Having just celebrated my daughter’s high school graduation, the parties, and the honors banquets, I now turn my focus to her next big step– college. The cost of tuition, housing, meal plans, and add-ons is simply daunting. It made me think about so many divorce cases, where parties spend at least one year’s college tuition in fees and costs and sometimes the equivalent of a four year degree. Don’t get me wrong; sometimes that is the best money spent as the potential risks to the children with the “wrong” parenting plan can be even more costly. The emotional damage can usually not be repaired and have a lifelong impact, and attempts at addressing the harm that occurred can cost greatly via a lifetime of therapy. Sometimes, these children fall within the bleak statistics of children of divorce, getting caught up in drugs and alcohol, self-harm, and dropping out of high school. In the cases that present that level of risk, it is best to spend the necessary money up front to give the children the best chance at success despite the divorce.
For the rest of the cases, though, a parent needs to look at whether the cost of fighting during the divorce is really worth it. Some parents will say that they had to let their children know that “I fought for them.” It would be better if the children knew that the parents worked cooperatively and put the children’s interests first. This issue seems most present in two-state parenting plans. Children of a younger age tend to be primarily attached to one parent. This does not mean that they have a poor relationship with the other parent. This attachment is simply basic human development. If that parent is the one seeking to live in another state, the odds are that the court will name that parent the primary parent post-divorce and the child will be moving. To do otherwise risks the child’s current, as well as future, emotional health. Put another way, having the child a distance from the secondary parent attachment will do less harm to the child than removing the child from the primary attachment to remain in Colorado. Courts are very careful to enter orders that pose the least harm to a child. Why can’t parents see it the way the law does? Yes, there is an emotional factor, but like anything in life, one must look at the reality of the situation. No matter how much money the parent spends to stop the child from getting to move, the child’s developmental and emotional needs will prevail.
The better use of that same money is to 1) move as well; or 2) save for trips to visit the child in his/her new town of residence; and 3) save for the child’s college education. In a contested two-state initial parenting determination—to be very honest—the lawyers benefit most. It is better for the parent to use their money instead for their own children’s college education, rather than the college education of the children of the lawyers involved.
The moral is to have a realistic look at what the child’s parenting history and attachment have been, and make decisions based upon the child’s emotional and developmental success. Fighting just to show you fought is useless, and does not put the child first (which is what your child actually needs).