The Post-Divorce-Parenting Glossary

Divorced-Parenting Term


What is a divorce?

A divorce is the term used to describe a marriage that is legally dissolved by a family court or other applicable body.  Divorce laws vary by country.  Overall, sanctions from a court are necessary for the marriage to be officially terminated.

What are the different types of divorce?

Contested divorce
This is a type of divorce whereby the issues that are facing the couple will be addressed and overseen by a judge. Contested divorce can go to trial if there is no amicable solution.  It is an expensive type of divorce because the affected couple will likely hire lawyers to handle the case, and the case can last for a significant period of time.

Uncontested divorce
Most of the divorces that happen in the U.S. are uncontested divorces.  In an uncontested divorce, the spouses involved are able to agree on most of the key issues. This can be with or without the help of a lawyer or a mediator. They have to agree on issues such as spousal support, child support, child custody, and sharing of property. The parties must show the court that there has been a fair agreement for the divorce to be approved.

No Fault divorce
This is a type of divorce system that does not need any proof from either party.   Application for a no-fault divorce can be made by the two parties jointly or unilaterally by one person.  No fault divorce helps to reduce conflict in a divorce, and it helps make it easier for couples to part ways in unhappy or even abusive relationships.  There are negative consequences, as well.  No-fault divorce has led to the divorce rate approximately doubling in virtually every state, and it reduces the chances of spouses attempting to work out issues.  Because of no-fault divorce, many more children are put through the painful process of seeing their parents divorce, which leads to negative consequences in many of those children.

At Fault divorce
At fault divorce existed during most of the 20th century, but have since been replaced by no-fault divorce laws.  At fault divorce require maritial misconduct to be proven in order for the divorce to be granted by a family court.  Maritial misconduct included issues like desertion, adultery, abuse, or cruelty.

At this time, every state and jurisdiction in the United States has done away with at-fault divorce.  New York was the last state to transition to no-fault divorce laws in 2010.  Most other countries also now have no-fault divorce laws.  Even though fault may not have to be proven in order to divorce, many states require a legal separation or separation agreement before the divorce can commence.
Summary divorce
This type of divorce is not available in all jurisdictions in the U.S., although it is the simplest type of divorce.  A summary divorce can only be granted if the spouses involved are able to reach an agreement on the key issues that are causing the divorce.

What happens when a couple divorces and they have children together?

There are many issues involved where the family court has to make a divorce ruling. These issues include child custody, alimony and the distribution of assets.  After a divorce, each of the partners involved is free to remarry.  Parents who go through divorce are faced with one the most difficult challenges in life, which is how to still parent their children together after divorce.  In that sense, the marriage doesn't end the relationship – it merely changes it.
According to the United States Census, the divorce rate is currently more than 50% of the marriage rate.1   Apart from bringing changes to living arrangements, divorce can also affect their finances and each person's ability to parent their children effectively.  It is the duty of the judge to certify the divorce and give the terms of the divorce.

Helping children cope with the divorce
Parents who divorce will need to help children cope with changes ahead.  It is said that a divorce is likely more devastating to a child than the death of a parent.  It may seem paradoxical, but children of low-conflict divorced families tend to experience more negative effects immediately after the divorce when compared to parents with a history of high conflict.  The reason is likely because in the amicable, low-conflict divorce, the children never saw it coming.  In a high-conflict relationship, the children likely want the fighting to stop, and the divorce is a means to that end.  But the low-conflict divorced parents will still be better off in the long run, if they can remain amicable.  Once the shock of the divorce wears off, the low-conflict parents will be much more able to communicate and co-parent throughout their child's life.

Talking to children about the divorce to come
One of the best written guides to help parents talk to their children about divorce, was created by  In that guide, they explain much about how to think through the overwhelming aspects of explaining to the children about the divorce.

Keep in mind what is important to children.  They not only have a family about to break apart, but they are wondering about their friends, their school, their extracurricular activities, and much more.  The way parents tell their children about the divorce will likely be the most important discussion they will ever have with their children, and their children will remember that moment for the rest of their lives.  It is not something to be taken lightly or skimped on.  If it isn't a painful, difficult, and emotionally challenging experience for the parents, it was probably not handled properly for the children.

Post-divorce parenting life
How children adjust to divorce depends largely on how parents approach the divorce and the post divorce parenting life for the duration of their children's childhoods.  Parents who co-parent, who openly communicate, and who engage in high-quality parenting are far more likely to raise well-adjusted children compared to parents who raise children in a high-conflict parenting environment.

If parents are in high-conflict, parallel parenting may help lower conflict and allow children to grow up without being subjected to the constant fighting and stress that many divorced parents put their children through.

Also, parents should review the Divorce Children's Bill of Rights from time-to-time so they can remind themselves of how important it is to commit to doing what is important for their children's benefit.

Will divorce negatively affect my children?

There are many negative effects on children that have been correlated with divorce, including:


  • Children of divorce will be more likely to get divorced themselves.
  • Children of divorce will be more at risk for depression.
  • Children of divorce will have an increased chance of experiencing chemical dependency.
  • Children of divorce are more likely to commit a crime.
  • Children of divorce are more likely to skip more classes in school.
  • Children of divorce can expect lower grades.

As stated by Judith Wallerstein in her book, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study, "The child who grows up in a post divorce family often experiences not one loss -- that of the intact family -- but a series of losses as people come and go."2

Parents need to seriously take into consideration the extremely significant impact that a divorce has on children.  Many parents have taken the assumption that if they are happy, their children will likewise be happier, too.  Sadly, this is a myth that has been studied and shown to be untrue.  Yet people still rationalize that their happiness will spread to their children.  Part of the reason this may be untrue is because their are two parents, even after they separate.  If one parent is happy at the expense of the other, the child experience the sadness of the defeated parent more than the happiness of the parent who has found joy after the divorce.  One only has to look at children who have been adopted to understand how strong the desire is to know about their natural parents.  A divorced parent may want to move on from their ex, but their children want and need to salvage as much normalcy as they can from both parents.

This is not to say that parents in unhappy marriages should remain married for the sake of their children.  But it does speak to the importance of how to handle post divorce parenting.  Furthermore, it shows that high-conflict parenting is perhaps the most likely cause of negative psychological consequences that children of divorce might face.

What factors determine who gets child custody in divorce?

When parents divorce, child custody is one of the primary sources of conflict and stress between them.  It is also the most expensive and important component of the divorce.  When people without children divorce, they likely never have to talk to each other again shortly after the divorce decree is signed; however, when parents divorce, they remain in contact because of the children for the duration of each child's childhood.

Understanding who gets custody of the child after a divorce is a complex matter, but to provide a simple answer, it essentially depends on three things:


  1. What the parents wish to attempt to get
  2. What the parents mediate
  3. What a court determines is in the best interests of the children

What the parents wish to attempt to get
Parents may intuitively know and agree about the best custody situation after a divorce.  If this is the case, then the parties may be able to reach a simple agreement via an uncontested divorce.

What the parents mediate
If parents mediate in an uncontested divorce, they may work out differences and compromise on child custody decisions that they disagreed on prior to mediation.  According to, when parents mediate, a father will only get sole custody 6% of the time, while mothers will get sole custody 63% of the time.  Joint custody and other custody options account for the other 31%.

What a court determines is in the best interests of the children
If parents are unable to resolve their conflict via mediation, the divorce can transition from and uncontested divorce to a contested divorce.  This means that a family court will be asked to resolve the disagreement.  If this happens, the father is more likely to get custody than if they mediate; however, he is still 4 times less likely to get custody than the mother is, according to DivorcePeers.  The court will use the best interest standard as a framework for determining what type of custody arrangement is best for the children?


Can parents negotiate child support payments during a divorce?

Generally, state laws will control how much child support is required to be paid; however it is possible and beneficial for parents to work out negotiated child support payments.  Compared to court-ordered child support, negotiated child support has the benefit of having both parents coming to a mutual agreement on the child support amount, which leads to less conflict and a lower rate of unpaid child support instances.  Even if divorcing parents are in agreement about the amount of child support that will be paid, a court will still need to approve the agreement.  If it deviates too much from state child support guidelines, the court may order a different child support amount.

Different states have different child support guidelines (or models).  Some take into account the income of both the custodial parent and the noncustodial parent.  Others may only take into account the noncustodial parent's income.  There are essentially three models of child support that a jurisdiction may use as the basis for a child support calculation.  It is important to check with your state to determine how they choose the child support method they use.

How can people make divorce more affordable?

The single most expensive factor in any divorce is "conflict".  The higher the conflict, the more expensive the divorce.  If children are involved, conflict can transition a child custody case into a child custody battle, requiring expensive litigation.  Thus, if anybody going through a divorce truly wishes to reduce the financial impact of the divorce, they should begin by finding ways to lower conflict.

Mediation can help divorcing people resolve conflict in a confidential, non-binding manner.  If each person can commit to listening to and acting in accordance with a mediator, divorcing couples may avoid much of the conflict that can trigger expensive court litigation.

Be Collaborative
A collaborative divorce is a divorce where the parties seek to avoid litigation.  A written contract between the parties is used to bid the parties on a path toward a divorce settlement without court intervention.  In a collaborative divorce, each party has an attorney; however, the attorneys are collaborative attorneys who specialize in helping each person solve problems, negotiate, and compromise in order to achieve an acceptable settlement agreement.

Go through a parenting plan
For divorcing parents, working on a parenting plan together can help discover and think through potential divorced parenting issues, before they become problematic.  A parenting plan can help divorcing parents save money on the initial cost of a divorce and also reduce the likelihood of returning to court later.

How long does it take for a divorce to be final?

All states in the United States now have no-fault divorce laws, so marital misconduct does not have to be proven for the couple to divorce as it did when at-fault divorce laws existed.  Still, different states have different laws that affect the time it takes to get divorced.  Many states require a legal separation before the divorce can be allowed.  

The amount of time is takes to complete the divorce process varies; however, the average time to complete a divorce is up to six months, which allows for the divorce waiting period to pass before the divorce becomes finalized.  While a judgement by the family court may occur prior to the end of the waiting period, the parties are still not officially divorced until the end of the waiting period.  This means the stipulations in the judgement are immediately binding as soon as the judgement is ordered, but the parties are still legally married.  They will not be able to re-marry until they pass the waiting period.

Can people get divorced without going to court?

It is possible to avoid going to court during a divorce.  For that to occur, the divorce must be an uncontested divorce; however, uncontested divorces still may require the patties having to go to court.

Typically, the more complicated the divorce, the greater the chance of going to court; however, disagreements on issues like child custody or child support do not automatically mean a dispute must go to court.  Other means of resolving the disagreements can be used, including mediation, collaborative divorce professionals, or arbitration.



1.  "Marriage and Divorce." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 Apr. 2013. Web. 12 Nov. 2013.

2.  Wallerstein, Judith, and Sandra Blakeslee. The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study. N.p.: Hyperion E-, 2010. Print.


Divorce Statistics
DivorcePeers created this useful divorce statistics page to show several facts about how divorce and child custody relate to each other.

divorce, children, court, child, support, custody, conflict, fault

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