Nearly everyone enters their marriage starry-eyed and full of the hope of living happily ever after with a one true love.
In reality, nearly 50 percent of first-time marriages end in divorce, and the rate is even higher for subsequent marriages.
While telling adult family members, friends and business colleagues about an impending divorce can be hard to do, there is something that can be even harder: telling the children.
Keith Higgins, a Brunswick lawyer, says parents' foremost obligation is making sure that children know they haven't done anything to cause the divorce.
"(Let them know) it's not due to anything the child has done or hasn't done," Higgins said.
Reassuring children that both parents will continue to love them and be involved with their lives is also extremely important, he said.
Judy Rath, a licensed professional counselor with Family Matters Counseling on St. Simons Island, says that parents should speak openly to their children. Not doing so could cause problems in the future.
Rath says that children want the "honest truth," but parents should take the age of the children and their degree of development into consideration when having this particular talk.
"They do not need to hear all the gory details, but if they are told nothing, they may become unnecessarily frustrated and have more difficulty working through things," she said.
Generally, she explained, children who are not given adequate warning and explanations see themselves as having been left out.
Children, she said, also may "know" more than parents think they do about the problems that have led to the divorce. "Openly sharing what may have already been suspected may be very sad, but may also bring a sense of relief," she said.
Unless it is impossible, talking about divorce should be done in the context of a family meeting, with both parents present.
Breaking the news in this way is reassuring to children, she said, and parents need to be willing to create an atmosphere in which feelings can be expressed openly. "This invites the children to also be open and honest about the divorce and all other areas of their lives which may be changed," Rath said.
Parents should not overwhelm their children with too much information at once, and allow the children to ask questions. "Answer honestly," she said, "(and take care) not to judge or condemn your spouse."
Parents should expect questions from their children that will change as the children get older, Rath said.
"It takes time for a child to digest the information you provide as they continue to accept the reality of the situation," she said. "Be patient. Keep answers short and to the point."
Concrete information -- about where the parents will live, the visitation schedule and communication between the parents and children -- should all be covered.
And during the family meeting, parents should take turns sharing the information.
Most of all, parents should set aside their anger and not "bad mouth" one another for the sake of the children.
"Because your children are emotionally attached to the other parent, they will feel conflicting loyalty," Rath said. "Not only will your child feel torn ... but also, eventually, he reacts against you to defend his relationship with the other parent."
And be prepared for what lies ahead.
Rath says that as time goes on, additional concerns and adjustments will arise, but by having established the basis for open and ongoing communication, honesty and understanding, children will be better equipped to cope with changes in the family system.
"You must rise to the occasion," she said.