Deciding to Stay Together or Divorce: Effects on Kids

We talk about the mechanics and strategies of divorce a lot in our blog, as you would expect.  But, it’s important to also take a wider look at the effects on kids that your divorce – or decision not to divorce- may have.


Staying Together may have negative effects on kids

You may have been thinking about divorce but feel like you have to stay together for the kids.  Perhaps you think that it is just better or easier to stay together in an unhappy, unhealthy marriage, pretending to love each other to limit the negative effects on kids.  Not necessarily so.  Children are in tune with their home environments and the negative effects on kids may surprise you.  Kids can sense a loveless relationship and know when their own parents are behaving differently than those of their friends.  Staying together may unintentionally have the negative effects on kids that it is ‘normal’ to stay in an unhealthy, unloving relationship.  

Think about it.  When you choose to stay together for the kids, are you cold to one another? Stiff and awkward? Choosing to find ways to spend time with the kids without your spouse?

There doesn’t have to be outright abuse in your home to make it a cold, uninviting and unfriendly place for your child.  And, if you are arguing or otherwise expressing anger or frustration towards one another, clearly your child will be in the midst of that conflict – even if it has nothing to do with them.  Staying together in an unhealthy marriage will often have negative effects on kids.

Divorce may also have negative effects on kids

Adults know divorce to be a formal process, with a specific and very final goal in mind – that of terminating a marriage.  To kids – who have little experience coping with major upheaval – it’s a scary word that means nothing other than the end of life as they know it.  And the effects on kids can be terrifying.

Your divorce can be a frightening time in your child’s life.  It means uncertainty and it means life-altering changes.  As hard as it is for you to decide that divorce is right for you and accommodate all the changes that comes with it, it’s even harder for kids who have little, if any, say in how any of it will turn out for them.  The effects on kids may often involves wonder and worrying whether they will have to move, quit their soccer team, change schools, or ever see the family dog again.

Your divorce is likely to have a negative impact on your child to some degree, but knowing what to look for in your child can help you navigate through this together.

Signs of Stress in Children    

How can you know if staying together, your separation or divorce is having a negative effects on kids?  There’s a lot on your plate right now, but be aware.  You know your child and you know when they are no longer behaving the same way.  Some excellent tips about recognizing stress in kids on  This is a partial list of potential signs to help you know that your child may be feeling unusual amounts of stress:

  •         Mood swings
  •         Bedwetting
  •         Acting out
  •         Changes in sleep patterns
  •         Headaches or stomachaches
  •         Lying or bullying
  •         Being more – or completely – withdrawn
  •         Having big reactions to minor problems
  •         Nightmares, and having major reactions to them
  •         Changes in grades or school performance

What You Can Do to Lessen the effects on kids

Helping your child understand that he or she is not alone in this is a great place to start, as is maintaining a structured, loving environment.  But, to a child, that can be hard to do when divorce may mean moving to a new home, changing schools, hiring a babysitter, or leaving the only neighborhood you have ever known. Allow your child to express those feelings of sadness and fear – you probably have some, too – but be sure to let them know that they are not in this alone, and that you will be working hard to make sure your family is safe and secure.

When anxieties and behaviors seem to be getting out of hand, like when academics are compromised or you feel like the anxiety is preventing your child from enjoying his or her favorite activities, consider discussing the situation with a professional. This may mean a therapist, social worker, or counsellor. Consult with your pediatrician for advice or a referral to the right person in your area.

We aren’t therapists. But, part of our job here as divorce lawyers at Findling Law is to help you maneuver through the challenges that come with this change in your life. Be as attentive as always when it comes to your children and be willing to calmly listen to their concerns, fears, and requests for help. You’ll get through this. Together.

About Findling Law

I have been exclusively practicing divorce and family law in Michigan since 1997.  Since 1957, the attorneys at Findling Law all share the core value of practicing law to help people navigate change in their lives, without compromising principles.  We specialize in high socio-economic, high-profile and high-conflict cases, while also working with clients of all backgrounds. We recognize that the most important aspect of the practice of law is the application of the law to your specific circumstances. That is why we provide more free information on divorce and family law than any other Michigan law firm.

We want to help you manage your situation. Allow our exceptional legal team to help you navigate the change in your life, without compromising principles.


Local: +1 (248) 399-3300 – toll free:   (877-YOUR FIRM)

After hours emergency?:  +1 (707) 968-7347

Or email me at:

By:  Daniel Findling

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