The Smart Divorce® Weblog

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Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce

There’s a great new initiative  developed by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) and Sesame Street which is an an important and valuable resource for parents, Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce . The program, featuring Muppet Abby Cadabby, provides tools and language to help young children (ages 2-8) cope with and understand divorce at an age-appropriate level. Project resources include a free mobile app, online resources, and multimedia toolkits containing a children’s storybook, a caregiver guide, and a DVD. These materials are available online at and through the Resource Center on the AFCC website. Divorce can be a big challenge for both children and parents. Though times may be difficult, children can emerge feeling loved and supported. You can all grow through these family changes and discover just how strong you really are.

You are not alone. Family, friends, neighbors, and others are there to offer support. Here are some tools to help your child through your divorce.

To view this fabulous new program and for more details click here 

Information from the SesameWorkshop

Each year about 1.5 million children confront the divorce of their parents1, a transition that can be challenging for the entire family, especially young children. While 40% of families experience this, there are few resources to show children they are not the only ones with big questions and feelings about divorce.  In response, Sesame Workshop has launched Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce, a series of free multi-media resources, to support families through this transition which can be very difficult, especially for young children. These new materials are a continuation of Sesame Workshop’s award-winning Military Families Initiative launched in 2006 that provides resources and emotional support to military families with children, ages 2 to 8, coping with challenging transitions in their lives.

As with all content produced by Sesame Workshop, this outreach initiative began with a thorough research process, which included consulting with an advisory board of key experts in child development, early childhood, and mental health fields to guide and shape key content messages. Continuing the process, Sesame Workshop conducted focus groups with parents and service providers to ensure that all of the resources effectively meet the needs of children and families.  Sesame Workshop created Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce, in order to:

  • Provide tools and language to help young children (ages 2–8) cope with and understand divorce at an age-appropriate level,
  • aid families in communicating and expressing feelings around divorce and
  • reassure children that they will be cared for, and that—together with their families—they can learn ways to adjust to their new life and have hope for the future.

“With our new resources on divorce, Sesame Workshop continues a 43-year-long history of tackling the most relevant and challenging issues for children,” said H. Melvin Ming, President and CEO of Sesame Workshop. “During difficult times, it’s vitally important that children feel supported and develop coping skills that will help them throughout their entire lives.  Sesame Workshop is committed to providing the highest quality resources to families dealing with life’s challenges.”

Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce includes:

  • A new Sesame Street DVD, featuring the Muppets and real families, that highlights strategies around expressing emotions and how to talk to children about divorce;
  • A Parent/Caregiver Guide providing helpful resources, language and advice for discussing divorce with children and helping them navigate changes;
  • A Children’s StorybookTwo-Hug Day, about a young boy named Niko who is transitioning between his parents’ two homes, and
  • An online toolkit at providing access to all project resources, as well as additional online-only materials:
    • An Extended Family & Friends tip sheet
    • Webinars and online discussion sessions giving service providers and families a thorough understanding of how to engage with their families and communities
    • A Facebook page called Sesame Street in Communities connecting our online community to Sesame’s resiliency messages and materials.
  • A mobile app: Sesame Street: Divorce, featuring resources and tools for parents and caregivers; available on the App Store (SM) and Google Play ™.

“With the frequency of children experiencing divorce and or separation today, it is critical to help children understand that the feelings or questions they may have are typical and should be discussed with a parent or caregiver, said Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Senior Vice President for Outreach and Educational Practices at Sesame Workshop.  “These strategies will help children cope with changes as well as support them in understanding they are not alone.”

The resource kits will be distributed to military and veteran families through partnerships with Military OneSource, Department of Veterans Affairs, The USO, and The Military Child Education Coalition. These resources are also being distributed to families in the general public through national partnerships with organizations such the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. On a local level, distribution will reach children and their families though faith-based programs, school and after school programs, through counseling and mental health services, parenting programs, and child care systems. Military families can contact Military OneSource directly at to request a kit.

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Don’t Divorce Me! Kids’ Rules for Parents on Divorce

Have you watched the new documentary on HBO – Don’t Divorce Me!  If you haven’t already done so, I strongly suggest you do.

This is the most incredible program providing a voice to children of divorce.  They share their do’s and don’ts of what their parents are doing right and wrong throughout the divorce process and beyond.  The important tips they share are:

  1. Don’t use your kids as messengers
  2. Let them know that the divorce isn’t there fault
  3. Don’t fight
  4. Love your children (too much)
  5. They want to spend time with both mom and dad
  6. Keep the kids out of the middle
  7. Try to make sure that your parents get both kids kind of equally
  8. Don’t ask me to spy

These kids are smart are tell parents in such a powerful way what they could be doing better.  Children are the ones that live out the divorce… let’s give our children the best chances and listen to their message.

If you’re having trouble coping emotionally, understanding the importance of putting your children’s best interest first, healing through the divorce process for a happier, healthier future, then you will definitely want to check out The Smart Divorce ToolKit – a cost-effective and valuable divorce support resource.

I’ve written previous blog posts about The Children’s Best Interests.  Check them out:

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This Family Day, Don’t Play Games with Your Children

As published in The Huffington Post

Living in the province of Ontario, I am fortunate to have the day off on February 20 because of the statutory holiday “Family Day”. This holiday was created because the provincial government felt that “there is nothing more valuable to families than time together. And yet it seems tougher than ever to find, with so many of us living such busy lives.”

Single parent households, blended families, same-sex families, cohabiting families. There so many more configurations that I haven’t even mentioned. But when you’re divorced and single, the expression “family day” suddenly takes on a very new meaning.

What if you’re divorced with no children, and have no extended family? Does that mean you can’t celebrate Family Day? No. I suggest that you reach out to your friends who have become your extended family. Let them know how special they are to you. Start building important bonds and relationships that you hope can be long lasting.

If you have become estranged or alienated from your family and children, use this time to reflect and try to understand what went wrong. Perhaps this can be the day when you start mending those broken bonds. The ending of a relationship between a parent and a child is probably one of the most painful experiences that can happen.

To be estranged is a breakdown of the bond between a parent and the child; a distance between the two is created. For whatever reason, there was something that caused the loving relationship to turn into one of apathy or hostility. If you ask me, parent alienation is a form of mental abuse.

I’m in my book, The Smart Divorce: Proven Strategies and Valuable Advice from 100 Top Divorce Lawyers, Financial Advisers, Counselors and Other Experts, I argue that:

“The most heinous situation in child custody disputes is called pathological alienation or parent alienation syndrome (PAS). In this scenario, one parent becomes obsessed with destroying a child’s relationship with the other parent when there is no good reason to do so. Alienation can be mild, moderate, or severe… The children’s will and choice are removed from them through a form of brainwashing. This is a serious form of child abuse, because if it isn’t stopped, the children are headed for psychiatric disturbances, failed relationships, and dysfunctional lives in which they will pass this behavior on to their own children.”

So what can you do to overcome these devastating scenarios?

In an interview I conducted with Dr. Robert A. Simon, a clinical and forensic psychologist in California, the doctor offers a slightly different perspective on the issue:

“I have concerns about the use of the term ‘Parental Alienation Syndrome’ because I think this oversimplifies the phenomenon and searches for its cause within an individual. In reality, there is a lack of quality, objective and empirical research to validate the notion that there is an identifiable syndrome that corresponds to the problem. Instead, this is a multi-faceted problem. The issue of children becoming alienated or estranged from a parent is a very real phenomenon and a huge problem.However, I am concerned that raising this issue during the course of child custody litigation has become rather “trendy” these days. And when children resist contact with a parent, this is rarely the result of a malevolent parent setting out to destroy the child’s relationship with the other parent. It is far more complex.

To see the full article in The Huffington Post, click on the link

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Can Divorce Really Be Smart?

Did you know that divorce is a process?

di·vorce (dĭ-vôrs′, -vōrs′) n. the legal dissolution of a marriage; v. to sever the marital relationship with a spouse by a judgment or decree of divorce.

If divorce were as straightforward as the dictionary definition, the process would be a whole lot easier. But, the reality is, there are two sides to divorce — the emotional and the legal.

Couples, children, and extended families could carry on with their lives as if nothing much had changed. The “legal dissolution” could involve collegial discussions in lawyers’ boardrooms followed by the signing of papers, a handshake, and best wishes all around. Actually, some lawyers and judges favor the dictionary definition. “Treat your divorce as a business transaction,” they urge couples who come to see them. There’s a lot of wisdom in this piece of advice, if it is applied to the legal side of divorce. But this view neglects the emotional side of divorce. It’s as if they’re saying, “Business partnerships . . . marriage partnerships . . . what’s the difference?”

Please click on the link to read the rest of the article which appears in The Huffington Post.

To read more about The Smart Divorce, check it out on


It’s back to school: developing routine and structure for parents

As I prepare my children to transition from the spontaneity of life in the summer to the structure of school it occurred to me how they need to get back into routine. Not only is it important for our children to be in the habit of schedules, but the aspect of shared parenting needs to be formalized once again; especially if life has been a bit off kilter as our children are at camp, have their own activities without parents or in holiday mode.

If you are the resident parent where the children live most of the time, then not much will change.  However, if your children don’t live with you most of the time, here are some ideas to consider to maintaining involvement in your children’s lives:

Parenting Tips for Transforming Your Family

Make a family calendar and hang it wherever the children will see it, to show that you care. Make your children see that their lives are important to you and that they are your priority.

On the family calendar, list:

  • birthdates
  • school schedules
  • other dates, such as dental appointments, dance recitals, sports games, and so on.

Establish rules such as the following:

  • Each parent must order his or her own tickets for children’s events.
  • Each parent must make his or her own arrangements at school to get information.
  • It is not up to your former spouse to do those things or provide information for you.
  • It’s up to you to take the initiative.
  • Don’t make your son or daughter into the man or woman of the house.
  • Don’t turn your son or daughter into your best friend and confidant.
  • Don’t fill the void in your bed by allowing your child to sleep there. If you eventually start a relationship and no longer allow your child into your bed because you are sharing it with someone else, the child could feel displaced.

If you are the noncustodial parent, here are some ideas to help you maintain a positive relationship with your children:

  • Some schools allow children to leave the grounds for lunch; you may be able to take them out to lunch without affecting the custodial parent’s time.
  • As much as you can, duplicate at your home the little things that your kids love at the custodial parent’s home–things like special Barbie dolls, books, and so on. Send out the message that you care. Duplicating items will remove the stress children may feel about taking their favorite things to the other parent’s home or about forgetting to bring them (but keep in mind that some items, like the favorite blanket or stuffed animal, can’t be duplicated)

Remember, your children still have two parents.  They still have a family, it’s the dynamics which have changed and up to parents to minimize the conflict and make transition as easy as possible.

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Children’s Bill of Rights from…..

Children’s Bill of Rights


Here is another Children’s Bill of Rights which I came across and should help divorcing parents think about what the best interests of the children really mean and other ideas to accomplish this.

We the children of the divorcing parents, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish these Bill Of Rights for all children.

  1. The right not to be asked to “choose sides” or be put in a situation where I would have to take sides between my parents.
  2. The right to be treated as a person and not as a pawn, possession or a negotiating chip.
  3. The right to freely and privately communicate with both parents.
  4. The right not to be asked questions by one parent about the other.
  5. The right not to be a messenger.
  6. The right to express my feelings.
  7. The right to adequate visitation with the non-custodial parent which will best serve my needs and wishes.
  8. The right to love and have a relationship with both parents without being made to feel guilty.
  9. The right not to hear either parent say anything bad about the other.
  10. The right to the same educational opportunities and economic support that I would have had if my parents did not divorce.
  11. The right to have what is in my best interest protected at all times.
  12. The right to maintain my status as a child and not to take on adult responsibilities for the sake of the parent’s well being.
  13. The right to request my parents seek appropriate emotional and social support when needed.
  14. The right to expect consistent parenting at a time when little in my life seems constant or secure.
  15. The right to expect healthy relationship modeling, despite the recent events.
  16. The right to expect the utmost support when taking the time and steps needed to secure a healthy adjustment to the current situation.

Please realize that this is NOT law, anywhere. The “Children’s’ Bill of Rights” is not legally enforceable, but rather suggestions made to keep the best interest of the child a priority.


Children’s Bill of Rights

Children’s Bill of Rights

While researching the children’s best interest, I came across this article which I wanted to share. As parent’s we always think that we are right about our children, but did you know that children have rights too?

As I am bound by the rules not to edit these rights, I specifically want to bring your attention to points 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17

March 1 – April 20 1996


We, Children from seven countries and three continents, having communicated with each other over the Internet, agree that the following are natural rights of Children all over the world, and hereby ratify them:


We believe that a successful society invests its best resources and hopes in the success of its children.
An unsuccessful society ignores or maltreats its children.
Children are the future of our species.
How a society treats its children is a direct reflection of how that society looks at its future.

The Children’s Bill of Rights proposes rights for children that all adults on Earth should honor, so that we may help create the very best future for ourselves and, in turn, our own children.
A moral and competent society is one that respects and upholds the rights of its children.
A society that fails to do so is immoral and incompetent.





As compared to adults, children until the age of 18 have the right to receive special care and protection.
Children all have the same rights, no matter what country they were born in or are living in, what their sex is, what their race is, or what their religion is.


Children have the right to inherit a world that is at least as good as the one their parents inherited.
Children have a responsibility to think about how they will leave a better world to their children, and, when they become adults, they have the right and duty to act on this.


Children have the right to participate in discussions having to do with the directions our society is taking — on the large political, economic, social, and educational issues and policies — so that children can help create the kind of world they will grow up in.
Adults have an obligation to communicate their views of these large issues in terms that children can understand, and provide children with the same information that is available to all adults.
Children have the right to understand how things change within society, and to learn how to influence these changes.


Every child has the right to express his or her opinion freely, and adults should address that opinion with the child in every decision that affects him or her.
Children have the right to carry out research to help form these opinions.
Children have the right to express their views, obtain information, and make ideas or information known.
Children have the right to form their own views in matters of conscience and religion.


Children have guaranteed access to all important communications media so that they may communicate nationally and internationally amongst themselves and with adults.


Children have the right to participate in all committees and decisions that make plans and set policies that directly or indirectly affect children.


Children have the right to privacy to the same extent adults have.


Children should be treated with respect and courtesy by adults, as well as by other children.


Children separated from their birth parents at birth or at an early age have the right to know that this happened.
Children have the right to know their name, who their birth parents are, and when and where they were born.


Children have the right to meet with others, and to join or form associations, equivalent to that held by adults.


Children have the right to have nurturing and caring parents or guardians.


Children have the right to leisure, play, and participation in cultural and artistic activities.
Children have the right to enjoy at least a few hours every day when they are free from worries.


Children have the right to be protected from work that threatens their health, education, or development.
Children have the right to have pocket money so that they may learn to manage money.


Every child has the right to a standard of living adequate for his or her physical, mental, spiritual, moral, and social development, no matter how wealthy his or her parents are.


Children have the right to be protected from all forms of maltreatment by any adult, including a parent.
This includes but is not limited to: physical abuse, including torture, violence, hitting and slapping; harmful drugs, including alcohol and tobacco; mental abuse; and sexual abuse.
Infanticide is prohibited.
No child shall be forced into marriage.


Children have the right to have many different things, people, and ideas in their environment.
Children have the right to listen to music of their choice.
Children have the right NOT to have their creativity stifled.


Every child has the right to education, education that aims to develop his or her personality, talents, and mental and physical abilities to the fullest extent, no matter how wealthy the child’s parents are.
Education should foster respect for a child’s parents, for the child’s own cultural identity, language and values, as well as for the cultural background and values of others.
Children have the right to an excellent education in any school.
Schools will differ not in the quality of the education they offer, but only in their philosophies of teaching, and what professional specializations they stress.


Adults have the obligation to provide children with information from several different sources.
Children should be protected from materials adults consider harmful.
Children have the right to have reality presented to them in a balanced and accurately representative fashion.


Children have the right NOT to be taught that one group (racial, national, religious, etc.) is superior to another.



Children have a right to a clean environment (water, air, ground, sea).


Governments and countries must decrease national debt which will have to be paid for
by future generations.


Children over 14 have the right to vote on issues that directly affect children, in all local, regional, national and international elections.


Children have the right to be kept alive and in the best health and medical care science can provide, no matter how wealthy their parents are.


Children accused of crimes have at least the same legal rights as adults.
No child shall be institutionalized against her or his will without due process rights.



Young people under 21 have the right NOT to go to war.

The Children’s Bill of Rights may be freely reproduced and distributed provided it is done so in its entirety and unaltered, and with this paragraph attached.
As of April 20, 1996, children from 7 countries and 3 continents had ratified The Children’s Bill of Rights.