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Messy Divorces: How Custody Battles Affect Your Kids

When you’re going through a divorce, life gets complicated. You and your ex once swore to love each other forever, but you don’t anymore. Those feelings have changed. In most cases, those feelings have changed a lot and there may be quite a bit of resentment between the two of you.

In a best-case scenario, you and your ex still respect one another and are committed to co-parenting. Though you won’t be a couple anymore, you still want to work together to make the best life possible for your kids. If that’s the case, hopefully, you won’t need a custody battle.

However, life doesn’t always work that way. You and your ex might not trust each other at all anymore. You might end up in a custody battle over your kids, and that gets messy. Your kids will be affected by the divorce either way, but even more so if they get dragged into the middle of a custody battle even if it is in their best interest. If you’re going through a messy divorce, you need to understand how custody battles can affect your kids.

If you are in the middle of a custody battle and you’re worried that your son is taking it hard, he might benefit from a change in scenery. Many teens benefit from attending a therapeutic boarding school while their parents sort through the divorce details. Contact us for more information about our opportunities for troubled teen boys.

How a custody battle affects your teen

Custody battles can affect kids in a few different ways. While you’re going through a divorce, check in with your kids regularly to see how they’re doing. They might be willing to open up to you about their feelings, or they might not. It’s still important for them to know that you care about them.


Even if you didn’t have the best marriage, your kid likely counted on your marriage for a certain level of stability. They knew that you were both there and were always going to be their parents. Divorce erodes some of that stability. Some of the things they used to count on as “certain” move to the realm of “uncertain.”

Your kids won’t initially know what’s going on or what it all means. They won’t know what life will be like if you’re not together anymore. As uncertainty creeps in, it can start to affect the way they view life. They might begin to feel more anxious since they don’t know what they can count on anymore.


As the divorce proceeds, your kids might get angry at times. They might not understand why you’re getting divorced or why you can’t just fix the marriage. They could also feel left out or feel like you don’t care about them. Their life is changing, and there’s nothing they can do about it. These feelings can be extremely upsetting! Don’t be too surprised if your kids get angry about the divorce, but still hold them accountable for their actions.

Teenagers express their anger in a lot of different ways. Some vent their frustration outwardly by yelling or breaking things. Others keep their anger bottled up and look for ways to vent it. They might start drinking or doing drugs to feel a little better. If your teen is expressing their anger in unhealthy or dangerous ways, step in to address their behavior immediately.


Your kids might be sad about the divorce. As the custody battle proceeds, keep an eye out for symptoms of depression.

Some symptoms of depression include:

  1. Not doing things that they used to enjoy

  2. Not hanging out with people they like

  3. Change in eating habits

  4. Change in sleeping habits

  5. Spending lots of time alone when they used to be social

  6. Substance abuse

If you are worried that your son might be depressed, get outside help. The divorce is bound to affect him, and a therapist can help him address his feelings. Learning to cope with negative emotions in healthy ways is extremely important for kids when their parents go through a messy divorce.

At Sundance Canyon Academy, we work with countless teens dealing with the effects of a messy divorce as they deal with depression, anger, or uncertainty. By working one-on-one with trained therapists, teens can learn to overcome the negative emotions common in a messy divorce. Contact us at 866-639-2856 for more information.

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