Even during the most bitter of divorces, parents should not fight in front of their children and must cooperate for the sake of their children, Rabbi Shmuley says. "Civil, cordial relations are what's necessary," he says. In order to do what's best for the children, Rabbi Shmuley outlines rules that estranged couples should follow.
Family Rules for Divorce
- Never use the children as proxies in your arguments. Agree to this early on in the divorce and stick to it, Rabbi Shmuley says.
- Update each other regularly on the state of your children. "[Speaking] every other day is a good idea," Rabbi Shmuley says. "The conversation need not be for longer than five to 10 minutes."
- Agree on a schedule for the children. "If the kids are too displaced by constant moving [or schedule changes], minimize it," he says.
- Never speak badly of one another in front of the children. Both sides should agree to this rule and abide by it at all times.
- Agree to go to arbitration, rather than court. Instead of paying lawyers when arguing over financial or custody disputes, Rabbi Shmuley says you can minimize a lot of animosity and save money by working things out in arbitration.
- Agree that the children come before other relationships. "Whoever [you] date or when [you] enter into a serious relationship—it should not be disrupting to the kids," Rabbi Shmuley says.
- Live in the same city. By living in close proximity to one another, Rabbi Shmuley says the children have equal time with both parents.
- Agree to family values and religion. If the children are used to a certain church or set of values, do not deviate from it, regardless of whom a parent may later date or marry. "The kids can't be confused by constant change," Rabbi Shmuley says.
- Don't become best friends with each other after the divorce. "It's very confusing to the children," Rabbi Shmuley says. "If you could get along, they think, 'Why did you do this to the family?'"
"Even war has its rules, and likewise divorce ought to have its own Geneva Convention. After you separate, you still have kids and you have to act civilly toward one another and cooperate so that you minimize the harm done to your children. The general rule is to never use your children as proxies in a war with your ex, and never alienate your children from their other parent."