Sometimes there's physical abuse, drug or alcohol abuse, maybe even sexual abuse.
There might be gambling debts, or fears about losing the family home.
Sometimes a new boyfriend or girlfriend complicates the picture.
Many trained professionals-teachers, counselors, psychologists, and clergy-have spent a lot of time and training so they can help children cope with the changes divorce brings to their lives.
This is what I've learned from my practice from some of these specialists.
A child has different emotional needs than adults, and his or her emotional reaction to divorce differs depending on age.
A preschool child might miss his dad a lot if he lives with mom, but if his life is stable and safe, that will help a lot.
A fourteen-year-old boy, however, has lots of questions and worries.
He may think he did something wrong and that's why his mom left.
Or he may blame his dad for driving his mother away.
Young adults, who may be in close relationships themselves, have an entirely different set of questions, like whether marriage is even a good idea.
After all, their own parents couldn't make marriage work, right? Here are some other things parents should watch out for: children may feel very frightened after their parents split up, especially younger children.
Many of them can't understand how dad stopped loving mom; could he stop loving the child too? Younger children may not want to be separated from their parent, so going to school and daycare can be hard for both parents and children.
There may be less money-sometimes a lot less-for things like school clothes, movies, and activities that children want to do with their friends.
The children in a divorce may have to be alone more often, especially if their parent is working longer hours.
Sometimes boys who live without much contact with their fathers have more discipline problems.
Older children, teenagers especially, are vulnerable to, and often have trouble with, depression, which must be recognized by parents and treated by a medical professional.
It's important in divorce or child custody cases for both parents to be sensitive to these issues.
Some states even require parents to take a class about the effect of divorce on children as part of the divorce process.
Most cities and many counties have parenting classes available.
Some courts hold classes that all divorcing parents must attend.
Other classes are through local community colleges.
A parenting class for divorcing couples can accomplish several important goals: parents can meet other people dealing with the same stresses they are experiencing, parents can learn about their children's age and developmental responses to divorce; and parents can learn ways to help their children cope so behavior doesn't make life harder for everyone both during the divorce and later as the children grow up.
Finally, if you take care of your children first in your divorce, treat them with utmost kindness and compassion, and put their needs before yours and your ex-spouse's needs, you will prove to everyone your ability as a parent and your children will be much healthier in the long run.
It's well worth the extra effort to tackle the divorce process with this goal because everybody wins.
You can discover more about child custody issues by reading one of the many articles available on Amanda's website.