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Child custody, divorce proceedings need not damage your children

In previous posts we've discussed the potentially negative effects of divorce on children and ways to protect them from any conflict you and your spouse experience during the proceedings. Whether or not that conflict directly involves your children, such as a dispute over child custody, it's important to consider how they will be affected in the long term by your actions.

A very public example of how not to handle your divorce can be found in the ongoing saga of former NFL star Deion Sanders and his ex-wife Pilar. In the latest chapter of their tumultuous split, a judge awarded the one-time Dallas Cowboys cornerback temporary custody of the former couple's two sons while their 8-year-old daughter stays with Pilar until a full custody hearing next month. All three children were ordered to undergo psychological counseling, which isn't surprising considering what the family has been through.

Although he filed for divorce in December, Deion and his wife were living in the same house but in separate quarters until last month, when a fight broke out between the two. It apparently started with Pilar saying she hadn't seen one of her sons for four days because he was staying in his father's living quarters. The details of that scuffle, which ended with officers showing up at the house and the Sanders' children filling out police reports, are still heavily disputed. But both ended up charged with misdemeanor simple assault charges and sought protective orders against each other. Deion Sanders was the only one to receive one.

At the temporary custody hearing, the judge referred to the Sanderses as "a family in conflict." At this point, it's hard to say what long-term damage the children might suffer as a result of their parents' fighting. But it's safe to say that heated verbal exchanges that get physical in front of your children won't make your divorce any easier on them. If you can't avoid conflict with your ex-wife or husband, you should at least make efforts to work things out when they aren't present. Your family law attorney can also help by mitigating the conflict and helping both of you reach agreements that are beneficial to you and your children.

Source: Star Local News, "Deion Sanders wins protective order against wife," Dan Eakin, May 9, 2012

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