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When young parents get divorced, they must put the kids first

As much as people talk about staying together for the kids, the reality is that young parents often find themselves splitting up. Sure, some couples get divorced quickly, realizing the marriage was a mistake before they have kids. Others stick it out for 18 years so that the kids can grow up and go to college before they break things off. However, many fall into that middle-ground, wanting to get divorced even though they have young children in the house.

Naturally, these parents want to know what to expect out of the process. Many specific details differ from case to case: how assets get divided, if someone pays alimony, who pays child support, who gets child custody. Every case is unique.

What is the same across the board, though, is that the children have to come first. Divorce is going to impact their lives. If the parents focus on them throughout this process, they can reduce that impact.

The importance of structure

For example, you may assume that a baby is young enough that divorce doesn't matter -- the child has no concept of marriage or divorce, after all -- but the reality is that even very young kids understand when things change. Schedules are important to them. They get used to eating, sleeping, waking up, spending time with each parent, and much else. All of that changes during and after divorce, and they do know it.

"They need structure and continuity to feel safe and to trust that all is right with the world," one expert pointed out. Parents should strive to create a schedule that deviates as little as possible from what the child knows and expects.

Putting yourself second

Taking this focus can mean doing things that you do not necessarily prefer to do. You may need to put yourself second and really put your child first.

"For the first three months of my son's life, I had his dad come to my house whenever he wanted to see the baby," noted one young mother. While the father may have preferred to spend time with his son at his own house, he came to visit so as not to break up the schedule and structure his son had gotten used to.

Working with your ex

One key thing to remember is that putting the kids first also means working with your ex. Young kids mean divorce is not the end of your relationship. You have to co-parent together -- no matter how you feel about each other.

"When my husband and I divorced, he moved to Oregon for a year," one mother said. "I wanted him to have a close relationship with our daughter, who was eighteen months at the time, so I made sure to talk about him frequently and to tell her how much he loves her."

For some parents, portraying an ex in this type of positive light feels very difficult. They're angry or sad or frustrated by the end of the marriage. But, again, it's important that the children come first.

Your options

As you move toward divorce, take the time to look into all of the legal options you have in Texas to help your kids through the process.

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