Keeping the House “For the Kids”
By Howard Krieger, PhD and Lisa J. Cappalli, Esq.
“We’ve got to keep the house for the kids-no matter what. We’re already turning their worlds upside down with the divorce. We can’t tell them they have to move on top of everything else.”
This is the immediate reaction of many divorcing parents. It’s based sometimes on guilt-for divorcing, sometimes on fear-that the children will fall apart if they are moved, and sometimes on other parent focused reasons-what will my friends think about me if I have to move to a less desirable neighborhood. But also, usually the reaction comes from the heart-out of love for their kids.
Any certainly, in many situations, kids will benefit if they can keep living in their home after their parents’ divorce. But not always. And not at any cost.
Divorcing parents will best serve their kids if they can temporarily set aside emotions and, relying on their heads instead of their hearts, explore these questions:
- Does the decision make good sense from a financial perspective?
Kids may not be interested in financial logic, but the impact of housing costs on a single parent household is important to them. Stress due to finances can damage the psychological health of the parent, resulting in a less effective mom or dad. Time away from kids to work at a second job in order to pay the mortgage may not be a better choice than a less costly living arrangement-especially if parents and kids can spend more time together during a transition that is difficult for both of them.
- What does this home really mean to our child?
The psychological meaning of a home may not be the same for a child as it is for a parent. To a child, once one parent leaves the family home, it may never again be the family home-it’s not the same home without both mom and dad in it. While it may be hurtful for a parent to acknowledge, sometimes it’s less painful for a child to move than remain in a house where he is reminded daily of the family he once but no longer has.
- If we move, will the new place be good enough?
The concept of “good enough” parenting doesn’t get enough credit or attention in a culture built on striving for the “best.”
Many kids, whether from one or two parent or extended family households, are raised in apartments, condos and in situations quite different from the single-family homes at the center of many divorce struggles. Most of these kids grow up to be happy, healthy and successful adults. So might alternative living arrangements be good or good enough even if not the same or the best?
- How resilient is our child?
Kids move all the time. And not just because their parents have divorced. They move so their parents can take new jobs, for a better climate, to be near an ailing family member who needs help, or because the mortgage is being foreclosed. Children, generally are resilient. But how does your particular child do with change? And how strong will mom and dad be in helping their child adjust to change? That, after all, is a major part of the every parent’s job.
These guidelines offer a starting point for divorcing parents wrestling with the often difficult question – What should we do about our house?
For an in-depth discussion about the psychological pros and cons of keeping the family home for your children as you divorce, contact Howard Krieger, PhD, Connecticut Resource Group, Waterbury, CT, 203-573-9521, www.connecticutresourcegroup.com.
For an in-depth discussion about the legal factors associated with keeping the family home as part of your particular divorce plans, contact Lisa J. Cappalli, Esq., Cappalli & Hill, LLC, 203-271-3888, www.cappallihill.com.