Frequently Asked Questions
For your convenience, we’ve posted here some of the most common questions we get about NFRC, our programs and services, and a variety of divorce-related topics. To view questions and answers regarding a specific subject area, simply click on one of the section listings shown below:
If you have a question for us that isn’t answered here, please click here to send us your question via email. We’ll respond, and with your permission consider adding a version of your question and our answer to this section of our web site (without your contact information or any other personally identifying information of course).
History and Organization of NFRC
What is NFRC?
The National Family Resiliency Center, Inc. (formerly Children of Separation and Divorce Center) (NFRC) is a nonprofit organization, with headquarters in Columbia, Maryland, that guides and supports children during family transitions so that they emerge healthy and hopeful for the future. Since our founding in 1983, we have done this by helping more than 28,000 individuals and families resolve conflict, co-parent, and make child-focused decisions before, during, and after the dissolution of their marriage.
What are NFRC’s mission and strategies?
Our mission is to ensure that all family-related decisions, whether involving a separation, divorce, or remarriage, and actions of parents, family members, and professionals are made in the best interests of children.
To accomplish this, NFRC’s professional staff has developed a multidisciplinary offering of programs and resources for families and professionals, including:
- Individual, family, multiple family and group clinical programs
- Co-Parent Consultation services
- Collaborative divorce coach services
- Collaborative child specialist services
- FamilyConnex on line program
- Community outreach, preventive and educational programs
- Volunteer peer counseling programs
- Research and advocacy programs
- Professional development and training programs
- An expansive library of NFRC-authored books and training manuals
NFRC Programs and Services
Does NFRC only offer services for married couples who are separating or divorcing?
NFRC offers pre-marital, marital and blended family counseling, reunification services, co-parent consultation in addition to services for separated and divorced individuals and families.
For Parents, NFRC offers programs and services for all parents who are truly committed to putting their children first. Those parents who seek strong and loving parent-child relationships will receive unprecedented support and guidance from NFRC in order to make child-focused decisions at any stage of their relationship—whether they:
- Have made the decision to separate or divorce
- Are considering separation or divorce, but have not yet decided what to do
- Want to explore pathways toward reconciliation, or
- Face divorce-related issues such as dating and remarriage.
My ex and I couldn’t agree on anything while we were married—how are we ever going to co-parent now that we’re not even in the same household and hardly speak as it is.
This is the most common issue we hear from parents, because while divorce does solve the parents’ problem by helping them get away from the unhealthy relationship they faced during their marriage, the truth of the matter is, you will always be parents to your children. And that means you can’t walk away and never speak to one another again. In fact, you might find yourself in more circumstances where you have to communicate than you ever did before. Yet, as divorced parents, the motivation or desire to cooperate or compromise almost seems to vanish.
If you’re like most parents, you do want to do what’s right for your children. So here is some advice:
- Look to your new relationship as divorced parents as a business relationship, one where emotion does not apply.
- Accept the fact that immediately after your divorce you are probably not going to have a peaceful, cooperative relationship. The emotions are still raw, and the wounds have not all healed. Instead, look to the long-term, and do whatever you can to heal so you can move past the pain of divorce and instead focus your energy and your emotion on your children.
- Be flexible. Pick your battles. Compromise where you might not have done so before.
- Respect your children’s relationship with their other parent, but let the other parent be responsible for building that relationship. Your ex may not be the type of parent you want him or her to be, but this is not something you can or should try to control anymore. Don’t get in the middle, unless you are concerned that harm could come to your children.
- Compartmentalize your feelings about your ex and the divorce from your co-parenting relationship. And try not to fight—but if you do, make sure it’s out of sight and sound of your children.
- Constantly ask yourself whenever you have to make a decision about your child, “What is in his or her best interest?” Answer that first before you consider any other issue.
Does my child really need counseling?
Because children can respond very differently to the effects of separation, divorce, and remarriage, sometimes the question of whether or not to provide counseling to your children can be a difficult one. For most parents, therapy is a “last resort” when a child exhibits behavior that is negative or significantly different or uncharacteristic. Some parents avoid considering therapeutic support for the children, because they fear it labels them as “bad parents” or their child as “abnormal.” Sometimes parents don’t recognize a child’s cry for help.
However, making the decision to seek therapy can help ease you and your child through the painful transition your family is experiencing—even when no outward signs of emotional distress is apparent.
Children need not be having significant problems to benefit from participation in group. It is inevitable that separation and divorce will lead to a series of challenges and hurdles which children are better equipped to meet as a result of the group experience. In addition, knowing that parents are not perfect but are still lovable human beings, being able to articulate feelings, or knowing that "Assertive Annie" is more likely to get what she wants than "Fists Up Freddie", are all as one parent put it, "important lessons for life.
NFRC’s Children’s Programs are beneficial for every child—even those who appear to be handling their feelings of loss in a healthy and healing way. However, counseling is especially important for those children who may not appear to be suffering in any significant way, but whose behavior, attitude or outlook seems to have changed even slightly. The telltale signs are related to:
- Behavioral changes
- Feelings of emptiness, or a lack of support, direction, motivation, or trust in others
- Excessive worry or
- An inability to express feelings in an appropriate way
To help you identify whether or not your child may benefit from counseling, look over the following lists. If you answer affirmatively to any of these questions, you may want to consider some of the counseling for your child.
It is important for your children to seek help if:
Their moods or behaviors change significantly and are exhibiting any of the following:
- They feel sad for long periods of time and nothing seems to help them to feel better.
- They think more about the past than the present.
- They cry over both little and big things and can’t seem to stop.
- They can’t stop thinking about their parents’ divorce.
- They have little or not interest in playing or being with friends.
- They act out in inappropriate ways.
- They cannot concentrate in school.
They exhibit any of the behaviors below that indicate they lack goals or feel like they have no family and friends for support and help:
- They wake up, but don’t want to get up.
- They don’t eat, or they eat a lot when they’re not hungry.
- They don’t laugh, joke, or enjoy anything they are doing.
- They want to stay alone all the time.
They indicate that they feel as though they don’t have family and friends they can trust:
- They believe their parent(s) haven’t been honest with them.
- They don’t think their friends can keep their confidences.
- They don’t want to burden friends by talking about their feelings.
They appear to be “stuck” as indicated by any of the following behaviors or voiced beliefs:
- They believe that they are responsible for the well-being for a parent or younger sibling.
- They feel caught in the middle of their parents’ arguing.
- They have difficulty communicating with a parent.
- They feel responsible for the separation or divorce.
They exhibit any of the signs that indicate that they do not know how to appropriately process or express anger:
- They take out their anger on innocent people.
- They act out with teachers and other people in authority.
- They fight with brothers, sisters, or friends—more than the usual spats associated with sibling rivalry.
They ask questions or make statements that indicate that they worry a lot about:
- Their parents’ physically hurting each other or the children.
- Either or both of their parents’ safety, happiness, or well-being.
- Their parent not being physically with them.
- Their own physical and psychological well-being.
Dating and Re-Marriage
I’ve been divorced for five years now, and I’m planning on marrying a woman I’ve been dating for three years. What’s the best way to tell my children? They like her, but I’m not asking for their permission. This is a decision she and I have made, and we want to share it with them as soon as possible.
You’ve taken the first and most important step—and that is planning your announcement and taking into consideration the best interest of your children.
Now you have to consider the timing, location, and content of the announcement.
First, as far as timing, you have a choice to make. The optimum method is to tell your former spouse first, because all decisions that affect the children should be discussed together before talking to the children. However, if your relationship with your former spouse is not at a point that you can trust that the information you share with him or her will be kept confidential until you’ve had the opportunity to talk to your children, then you will need to tell your children first, rather than your ex, so they hear the message from you. This is critical for the trust you have hopefully been building with your children throughout their lives.
If you take the latter approach, it is important that you then tell your former spouse of your plans to remarry before the children tell the other parent. No matter what your relationship is with your ex, or how long you’ve been divorced, the news of your ex-partner getting remarried is always an emotional and difficult one to hear. If the children are left to tell their other parent the news, the reaction may be negative and not in the best interests of the children.
Second, make sure you choose a time and place that gives you little distraction or disruption, and allows you plenty of time to talk and answer any questions your children have.
Third, you should be alone with your children to give them the news. Regardless of the great relationship they might have with your girlfriend, this news will also be difficult for them to hear as it signals to them that any fantasy (no matter how remote) they had of their parents’ reconciling is over. Often children say that the news of their parent’s remarrying hit them as hard as the news of the separation and divorce. It’s like living through the experience again, and dredges up all the old feelings and memories. Therefore, it’s best to give the children the freedom and safety to respond, react, and share with you any feelings they have without having to worry about the feelings of their future stepparent.
Fourth, carefully plan out and practice the announcement you will make. Be straightforward and as candid as possible about the timing of your plans to remarry. Avoid giving too much detail (let your children guide you in how much information they want initially). Also, avoid being overly enthusiastic about the news, but do exude confidence that this is the right decision for you and your future wife. Acknowledge to your children that this doesn’t replace the relationship they have with their mother; that their “family” with you and their mother is never-ending.
And finally, make sure to ask your children for feedback—and keep the door open for future discussion on the subject. Ask them open-ended questions, rather than questions they can respond to with a yes or a no. Ask them what would make them most comfortable and what is most important for them or for them to know.
Divorce-Related Facts and Figures
What is the divorce rate today?
In the United States, the statistics are pretty clear:
One in every two marriages ends in divorce
- Two-thirds of these families include minor children—as a result, approximately 1 million children each year become “children of divorce.”
- Divorce is the most common problem children face today—it is more prevalent than drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, or the death of a parent.
- Currently approximately 37 percent of all American children live with a divorced parent.
- Before reaching 18, approximately 25 to 35 percent of American children will spend some time in a stepfamily (and two-thirds of these children will have step- or half-siblings).
Is it true the divorce rate has increased significantly?
While the statistics may be startling, the fact is that there is a myth that the divorce rate is rising at an alarming rate. In fact, although the divorce rate did increase significantly following World War II, the divorce rate actually leveled off through the 1950s. It rose again in the 1960s up until the late 1980s when it leveled off again.
I read that children of divorce are pretty much doomed to failure and behavioral problems. Is that true?
Unfortunately, most of the research on the impact of divorce that has been done to date reveals a one-sided discouraging view of how children of divorce fare—many citing that children of divorce have higher rates of depression, sexual acting out, substance abuse, conduct disorders, problems with school, and delinquent behavior; and that statistically, they are more likely to marry earlier and divorce than children from intact families.
What most of these studies do not tell you, however, is that most of the children presented in these studies did not receive adequate counseling, if any; and their parents were not educated in child-focused decision-making or utilize child-focused therapeutic and legal support systems.
NFRC’s research and programs have found irrefutable evidence that children of divorce do not have to suffer forever. They will of course be very sad and feel the losses they experience forever. However, the experience can also by a catalyst for important and beneficial emotional growth and maturity. What is, in fact, more important than anything else is the way parents handle themselves, and the basis on which they arrive at decisions before, during, and after divorce. These factors will largely shape their children’s ability to grow up happy, confident and well adjusted. It will also influence their children’s ability to form loving relationships of their own in adulthood.
To achieve this level of understanding and commitment to healthy divorce adjustment, it is critical that parents make a commitment to putting their children first in divorce-related issues, and do whatever they can to achieve what is known as a “healthy divorce.” To make that happen, mental health, education, medical, faith-based, and legal practitioners educate themselves and subsequently guide parents as early as possible in:
- Child development
- The impact of divorce on children
- The non-adversarial choices for separation and divorce
And finally, these same practitioners must commit to working together in a collaborative effort to ensure that the benefits of child-focused decision-making are utilized in every possible case related to separation, divorce, and remarriage.
Helpful Definitions and Legal Terms
From Margaret Richlin, Esquire
Arbitration - a process in which each party's lawyer presents his or her client's position to an arbitrator who makes a decision. Arbitration is not binding in custody cases.
Child Focused - A process by which parents define and address critical aspects of each child's needs and make decisions that are based on meeting those needs in a responsible way.
Defendant - the person who has to answer the papers filed by the Plaintiff. The Defendant is usually the other parent.
Hearing on the merits - the final hearing when the judge decides all the issues involved in the case.
Joint legal custody - an arrangement in which the both parents make child-related decisions.
Joint physical custody - an arrangement in which the children live with each parent a substantial period of time.
Legal Custody - the parent who has legal custody makes the decisions about the child's health, education, religious upbringing, etc.
Pendente Lite Hearing - a hearing that takes place before the final hearing and addresses such issues as temporary custody, temporary child support, and temporary alimony.
Physical Custody - the parent who has physical custody is the parent with whom the child lives most of the time.
Plaintiff -the person who files the first pleading in a case.
Pleadings - the papers filed in court when a case is in litigation.
Pre-Trial Conference - before a trial, the parties' lawyers meet with the judge who tries to help them settle the case without the necessity of a trial.