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Custody battles can turn couples in to 'helicopter' parents

When divorcing spouses can't reach an agreement on their own regarding how child custody will be divided, a judge has to make that decision. That often results in parents trying to prove their level of involvement in their children's lives by going to extremes that aren't in their children's best interests.

"Intensive" or "helicopter" parenting is generally agreed to be an unhealthy type of parenting that can prevent children from developing the coping skills they'll need throughout their lives. It can also leave them feeling anxious, entitled and less than confident about their own decision-making ability.

Family court judges are typically more aware these days that "good" parenting, particularly during a divorce, doesn't necessarily mean micromanaging children's lives. They look at whether both parents are meeting their kids' needs, making the most of the time they have with them and co-parenting amicably and in accordance with the agreement in place.

Nonetheless, divorce (with or without a custody battle) can bring out the worst in parents. If someone already had a tendency toward helicopter parenting, this tendency may be exacerbated by the fact that they're now caring for their children on their own during the time they have them.

One divorce attorney says that while mothers typically have these tendencies more than fathers, he sees divorcing dads whom he believes are "vicariously trying to control their ex-spouse" by suddenly getting involved in their children's doctors' appointments, parent-teacher conferences and extracurricular activities.

When parents divorce, both generally take on new parenting responsibilities as they each find themselves single parents for part of the week. Coupled with the fact that they're seeing just how different their parenting style is from that of their co-parent, this can lead to behaviors that are seen as controlling by both their children and their ex. In more troubling scenarios, parents can try to manipulate their kids to see them as their "favorite" parent or even to see their other parent in a negative light.

As the attorney notes, it's wise to remember that you'll be parents (and co-parents) long after the divorce and after your kids are grown and on their own. How you and your co-parent behave during your divorce can impact your relationships with each other and with your kids for years to come.

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