Although every child is a unique individual, there are a few things that we know to be generally harmful to children. Conflict between their parents being one of them. As important as money is, the economic consequences of fighting in court can be dwarfed by the impact on your children.  Mental health professionals, the court system, attorneys, mediators, and custody evaluators all agree on one thing: Ongoing conflict between parents is often the most damaging stressor for children in the divorce process.

When conflict is obvious and occurs over extended periods of time, children feel torn between parents, hope someone will magically restore the marriage, and wish that they could  be anywhere but where the battle is raging. This is true even when parents have most of their arguments outside of the children’s presence.

Because children have spent all of their lives living with and observing their parents, and because they rely on their parents to provide the basic securities of life, they develop an uncanny ability to “read” their parents. Children are exquisitely sensitive to each parent’s reactions when the By making the commitment to put  your children’s interests first, and by taking the time to educate yourself about your options, you, your children, and the other parent may find that you can develop a parenting agreement that each of you feels is essentially fair.

Many parents start out doubting they can negotiate their own parenting agreement. Often, they will question whether any plan can transform the anger, pain, confusion, and disarray of the breakup into a viable parenting plan. Take heart! The experiences of the vast majority of families who separate or divorce show that conflict, legal or otherwise, is far less than the media—or lawyers—would have us believe. In fact, study after study shows that only about 15% of custody agreements are the product of a full court trial. In most cases, parents negotiate their own agreement, often with the help of outside professionals such as attorneys, mediators, or  counselors.