When faced with divorce children can respond so differently.  Mental health research has helped parents to understand something about how children positively adjust to divorce—but how do you sort through all of the factors that contribute to positive adjustment? We know that age, gender, pre-divorce adjustment, parents’ psychological adjustment, access and frequency of contact with both parents if they are competent, degree of conflict between parents and the goodness of fit between a child’s temperament and the parent’s tolerance of the child’s temperament—all play an important role in positive divorce adjustment (see Saposnek’s (2002) excellent summary article “How are the children of divorce doing?” at  Fortunately most children of divorce catch up with their peers from intact families in most measures of academic, social and emotional functioning after about two years post-divorce.  Some of the most important factors in providing the best adjustment for children going through divorce involve both parents being involved in the care of their children and not placing their children in the middle of their conflicts during and following their divorce (see Kelly and Emory’s article in Family Relations, 2003).

Parents going through divorce and who are interested in their children’s positive adjustment have some excellent resources about how to sort through what is the best parenting time plan for their children.  An up-to-date summary of mental health contributions to the development of parenting plan models can be found in the article by Kelly, Joan, Developing Beneficial Parenting Plan Models for Children Following Separation and Divorce, Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Vol. 19, 2005 pp. 237-254.  Practical and helpful parenting time plans can be found in Planning for Parenting Time:  Arizona’s Guide for Parents Living Apart, (2009) Arizona Supreme Court,  This website helps parents think about the developmental needs of their children and the variety of parenting time models they can use to match their children’s needs.  It is far friendlier, educative and appealing than what Michigan’s Supreme Court offers divorcing parents.  The website also does something similar by utilizing Joan Kelly’s research contributions in helping parents sort through what their children may need.

Parents need to realize that parenting time plan is only a vehicle for helping their children to have the best chance to make the positive adjustment they need to develop their two new families.  Plans need to be flexible and children need to feel that they have enough time with both parents to have the relationship they need for their best opportunity to grow into confident, well-adjusted adults.

Author: Peter Everts, PhD