Consistency is the key to good parenting whether you are in an intact family or divorcing.

“In our experience, the most important factor in helping children weather a divorce is keeping changes in their lives to a minimum,” says Marie Briner, a partner in the Dallas family law firm of Atkins O’Toole & Briner. “When we talk about the best interest of the children, that best interest is having adequate resources to live the life they had before the divorce.”

Most studies show that the greatest emotional damage occurs in children who are ages three to five. They are old enough to know their lives have changed but not old enough to connect those changes to the lower socio-economic standing that often happens with divorce. Government statistics indicate that the average household loses as much as 30% of income the first year after a divorce.

“As children get older, they become more aware of the size of their house, what games and toys they own and other matters tied to money,” says Marie. “That’s why we work to make sure our clients have the assets needed to maintain the highest possible standards.”

Marie says older children, especially teenagers, notice what they don’t have after a divorce. They may not be able to attend the same school, which might be private and require tuition. They may not have their own car and may have to forego expensive sports camps or summer travel. To high school-age kids in competitive environments, these are drastic life changes.

“Our job is to reduce the immediate impact of the divorce,” she says. “The initial effect can be difficult. But over time, people adjust to their new lives. We realize that can be tough on the kids at first and addressing it in a divorce settlement becomes one of our top priorities.”