You can avoid making your divorce an adverse childhood experience

Are you considering mediation or collaborative divorce to end your marriage rather than a litigated divorce to help begin to build a good co-parenting relationship and minimize the negative effects of divorce on your child? You probably don’t need any more evidence that a long, combative, litigated divorce is generally bad for children. 

Here’s something, however, that you may not know. Mental health professionals list parental divorce as one of the “adverse childhood experiences” (ACE) that can cause toxic stress in children so serious that it follows them into adulthood in the form of psychological, physical, social and relationship problems.

What are ACEs?

Approximately a dozen ACEs have been identified. These include:

  • Physical, sexual and emotional abuse of a child
  • Physical, sexual and emotional abuse of another household member (generally a parent)
  • Parental substance abuse, mental illness and incarceration
  • Maternal depression
  • Homelessness
  • Divorce

Divorce often accompanies or results from one or more of the other ACEs. These divorces can be particularly combative. They can even result in further violence and other abuse as well as serious financial difficulties – all of which can be especially difficult on the children caught in the middle.

Divorce alone can be an ACE

Even if your child hasn’t experienced any other ACE besides divorce, an acrimonious divorce – especially if it involves fighting over child custody and support – can put a child in a toxic environment. If they’re unable to co-parent in a healthy manner after the split, this can compound the damage.

A long, expensive litigated divorce can also take up so much of both parents’ time and emotional bandwidth that they don’t give their kids the time and attention needed to spot potential issues before they become impossible to ignore.

By choosing mediation or collaborative divorce to end your marriage and negotiate your agreements (including your parenting plan), you can help keep your child’s best interests front and center.