How to Handle Divorce with a Baby

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Going through a divorce can be like mourning the death of a loved one. Most broken couples go through different stages of anger, denial, and acceptance. No one gets married with the intention of getting a divorce, but regardless of how or why, it does happen. Going through a divorce with a young child is sometimes described as torture, and it can lead to feelings of defeat.

When a child is involved, the difficulties of divorce can feel like they are multiplying exponentially. If you prepare yourself for this transition, it can help ease the pain of struggling through a divorce with a child.

What to Expect

So what can you expect when going through a divorce with a child? It all depends on your situation and the degree of difficulty between you and your soon-to-be ex-significant other. Unfortunately, when a child is involved, there is no complete separation or cutoff of communication between divorcees.

If the best interests of the child are taken into consideration, a civil conversation and compromise are essential to reducing the stress of the transition from couple to co-parents. In the beginning, it will be necessary to have discussions to determine the logistics of divorcing with a young child.

Develop a Plan

You will already feel overwhelmed when going through a divorce, and now you have to determine logistics in the future.  In most cases, one parent leaves the house, but the other stays in it with the child, at least immediately following the divorce. Of course, feelings and emotions abound, but it is important to make logical decisions, because they can affect the rest of your child’s life. 

If you and your ex can communicate somewhat effectively, you may be able to avoid the additional costs of lawyers and courts. Even if you work together to establish a parenting plan and financial arrangements, it may be a good idea to have it in writing with a judge’s approval. Then you can prevent any issues in the future.

Immediate Decisions

Immediately following the declaration of divorce, you will need to determine who will keep the child, and when or where the other parent will see them.  If the parent is not allowing you to see your child, seek a lawyer immediately.  Does your child go to daycare? You may need to arrange drop-off or pick-up, or determine who will pay for the services.  

The parent that pays for daycare or medical bills should keep the receipts until an official agreement is reached. Is the other parent unresponsive?  Make arrangements as you need to, and document your attempts to reach them.  You may need the documentation during legal proceedings.

Legalize the Agreement

A custody or parenting agreement in writing is one of the most important ways to protect your child.  Even if you and the other parent have worked out an arrangement on your own, you should have it approved by a judge in order to protect everyone involved. Visitation schedules should also be approved by a judge.

Child support may be part of this process, particularly if one parent has full custody.  If the parents do not agree on an appropriate amount per month, the courts will decide the amount based on both parents’ incomes.  Healthcare for the child must also be determined; one parent will cover the child, and that cost will be considered during the determination of child support.  

Prepare to Move On

You may accept your divorce, or even be happy to be single again. However, it may still be difficult to see your ex move on and start dating again.  You might not want to think about that, but you should. 

At some point, there is going to be another parental figure around your child.  Of course, you can’t prevent your ex from dating or remarrying.  But what you can do is incorporate certain rules into your parenting or custody agreement.  For example, you can say that you must meet any person who will be living in the same house as your child, just as you would a babysitter or nanny. Then you will at least have the chance to get to know them and develop a cordial relationship, even if you cannot stop them from being around your child.

Divorcing with a child is even more difficult than divorcing without one. But thankfully, there is an established system that handles divorces every day. Separating can be ugly and unpleasant, and it can be heartbreaking to split the time that you see your child.

Therefore, it is important to be aware of what to expect. Then you can prepare for the logistical aspect of co-parenting a child, as well as the legal requirements of custody and child support.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Podcast” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire.

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Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA

Dallas, Texas

Shawn C. H. Leamon is Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, a firm that helps successful families manage large financial transitions like divorce, inheritance and selling a business.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College, double majoring in Economics and Philosophy, and his Masters in Business Administration at Spain’s IE Business School.

Before founding LaGrande Global, Shawn helped manage $1.1 billion in client assets at Bernstein Global Wealth Management. He also worked as a credit research analyst at J.P. Morgan. He is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and he has been an advisor to numerous high-stakes divorce cases.

Shawn is the author of two well-received finance books: Managing Private Wealth: Principles, and Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide, both published in 2016.

In his spare time, Shawn is an ultra-endurance athlete and has competed in events as long as 24 hours. He is an Eagle Scout and a member of the Alumni Board of Greenhill School.