Most couples divorce somewhat agreeably and go on to be responsible and secure parents. However, many relationships involve drugs, alcohol or domestic violence. Problems with violence and addiction affect both the divorce and parenting after the divorce. In addition to problems caused by drugs, alcohol, or domestic violence, children are hurt by parents that alienate their children from their other parent. Parental alienation can mean stopping a child visiting their other parent or badmouthing them to your child. If this is an issue you are having after a divorce, get help immediately.
Substance abuse might have been a factor in your divorce. Addiction strains marriages and co-parenting relationships. The abuse of alcohol, prescription medications or illegal drugs affects both the addict and their family and loved ones. From a child’s perspective, even a small amount of alcohol or other substances is enough to change a familiar parent into a strange adult that behaves spontaneously and unpredictably. If your family has become used to living with substance abuse, it can be hard to draw the line between mild to moderate use and addiction. It’s always a red flag if agreements aren’t being kept or if the rest of the family has to be cautious of the intoxicated parent.
If you can, discuss substance abuse with your partner while you’re still together. When the reason for divorcing is addiction that is negatively impacting the family, you should think about how you can provide your child a stable and secure environment after the divorce. Remember to get help as soon as possible.
When a marriage ends, there is often a history of emotional, physical, financial or sexual violence. A history of abuse impacts the divorce and affects the dynamics of a co-parenting relationship. Children may have been victim to abuse or witnessed domestic violence. If your child has been mistreated, make sure they get professional help.
Divorce can place individuals at a higher risk of becoming violent. Leaving an abusive relationship places the battered partner at a higher risk of abuse. Abuse doesn’t always end when the relationship is over, and the abusive partner might use violence to prevent you from leaving. Sometimes, partners that weren’t previously abusive become violent in a divorce. Violence and intimidation are threatening. You shouldn’t have to feel afraid for your safety or wellbeing during your marriage, while you are divorcing, or after the divorce. You don’t need to accept violence or abuse and you should get help as soon as violence occurs. Help is available for both the victim and the abusive partner.
If violence has been a part of the relationship before the divorce, make an exit plan for both your children and for yourself. Your children’s plan should take into account the situations that your child feels are threatening or dangerous. A professional can help you with planning your exit. When you have an exit plan ready in advance, it’s easier to act quickly in a crisis. Your exit plan can include names, phone numbers and addresses that offer help to victims of domestic violence or those at risk.
After the divorce, you should ensure that your child doesn’t have to be afraid of physical abuse, emotional abuse, or neglect at either parent’s house. A safe parent is warm, accepting, and encouraging, takes care of your child in an age-appropriate way and cares for your child’s needs. A safe parent is emotionally available to your child and reacts positively when your child reaches out. If you’re concerned about safety at your child’s other parent’s house, discuss the situation with your child. You can ask your child questions such as what makes them feel afraid or safe when staying with their other parent. If something is making your child feel afraid, find out what and take appropriate measures to solve the issue.
Children are entitled to maintain and build a relationship with the parent that doesn’t have primary custody. Visitation rights mean that your child is allowed to regularly visit and spend time with their other parent. Sometimes, a parent might have personal problems or there might be conflicts between parents that require visits to be supervised or mediated.
Supervised or supported visitation requires a legal contract, and you must provide a justifiable reason for supervision. A child welfare supervisor can help you come to an agreement or a decision can be made by a judge at the district court. These contracts are usually temporary. If supervised drop-offs or having a reliable adult or social worker on call nearby during the visit are inadequate, visits can be completely supervised. A contract always includes the following information: a description of the supervision or support needed, duration and regularity of visits, how long the contract is valid for, and who will act as supervisor (the other parent or a social worker).
If your visitation is being supported or supervised, a trusted adult or social worker that your child is familiar with will accompany your child on visits. Their job is to make sure that the visit is safe and secure for your child. Visits can take place at your child’s home or grandparents’ or relatives’ houses. Visits can also be organized at designated locations provided by various organizations, associations or your municipality. In this case, the visit is supervised by either staff or an official. Official visitation services are also used when the district court requires further information on the content of visits.
A supervised drop-off is a term used to describe visits that are supervised at the beginning and end of the visit, meaning parents don’t come into contact with each other. This is a good option when parents are unable to reconcile and any contact leads to arguments. In this scenario, a social worker will escort your child from one parent to the other.
A supported visit is necessary if you struggle looking after your child without support or you suffer from a condition that means you need outside assistance providing a safe and secure environment for your child. A social worker is on call to assist you for the duration of your supported visit.
A supervised visit means 1-2 social workers will be present for the duration of your child’s visit. A judge can rule that visits must be supervised when supervision is necessary to ensure your child is safe on their visit.
A custody dispute refers to disagreements parents have over children’s matters after a divorce. You might be arguing about matters such as your child’s official address and custody arrangement, scheduling visits, and who is going to make the important decisions regarding your child. You might also be arguing about child maintenance support and how to divide your child’s expenses.
It’s important that your child has someone to talk to about the divorce and custody dispute. This might be you, another close adult, a friend, or a professional. The Apua Eroon chat is available to both parents and children if you need to talk with a professional in confidentiality. You can use the chat to ask for advice or talk about any issues you might be having with the divorce, such as arguing, difficulties co-parenting, or domestic violence.
Information in english: Matters concerning child custody and right of access.
If substance abuse is affecting your ability to be a responsible parent, start by getting in touch with the chat services. Alternatively, schedule an appointment at your local child or family health clinic. You can find more information on substance abuse and rehabilitation at Päihdelinkki.fi and A-klinikka.fi.
If you are experiencing domestic violence or intimidation, you can find more information at Nettiturvakoti. Nettiturvakoti also offers a chat service specialized in helping victims of domestic violence.
Nollalinja is a free-of-charge helpline for victims of domestic violence and their loved ones.
Tukikeskus Varjo offers information and support to victims of stalking and stalkers as well as youth. Online harassment and stalking can be hard to recognize. Cyberstalking refers to following and monitoring behaviour, making unwanted contact online and misusing information on mobile devices or social media. Technology has made surveillance and intimidation easier and following an ex-partner’s movements via shared location details included in social media posts is a common stalking behaviour after a divorce. You can also use Naistenlinja for advice on what to do if you think your ex-partner is cyberstalking you or accessing your devices.
Miessakit ry offers aid to men who are victims of domestic violence.
Shelters provide protection for victims of domestic violence. You can search for your local shelters here.
Domestic violence services are provided by ETKL at service points nationwide. These services provide help and counselling for victims of domestic violence and children as well as the abusive partner. You can also get counselling to help you process past domestic violence and guidance in being a stable parent to your child. Read more about our domestic violence services here.
Visitation services are official services that give your child the opportunity to spend time with the parent they don’t live with in a safe and secure environment under supervision. Visitation services are aimed at maintaining a close parent-child relationship. Visits are organized in close co-operation with your child, the family, and social workers. ETKL’s 15 member associations provide visitation services nationwide. You can find out more information on your local visitation services from your city’s child welfare supervisor.
Has your child been kidnapped? Are you afraid your child is at risk of being kidnapped? Have you brought your child to Finland without consent from your child’s other parent? Your municipality’s social workers, the Finnish police and Kaapatut lapset ry can provide information and assistance in matters related to kidnapping and instructions on what to do if a child is at risk of being kidnapped.