524-018-0667-6

By Jennifer Wolf
Jennifer Wolf is a PCI Certified Parent Coach and a strong advocate for single moms and dads.