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  • Writer's pictureAshley B. Sexton

ACEs and Divorce & Custody Disputes

The day I learned about ACEs was the day my perspective on my role as a family law attorney changed. If you are like I was, you have never heard of ACEs, other than being a hardware store. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are "potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood such as experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect; witnessing violence in the home; and having a family member attempt or die by suicide." These are extreme examples, however, other aspects of the child's environment can also undermine his/her sense of safety, stability, and bonding such as: growing up in a household with substance abuse, mental health issues, or instability due to being separated from a parent or other member of the household. Undoubtedly, the constant conflict and stress the family and child goes through in a divorce and custody disputes are one of the leading causes of trauma in young children and very significant ACEs.

ACEs have a direct correlation with risky health behaviors, chronic health conditions, and even premature death. The more ACEs a child has experienced , the higher the child is at risk for these outcomes. Just because a child has ACEs does not mean they are automatically destined for these poor outcomes. Positive experiences and factors in a child's life can protect a child from many of the negative health and life outcomes even after adversity has occurred.

The CDC believes it is important to address the conditions that put children at risk of ACEs so that we can prevent ACEs before they happen. As divorce and custody disputes are undoubtedly ACEs, I see my role as a family law attorney to minimize the impact it has on the child or children. You don’t have to put your own interests last in order to put your children’s interests first. There are different ways to get a divorce or custody arrangement, not only by scorched-earth litigation tactics. I encourage parents to choose a non-adversarial forms of dispute resolution, if possible, to minimize the impact on the children. Typically we will attempt to mediate the issues between the parties, rather than have a war in litigation. Another option is to divorce or reach a custody agreement through the collaborative process, wherein the parties agree to not litigate with their current team of attorneys. The collaborative process is often much less expensive and typically much less traumatic for everyone involved, compared to conventional litigation.

Please watch the following for more information on ACEs:

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