Divorce is a hard decision for couples to make, even if it’s the right choice for you and your family. If you and your spouse have kids together, this can make the situation even harder. Divorce is never easy on kids, and it can be challenging for parents to know how to tell their kids about divorce. Depending on a child’s age, they may have a hard time processing what divorce is or may think they did something to cause the separation.

Oftentimes, parents have had more time to emotionally prepare for divorce, while for children, it is likely a complete surprise. Your kids will have to deal with a lot of emotions and grief, and they’ll need support and care during this tumultuous time. It’s important to have a plan for telling your children about divorce.

Have the Conversation Sooner Than Later

Once you and your spouse have determined that you’re getting a divorce, you want to break this news to your kids as soon as you can. Children will have to take time to deal with grief, anger, and other intense emotions, regardless of when they are told. The longer you wait to inform your kids, the more the grieving process gets pushed back. Dealing with the issue sooner allows more time to process, talk, and heal.

Kids will also be aware of the shift in a house, even if nothing explicitly changes. This can adversely affect kids if they know something is wrong but they don’t understand what. This can also lead to the belief that something they did caused a divorce.

Tell Your Children Together

If you are planning on filing for a divorce, and your spouse is unaware, you should never tell your children you’re getting divorced before your spouse knows. Both parents should at least be aware that the conversation is happening with kids and be consulted on how the news is told. Otherwise, divorces can get very contentious.

You and your spouse should tell your kids together if you can. This provides more stability for your children and shows that their parents are working together even through a divorce.

Provide Support and a Support System

Ensure that your children know they can talk to you about their feelings and concerns and provide answers and care. A divorce can be alienating for kids, and it’s essential that they feel their parents are still there supporting them.

Creating a support system for your kids is also important. Children can talk with other kids their age going through a divorce or living with divorced parents. This can help provide them with an emotional outlet and show them what the future may look like. An effective support system can also include a social worker, therapist, or other professional. Kids can talk through their emotions and worries with someone trained to help them develop healthy ways to deal with those emotions.

Expect Questions

Your children will likely have a lot of questions when you tell them their parents are getting a divorce. It’s important to answer these as honestly as possible while remaining age-appropriate. Going into the details of your divorce is unnecessary, but you want to be upfront with your kids. You may want to prepare for questions such as:

  • Where will I live?
  • Why are you getting divorced?
  • How much time will I spend with you both?
  • How does this change holidays?
  • Will I still go to the same school?
  • Will you get back together?

Remember that it’s ok if you don’t know the answer to your children’s questions. Be honest about that, and don’t provide certain answers to things you don’t know for sure.

Encourage Normalcy and Give Your Children Space

Divorce is destabilizing for many kids, so it’s important that as much of their life remains normal as possible. It’s important to encourage school routines, having fun with friends, after-school activities and clubs, family events, and other expected day-to-day life schedules.

You also want to give your children time and be patient with them while they deal with the news. Parents may have needed the last few months or years to acclimate to getting a divorce, so don’t expect your children to process the information the same way you did.


Q: Who Gets the Kids in a Divorce in Illinois?

A: Both parents have equal parental rights, and the court will determine, based on the family’s circumstances, how to award legal and physical custody. Legal custody refers to making important decisions about the child’s life, and physical custody refers to where they will live. Custody decisions are based on the interests of the child or children primarily. Joint legal and physical custody is preferable for the Illinois court but not always in the child’s interests.

Q: What Should You Not Tell Kids During Divorce?

A: You never want to tell your kids or imply to them that the divorce was their fault in any way. That can severely emotionally hurt your child. It’s important to assure them that they are not to blame. It’s also important not to lie to your kids about the divorce or your spouse. You want to tell kids age-appropriate truths about the divorce without providing too much detail.

Q: At What Age Can a Child Decide Which Parent To Live With in Illinois?

A: Illinois does not have a set age where the court takes the child’s preferences into account during a child custody case. Generally, the court is more likely to hear the wishes of a child older than 14, depending on their maturity level. Once a child reaches the age of 18, they are able to make legal decisions for themself, and the closer they are to 18, the more likely a judge is to take the child’s preferences into consideration.

Q: Is Illinois a 50-50 State for Child Custody?

A: Illinois is not a 50-50 state, but custody can be assigned in a 50-50 schedule. The court will look at the child’s interests primarily and the family’s specific needs. Then, the court will assign physical and legal custody. Parents may have joint or sole physical and legal custody. Even if parents have joint physical and joint legal custody, the split may not be perfectly equal.

Family Attorney in Metro East, Illinois

If you need experienced legal representation to determine child custody and mediate or litigate a divorce, Stange Law Firm can provide your family with the support you need.