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Ask the Counsellors: Messy Divorce with Kids

Dear Counsellors,

Last spring after 15 years of marriage my wife decided to end our marriage. We have two children ages 10 and 14 who I rarely get to see. When my wife told me she wanted to end the marriage I was in shock because I thought our marriage was fine. She said she was unhappy. I provided financially for the family and my wife stayed at home. Because my wife was the stay at home parent it made sense that I move out of the home. I had hoped that she would come to her senses and ask me to move back home. Even her parents told her she was being selfish. At first my wife let the children visit me whenever they wanted but after she got a boyfriend everything changed. Now when I call to spend time with my children she tells me they are too busy with their friends or she and the boyfriend have already made plans. This spring I had to retain a lawyer because she petitioned for $1200 in child support, a spousal allowance, sole custody and full ownership of the house. Needless to say I am really angry because it was her who ended the marriage and not me. I have since spent considerable money on legal fees trying to resolve this. To make matters even worse my ex says the children are too afraid to visit me; I have not seen them in three months. I feel so frustrated and really worried that I am going to lose everything, including my children.

-Losing It!

Dear Losing It,

It sounds like you have a lot going on right now and its not surprising if you are feeling overwhelmed. Did you know that how you are feeling and the fear you are experiencing is a common response in separation and divorce?

For most people separation and divorce is a difficult time and typically brings the worst out in people. Over the years I have worked with many families going through separation and divorce, and have found that people in general have difficulty separating their painful emotions associated with the breakup from the best interests of their children. Also, in an effort to assist families, the court often orders traditional counselling. Unfortunately, traditional counselling approaches frequently fail in situations such as this because the counsellors focus on the individual’s loss, and not on the skills that are needed for parents to make good decisions for their children. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that counselling is not important and may still be required during the divorce process but rather divorcing families need a specific type education/counselling support so they can learn the skills necessary in making decisions.

Research has shown that parents who are able to be more flexible in their thinking, manage their emotions, moderate their behavior, and check themselves, achieve far better outcomes for all parties involved (children and parents). Given where things are for you and your family, I recommend that you, your ex and your children attend for the New Ways for Families program so you can benefit from learning skills before making such important decisions.

This program is accessible either by consent or can be court ordered. Aspire Too counsellors are experienced and licensed to teach these critical skills: flexible thinking, managed emotions, moderate behaviors and checking self and we have helped families such as yours. For more information you can either visit our website aspiretoo.ca or call our office to book a consultation session with me.

Connie Lupichuk, MSW, RSW, CLC
Director of Assessments and Consulting Services