a father with his daughter, family law attorneyStability is an important factor in parental allocation cases.The Institute for Family Studies finds that instability has numerous negative effects on children. Repeated transitions cause feelings of stress that lead to developmental problems, academic struggles, and interpersonal difficulties. While most households experience transitions that may cause short-term stress on children while they adapt, chronic instability can cause toxic stress in children and put them at risk for all kinds of mental, physical, and social problems.

Defining unhealthy instability

Unhealthy instability for children is defined as any involuntary, abrupt, and/ or negative changes to the household’s circumstances. Children experience many changes as they mature and some household changes can be for the better. Parents may get higher-paying jobs and move the family to safer neighborhoods and better schools. In the short-term, children will feel more stress, but it will improve their feelings of security and positive self-image over time. Negative instability typically involves feelings of vulnerability in five key areas; finances, family structure, housing, employment, and out-of-home areas like school and child care.

Effects of instability on children

The Institute for Family Studies reports that the harm being done to children by an unstable household is not always obvious. Stress shapes the sense of security children feel and adversely affects efficacy and areas of executive functioning. They may have difficulty setting and obtaining goals. Chronic instability creates learned helplessness that can endure throughout a child’s life. Constant stress can interfere with immune system function and make children more susceptible to minor and more serious physical ailments. When parents feel vulnerable or unsure about their future, the stress is often passed on to children in the household.

Allocation of parental responsibilities

The court’s legal process of assigning child custody, visitation rights, and decision making authority is known as the allocation of parental responsibilities. The court’s primary consideration is always what it deems to be in the best interest of the children. Other considerations include the mental and physical health of parents, however, a disability alone cannot be used to deny or restrict a parent’s rights. Courts will also consider the ability of each parent to place the needs of the children above their own and their ability to maintain a stable, loving, and respectful home for the children. A family law attorney can advise parents of their rights and best legal options during a divorce.