child visitation after divorce

Child Visitation After Divorce: How My Narcissistic Ex Is Using It Against My Children

child visitation after divorce

 

My divorce never hit me. I was contently past all the stages of grief on the day of my divorce. I was free and so eager to start anew. (I even agreed to attempt reconciliation with my ex post-divorce, but that’s a story for another day.)

Some months later, I moved back to the town I had grown up in. My boys, then seven and eight, moved with me. It felt great to be starting fresh and to be surrounded by family and my childhood girlfriends again.

My boys and I did get the I’m-so-sorry-face from everyone we knew. But despite the catastrophe that others saw, I was relieved, happy, and shame-free to be divorced. I could breathe again, and my life was my own again. Or so I thought…

Given my move, I had agreed to my ex-husband, aka WASband, seeing our boys virtually every weekend and agreed that he could have the boys visit him at his home 400 miles away on any given weekend.

Child Visitation After Divorce

My ex abused my trust.

My WASband turned our flexible visitation agreement into a nightmare for my boys. He insisted that every visit be in Los Angeles in his world. I had agreed to this and he had a legal contract to enforce it.

So, our children traveled from San Francisco to Los Angeles and then back again three to four weekends each month during the school year.

He didn’t care that virtually every Friday his children spent four hours or more traveling to him and four hours or more on Sundays traveling back.

He didn’t care if the children were sick.

He didn’t care if they missed the one and only birthday party they got invited to.

He didn’t care if they weren’t making friends at their new school.

He didn’t care if our son cried and cried over not being able to compete in his once-a-year Tae Kwon Do championship.

He didn’t care if their Friday flight was canceled by the airline. He made them take the 6:00 am flight on Saturday morning only to fly back on Sunday.

He didn’t care if the children were exhausted from all the travel.

He didn’t care if they couldn’t join the basketball team because of weekend games.

He just didn’t care. It was a zero-exceptions contract that I had agreed to.

My WASband’s words were, I am NOT willing to spend my custodial time in Northern California. There was intense hatred towards me in that single sentence. Each time I asked for some flexibility for our children, those words were written back to me in bigger, bolder font along with, My position hasn’t changed.

I had made a huge mistake.

I had willingly given a narcissist full discretion to decide where and how he spends time with our children assuming that he would be reasonable when it came to the children.

I don’t know if he saw their tears. I wiped them.

I don’t know if he heard their screams. Some days that’s all I heard.

He denied their pain. I couldn’t.

I don’t know if he realized their isolation. I saw it.

Over and over I begged a father to accommodate his children’s needs. Each time he refused.

There came a time when my children cried, I know the answer is no. The answer is always no. Then came a time when they no longer asked.

My ex now controlled the boys with custody.  

Spending his time with his children in Los Angeles trumped all else. He was blind to their physical health, their social development, and their emotions. He had to have control: It’s okay for [our son] to miss a birthday party in order to spend quality time with his father.

Of course, nothing was preventing this father from accompanying his son to this one and only birthday party that his son had been invited to all year.

And my ex also controlled me with custody.

When I mailed out a birthday card over summer break and asked my WASband to give the card to our son, my ex responded, “You should do that personally, meaning during your own custodial time.”

This was emotional abuse at its worst.

The control and emotional abuse I thought I had escaped resurfaced like a newer, stronger virus. This time, while aimed at me, it was infecting our children. The children weren’t doing well socially or emotionally.  Despite multiple pediatricians’ recommendations for immediate therapy for our children, my ex refused to consent.

Since the divorce and move my older son had begun to break out crying and screaming for no apparent reason. Of course, I knew the reason; he wasn’t coping well with his parent’s separation.

He was eight-years-old at the time and completely non-verbal about our divorce. He didn’t want to talk, or discuss, or listen to anything related to his mom and dad no longer living together.

Over the course of a year and a half, even after two pediatricians independently witnessed my older son have such an emotional meltdown including throwing himself around the room, my WASband maintained that my son didn’t need therapy.

The emotional outbursts became more frequent, became more intense and shifted from crying and screaming to also verbally threatening his family and physically hurting those around him.

Family court was a game of poker.

With no other resolution in sight, I turned to the Court for help. My children were in danger if nothing changed.

That journey through Court was long, expensive, and made unreasonably longer and more expensive by my ex on the other side. (During our eight-year marriage my ex had been in constant litigation all eight years; he sued all his business partners from multiple businesses, a dentist who voluntarily admitted a mistake, and an employee of a Fortune 500 company knowing the company would pay him damages just to avoid litigation).

I should have known better. My ex had no qualms or limits in abusing the legal system. He was an eye-for-an-eye man once he convinced himself that you had slighted him.

So, my ex showed up in Court with thick, oversized, zero-prescription eyeglasses and a bow tie to complete his geekiest Caltech persona. A charming serial entrepreneur with 20-20 vision (the one I had married) now sat disguised as a nerdy engineer in an effort to explain away his complete inflexibility in co-parenting his children.

He claimed he was an engineer who was scrambling to make ends meet and whose employer had been loaning him money for personal expenses. The fact was that he owned the company he worked for!

He showed virtually no income and no assets all the while affording private flying lessons, affording aircraft rentals, and paying his parents and extended family from business profits.

And so, a game of poker with the judges ensued. The first judge had enough common sense and provided temporary relief for the children from all the travel. This judge saw the thousands of pages of written communication between my ex and me as a complete breakdown of communication.

But he retired. Then a second judge with a completely different common sense, had me pay my ex’s attorney fees and didn’t bat an eye at the amount of travel our children were doing between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

This new judge wanted proof to correlate sickness to excessive travel. Common sense wasn’t good enough. This new judge saw the thousands of pages of written communication between my ex and me as normal negotiation.

This judge saw my wealth against my poor Caltech-graduate WASband with his fake glasses and bow tie, who had no car in his name, no property in his name, who for years had paid his company’s profits to his extended relatives.

In retaliation to me going to Court, my ex had convinced himself that he needed $30,000 per month to support our children. And since he could afford neither a car nor housing, he wanted me to now support a new lifestyle for him, complete with private jet travel, five-star hotels, and much more.

A third judge put an end to my ex’s non-sense; my WASband got his child support but an amount which I proposed to the Court based on facts instead of exaggerations. Disappointed with this outcome, my ex filed two more cases trying to get exorbitant amounts of money from me.

Those cases, while dismissed, still took an emotional and financial toll. I’ve learned now that it’s a matter of time before my WASband sues me again.

Court was a two-year war. And war is never good.

One of my sons got therapy after two years of jumping through all the Court’s hoops. My children’s travel was slightly reduced and many smaller issues were resolved. Yet the Court was fooled by a narcissist.

The Court didn’t approve therapy for my younger son because I didn’t have any evidence for its need. So, now a year later when my younger son says, “I will kill myself,” and my WASband still refuses therapy for him, am I to return to Court?

The Family Court that deals with divorced families and children couldn’t see this coming? I could.

This Court that also ordered my ex to spend the first weekend a month in Northern California because it coincided with the Tae Kwon Do schedule didn’t think to make it an order that my WASband actually take the children to these Tae Kwon Do events.

The Court couldn’t catch the narcissist in disguise. How am I to point out this mistake to the Court? With another trial and 2-year battle? No thank you.

Life, Uh, Finds a Way.

For nearly three years now, my children have been traveling between San Francisco and Los Angeles nearly every weekend. Yes, it’s hard and unheard of, but the one weekend each month we have together is better than ever.

We miss most of the special school events, but we did go to one dance last year and I caught my boys on camera doing the Floss with their classmates!

We do miss most of the special Tae Kwon Do events, but every now and then the stars line up and we get to go to the one we get to go to!

We do miss most family get togethers, so now many of my nine first cousins go out of their way to have our children meet.

For over two years now, my WASband has been telling our children: Your mom is a liar. Her entire family lies. It’s her fault; she’s the one that divorced me. He shows them snippets of court documents to prove his story with evidence.

Sadly, my nine and ten-year-old children are versed in court vocabulary including evidence, exhibits, credibility, and legal contracts. My WASband tells my older son:  You go to therapy because you have mental problems. Your mom forced you to go to therapy.

You’ll be in therapy for your whole life.

You need to lose weight. You need to get in shape.

Are you trying to gain weight?

He tells our children: Do you have any Indian friends? I’ll arrange a playdate [on my visits to San Francisco] if your friends are Indian.

This type of abuse attacks every aspect of their lives. There may never be a respite from this.

My children began coming back to me on Sundays, especially after long holidays, and telling me: You’re a liar. A big fat liar because you don’t have any evidence. Daddy has evidence. I was caught off-guard, hurt, and defensive.

My co-parenting counselor (not to mention others) advised me to open up to my children, but mostly all I could say was: These are adult issues. Children shouldn’t be worried about these things. I will tell you when you’re seventeen or eighteen. Your Daddy loves you, but some of these things he is doing and saying are wrong. And he may never change. You have to be stronger.

After two years of this, there are still new frustrations, more confusion, and deeper wounds but my children are finding their way. They tell me: Mommy, you have to be stronger!

And I am stronger because I chose to be free. My marriage was bad and the aftermath of my divorce worse, but I am free. I’ve begun to learn to allow myself to resign all outcomes to a higher power when I need to.

I’ve learned that there’s nothing that can break me. I’ve been shattered more than once, and I’ve gotten up to collect and put myself back together each time. I don’t hate my ex; it’s as if my body or mind or soul has decided that this person doesn’t deserve even my hatred.

I pray for his peace of mind, I tell my children to send love towards Daddy, and I’ve never been one to pray. Whenever I remember, I tell my children to say something nice about someone else each night.

I’ve learned to hug and cuddle. My children wonder: Why have you gone all lovey-dovey. I suppose it’s because love is all that remains for me.

The post Child Visitation After Divorce: How My Narcissistic Ex Is Using It Against My Children appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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gatekeeper mom

4 Reasons To Avoid Being a Gatekeeper Mom Trap During Divorce

gatekeeper mom

 

Do you find yourself having difficulty letting go and relaxing about what your children do while they are with their other parent? Focusing too much on your children’s time or activities at your ex’s house can potentially damage your relationship with them and undermine their connection with both parents. When a parent communicates anxiety and becomes too vigilant about custody exchanges (or parenting time) they may be taking on the role of a gatekeeper.

What is a gatekeeper mom?

According to child custody expert Robert Beilin, P.h.D., a gatekeeper is a term  often used in a negative way to describe how parents (usually a mother) attempts to control their children’s time with the other parent. Since traditionally mothers tend to be gatekeepers, this article will focus on mothers but the term could apply to fathers as well.

According to author Kerri Kettle, the term “gatekeeper” is generally brought up in child custody cases. Kettle, an attorney, advises mothers to beware of being a gatekeeper and to avoid adversarial interactions with their ex. After all, it could lead to additional legal costs and have a negative impact on children. She writes, “If you think you might be acting a little like a gatekeeper, try saying “yes” more often than saying “no” for a while. Start with something small, like giving up a few hours of your custodial time for a special occasion or simply not asking questions about what happened at their dad’s house.” She also advises parents that they will save legal fees by being a cooperative co-parent.

Let’s face it, it’s easy to see how a parent could slip into the gatekeeper role. After my divorce, I had trouble adjusting to our co-parenting schedule and I found myself overly concerned about what my children did when they were with their father and the amount of time they spent with him. It took several years for me to realize that this was my way of trying to gain control over the situation. While I never did anything consciously to sabotage my children’s relationship with their dad, my questions, and concerns about their activities with him didn’t demonstrate confidence in our parenting plan.

Further, children have a way of sensing tension and worry and so a mother’s fear or concerns about time spent away from her may be a red flag that heightens their anxiety. Without awareness, a parent could be bringing undue stress on your children without intending to. My research shows that the two variables that had the most negative impact on children of divorce into adulthood were limiting their access to both parents and experiencing high conflict between their parents post-divorce.

A crucial aspect of healing after divorce is realizing that you can’t control what goes on with your ex and so need to respect the decisions that he makes regarding his time with your children.  You can’t change him and are wise to let go of unrealistic expectations. For instance, you might not approve of him taking your eight-year-old to a movie rated PG 13 – but in the end, it’s not going to make or break their emotional development. So it wouldn’t hurt to simply let it slide sometimes.

On the other hand, if you have legitimate concerns about activities that your kids participate in with their father, it’s a good idea to send him a friendly, business-like e-mail expressing your concerns. Divorce expert Rosalind Seddacca CCT writes, “If you’re intent on creating a child-centered divorce that strives for harmony between you and your ex, you need to initiate the conversation and model win-win solutions. If your ex doesn’t want to cooperate, that’s when your patience will certainly be tested. Look for opportunities to clarify why working together as co-parents as often as possible will create far better outcomes for your children.”

Eileen Coen, an attorney, and trained mediator states that one reason mothers tend to be gatekeepers is that trust is often lost in a marriage. Other reasons cited by Coen are economic and a lack of confidence in their ex’s parenting skills. However, she cautions us that on-going conflict between parents is the primary reason why mothers are gatekeepers – making it virtually impossible to have adequate, healthy parenting time with their children.

Studies show that kids benefit from access to both parents. There is evidence that cooperative co-parenting actually reduces conflict between divorced parents – which has a beneficial impact on children into adulthood. Scheduling appropriate parenting time for both parent’s post-divorce and keeping lines of communication positive can be a challenge but it’s paramount to building resiliency in your children. When a parent takes on the role of gatekeeper, they communicate discomfort and anxiety to their children and diminish their sense of belongingness with both parents.

Joan Kelly, a renowned researcher who has conducted decades-long studies on divorce, found that the more involved fathers are post-split, the better off the outcomes for children. Children benefit from strong relationships with both parents post-divorce. According to Linda Nielsen, author of Between Fathers and Daughters, the child’s relationship with their father is often the one that changes the most after marital dissolution. Sadly, Dr. Nielsen notes that only 15% of fathers and daughters enjoy the benefits of shared parenting.

There are many compelling reasons why mothers are wise to encourage their children to have strong bonds with their father post-divorce. Studies show that these reasons include: Better grades and social skills, healthy emotional development, higher self-esteem, and fewer trust issues. Lowered self-esteem and trust wounds are especially a concern for girls who may be more vulnerable to the breakup of the family home because they are socialized to be nurturers and caretakers. Your kids may also have better access to extended family members and therefore intergenerational support if they spend close to equal time with both parents.

Here are 4 Reasons to avoid the gatekeeper trap:

1. Your children will gain trust in both parents and feel more confident about their relationships with both of you.

2. You will build trust in your ex’s ability to effectively parent your children.

3. There’s a possibility you’ll have the added benefit of more leisure time – when you can relax and worry less about your children’s well-being.

4. You’ll create a new story for your life built on reclaiming your personal power rather than letting your divorce define who you are or the choices you make.

Focusing your energy on what’s going on in your home and encouraging your children to have a healthy connection with their father will pay off in the long run. Another important reason to avoid being a gatekeeper is to respect your child’s and ex-spouse’s boundaries. When your children are with your ex, honor their time together and try not to plan activities or partake in excessive communication with the other parent (phone, text, etc.). Since parental conflict is a factor that contributes greatly to negative outcomes for children after divorce, keeping disagreements to a minimum is a key aspect of helping your child become resilient. You owe it to yourself and your children to avoid playing the role of a gatekeeper.

More From Terry:

Follow Terry Gaspard on Twitter,  Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com

The post 4 Reasons To Avoid Being a Gatekeeper Mom Trap During Divorce appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Custody Issues that Can Arise during the Holidays

3 Custody Issues That Can Arise During the Holidays

Custody Issues that Can Arise during the Holidays

 

For many people, the holiday season is a time to relax, spend time with friends and family, and engage in various religious or secular traditions. If you are a mother that shares custody of her children with their father, however, it is important that you consider the fact that the holidays can present a virtual minefield of custody issues that can be difficult to navigate.

Fortunately, by recognizing these issues and planning ahead, you can usually avoid them and have a holiday season free from any conflicts or fights related to child custody and parenting time.

Here are some of the most common issues that mothers who share custody should consider as the holidays approach.

3 Custody Issues that Can Arise During the Holidays

1. Not Having a Plan

One of the worst things you can do as the holiday’s approach is failing to make a plan as to how the kids will spend them. This is a recipe for disaster and a ruined holiday season. If your current custody order does not specify how custody is to be divided over the holidays, you should address the matter immediately, either informally or by requesting a modification to the order.

Some of your options include assigning fixed holidays to each parent (for example, you get Thanksgiving and their dad gets Christmas), alternating holidays, or splitting a holiday in half. The arrangement that works best for you will depend largely on the specifics of your living arrangements and the things most important to you.

2. Traveling Out of State

If you are considering traveling out of state this holiday season to see friends or family, it’s critical that you ensure that you check the terms of your custody arrangement prior to making firm plans. In some cases, your child custody arrangement may require you to obtain permission from your kids’ father in order to travel out of state – but it also may not.

Even if your child custody order does not require you to obtain their father’s permission to travel out of state, it’s not a bad idea to discuss the matter with him anyhow. First of all, it’s a show of good faith that you are willing to engage in open communication and co-parenting; secondly, it can work in your favor should a dispute arise in the future.

3. Unusual Custody Schedules During Winter Break

Unfortunately, an existing holiday custody schedule does not always make things go smoothly during this often hectic time of year. First of all, a departure from normal schedules can be hard on children, so it’s important to keep them aware of what’s going on and why. Furthermore, there are often logistical issues regarding holiday custody schedules.

For example, if your arrangements involve your children spending more consecutive nights with their father than they normally do, make sure that you pack enough clothes and discuss any issues that may arise with their other parent. Similarly, your normal schedule for dropping off or picking up the kids may not work because of holiday commitments, so make sure that these potential problems are discussed ahead of time.

Avoiding Custody Issues Now and in the Future

Fortunately, these and other issues related to child custody can usually be avoided with some simple planning and communication. If you and your child’s father have an amicable relationship and are able to talk, it’s not a bad idea to try and work out a holiday custody schedule yourself. In the event that your relationship is not so good, it may be necessary to petition the court to modify your custody schedule and assign holidays to each of you. In either case, it’s highly advisable to discuss your custody goals with a family law attorney in your jurisdiction.

Making New Traditions

One regular concern for mothers – especially those who are newly divorced – is how to maintain the family’s regular traditions for the holidays. The reality is that you might not be able to keep all of the same traditions, but the good news is that you can make new traditions with your children.

While you might normally have a special breakfast you make for Christmas morning after your kid’s open presents, you might be switching off Christmas morning with your ex-spouse. This means that you might miss the morning tradition, but maybe you can make a new special-breakfast-for dinner tradition for Christmas Eve.

That being said, if you have a special tradition with your family that your ex-spouse does not have with his family, you might want to negotiate to ensure you can continue that tradition since it means more to you.

Find Support with Family and Friends

No matter how well you plan ahead for custody issues, the holidays can still be difficult when you are not always with your children. It can be difficult to adjust, so you want to make sure that you have the support you need emotionally. When you do this, you can ensure you are in the best possible position to celebrate the holidays when your children are with you. If you need to adjust custody for the future, never hesitate to seek legal support from a trusted attorney, as well.

The post 3 Custody Issues That Can Arise During the Holidays appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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aggressive parenting

Is Your Ex An “Aggressive Parent?” Here Are 9 Signs

aggressive parenting

 

According to Alan Kemp in his book Abuse in the Family, domestic violence is defined as “A form of maltreatment perpetrated by a person with whom the victim has or had a close personal relationship.” (Kemp, P.36)

Furthermore, the clinical and textbook definitions and categories of child psychological maltreatment found in Table 3-1 of Alan Kemp’s book, Abuse in the Family, on pages 72-77, can easily be applied to show it as a horrific form of domestic violence via psychological maltreatment.

This book is just one of many textbooks used to teach students and professionals about psychological maltreatment and the categories that make it up. Whether one believes in the term parental alienation or not, the following criteria help to show that certain behavior perpetrated by a parent can cause a child to withdraw their love from the other parent.  For the sake of this article, we will term this abuse as aggressive parenting.

9 Signs of Aggressive Parenting:

  • Rejecting (spurning)
  • Terrorizing
  • Corrupting
  • Denying essential stimulation, emotional responsiveness, or availability
  • Unreliable and inconsistent parenting
  • Mental health, medical, or educational neglect
  • Degrading/devaluing (spurning)
  • Isolating
  • Exploiting

An Explanation of the 9 Signs

By deliberately isolating the child from other family members and social supports, isolation is occurring.  The whole premise of aggressive parenting is to isolate and distance the children from the targeted parent or any other individual who supports the targeted parent.

If the aggressive parent uses threats or denigrating tactics, to force the child to comply, this can be seen as terrorizing.  As well, verbal denigration, harassment and exploitation of the targeted parent is very prominent and a key indicator of aggressive parenting.

In addition, domestic violence includes the exploitation and use of the child for personal gain.

Thus in aggressive parenting, when the child is used to destroy the targeted parent by denying visitation or a relationship between the other parent and the child or is used for monetary gains such as excessive expenses beyond child support, they are in effect committing domestic violence.  It is for these reasons that aggressive parenting or isolating the children from the Targeted Parent can be considered as a form of domestic violence.

Rejecting/Terrorizing

Let’s take this a bit further in its application. When a parent rejects a child because the child shows any love or affection for the targeted parent that is a form of abuse. This is not only a form of rejection but terrorization. In fact, a child’s refusal to come to the targeted parent’s home for fear of losing the aggressive parent’s conditional love is fear and fear is terror.

Corrupting

When an aggressive parent refuses to comply with court orders and tells the child they do not have to either, this is corrupting. It is teaching the child that they are above the law and therefore immune to the court’s authority.  When a parent files false allegations of abuse and convinces the child to do the same, this is corruption.

When an aggressive parent tells the child lies about the targeted parent, and that anything having to do with the targeted parent is illegal, immoral and disgusting, this is corrupting.  In fact, this is a form of discrimination and prejudice, which corrupts the child’s minds.

Denying Essential Stimulation, Emotional Responsiveness, or Availability

By refusing to allow the children to have a relationship with the targeted parent, for no reason other than their own need to control the ex-spouse, the aggressive parent is denying them the basic elements of stimulation, emotions, and availability with the targeted parent. In fact, the targeted parent has little to no opportunity to defend themselves against false allegations.

Though they will have you believe that they or the children feared for their lives and that the targeted parent was abusive, this is usually unsubstantiated or proven by the courts to be a fabrication. With no basis for this denial, the aggressive parent refuses their child a warm and loving relationship with the targeted parent.

Unreliable and Inconsistent Parenting

Since the children have been denied a relationship with the targeted parent, they have also been denied a reliable and consistent parenting situation and the aggressive parent has proven that they cannot parent consistently and reliably in the supporting of a two-parent relationship with the children.

Mental, Medical and Educational Neglect

When an aggressive parent refuses to comply with numerous separate court orders for counseling, they are denying their children’s mental health. Thus mental neglect has occurred as defined in the DSM IV as Malingering.

Denigrating/Devaluing

If despite numerous court orders or requests and recommendations, the aggressive parent continues to insult, verbally abuse and denigrate the child’s targeted parent in front of the child, this behavior degrades and devalues someone the child once respected and loved and in most cases, secretly wants a relationship with.

This disdain and disrespect for the targeted parent in front of the child is another form of psychological maltreatment as it permanently affects their view of the targeted parent, which transfers to their view of themselves. This creates a distorted sense of reality, of themselves and their ability to trust and accurately judge others.

Isolation

When a parent deliberately sabotages a relationship with the targeted parent by refusing to allow visits, calls, or any form of healthy communication, with no evidence of abuse, this is called isolation. Furthermore, when a parent has initially allowed continuous contact with the children during the separation and divorce period, but reneges on this, refusing visitation, especially when they find out their ex-spouse has a new partner, this is isolation and abuse.

This is also called Remarriage as a Trigger for Parental Alienation Syndrome and can be further reviewed in an article by Dr. Richard Warshak, There is no doubt this is isolation and thus psychological abuse.

Exploitation

When a parent uses the children as pawns to get back at their ex spouse for not loving them anymore or to control them further, this is exploitation.  When an aggressive parent uses the children and makes false allegations of abuse, terrorizing the children to state they hate the targeted parent, this is exploitation.  When a parent uses the children for monetary gains such as child support, but yet does not allow the children a relationship with the targeted parent, this is exploitation.

In Conclusion

When you add all these signs up, it is easy to see how Aggressive Parenting, can be classified as child psychological maltreatment in a divorce situation.  When you put it all together, the DSM sums up the aggressive parent quite nicely under Cluster B Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder.

The aggressive parent willfully and without regard to the child or the targeted parent’s welfare, or the innocent extended family’s welfare, continually violates their rights and disregards their needs for a relationship. The aggressive parent callously puts their own desires, wants and needs above those of everyone else including their own child.

This all adds up to one thing, Domestic Violence in the form of psychological maltreatment.  So why does Child Protective Services refuses to protect the children from this form of abuse when the signs and symptoms are so clearly evident?

The post Is Your Ex An “Aggressive Parent?” Here Are 9 Signs appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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productive co-parenting communication

Developing Productive Co-Parenting Communication

productive co-parenting communication

 

Parenting can be difficult even in an in-tact household wherein even residing together the time spent together as parents, uninterrupted in thought and time for discussion, results in many discussions occurring through text, email and in passing.

Of course, the hustle and bustle of the world we live in as parents leave much room for errors in schedules, forgotten appointments, and confusion as to who is where. This is even more difficult for two parents who do not reside together yet share in one mutual goal- raising and being involved in their children’s schedules and lives on an equal basis.

Productive Co-Parenting Communication

Married or not, raising children takes a lot of communication. Unfortunately, communication in relationships that have broken down for one reason or the other is made even more difficult and can create a host of issues for couples attempting to co-parent absent a close relationship or any at all for that matter. As family law attorneys, we are often faced with questions, concerns and issues from our client stemming from the lack of communication, i.e. the other side not providing information or not being responsive.

Other times, the absence of communication is used to assert control and intentionally keep the other parent out of the loop. On the other hand, some parents utilize communication in a manner which is harassing such as incessantly texting, calling, or making things difficult. Either way, the reality is that communication in strained relationships can be incredibly difficult and as a result, children suffer by missing activities, homework assignments, family outings, etc.

Therefore, focusing on simple ways to communicate, absent the need to involve lawyers and judges, is the most productive and cost-effective way to co-parent when the relationship with the other parent is less than ideal. The reality is that the involvement of lawyers and the court’s not only costs thousands of dollars, but there is also a delay in resolution by virtue of the time needed for everyone to respond.

Therefore, it is simply not practical on any level to require the use of your lawyer to communicate about everyday issues regarding your children.

It is significant to note that communication is one of the primary statutory factors the courts consider in determining custody and parenting time arrangements. Moreover, just not getting along is not enough to prove that two adults cannot communicate in a manner which would cause a court to minimize either parent’s role.

In fact, the New Jersey Supreme Court has long held that joint legal custody is the “preferred” custody arrangement and that this requires sharing the responsibility for jointly making “major” decisions regarding the child’s welfare, developing a productive way of communication is key to the success of not only the co-parenting relationship but the children’s success overall.

That being said, family law attorneys, as well as Judge’s, are mindful of the difficulties parent’s may have communicating during less than ideal times. Therefore, the focus and trend have been to encourage the use of apps that parties can utilize to limit and focus the communication to just the issues versus the text message and/or email chains that seemingly increase in hostility with the back and forth involved.

For example, one method of communication often utilized by co-parents, either by way of agreement or more frequently now being Court Ordered, is Our Family Wizard.  Our Family Wizard obviously cannot circumvent the use of communication as a weapon in contested or tension ridden co-parenting relationships, however, it is designed to assist parents by having categories that limit and narrow the issues and minimize the probability of misinterpretation of miscommunication.

Parents can download the children’s schedules, they can monitor parenting time changes in their schedules, and even scan in the children’s expenses, none of which can be altered if needed for use in Court. In other words, it is a protected forum which allows communication between parents about the issues relating to their children and provides clearer documentation in the event that communication (or lack of same) is the overriding issue.

In sum, learning and finding a way to communicate is essential to raising children regardless of the status of your relationship. Utilizing applications such as Cozi, Our Family Wizard, Truece, and other applications which permit scanning, scheduling and limit the opportunity for emotions to supersede the issues is beneficial to everyone’s quality of life, especially and most importantly the children involved.

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Child Support Custody And Visitation

Guidelines The Court Uses To Determine Child Support, Custody, And Visitation

Child Support Custody And Visitation

When going through a divorce with minor children or determining paternity, one of the many decisions you will need to make is how much time each parent will spend with the minor children.

It is important to note that the amount of time spent with the children can also affect child support.

The goal of any agreement affecting children should be to protect the children’s best interest.

However, due to the emotional nature and financial implications of custody and visitation, many parents struggle to reach an agreement.

In the event parents are unable to find an agreeable solution the Court will intervene and create child custody and visitation orders based on several factors, including the children’s best interest.

Once the Court determines child custody and visitation, it will then use guidelines dictated by statutes and a child support worksheet to determine which spouse owes the other child support.

Determining Child Support, Custody, And Visitation

Child Support

In California, both parents are financially responsible for minor children. However, child support can be ordered to help provide for the children’s housing, clothing, food, extracurricular activities, and other needs.

Child support is based on several factors including each parent’s gross income, mandatory deductions, tax deductions, amounts paid for healthcare, time spent with each parent and more.

Most often, the higher-earning parent will pay child support as they have more disposable income. For families who have 50/50 or close to equal timeshare with the children, the parent who claims the minor children as dependents could be ordered to pay the other parent support.

With so many factors and variables in determining support, it is important to speak with a professional to review all available options and develop the best child support agreement for you and your children.

Imputing Income

If you or the other parent is unemployed or underemployed, the Court can still order child support. In either situation, the Court will review employment records and education history to determine if gainful employment is feasible and determine what their earning capacity may be.

The Court may also consider other factors, including the length of time you have been out of work and the current state of the job market.

If the Court finds one parent is underemployed or willfully not working, the Court could assign income to that parent based on previous salary or current earning capabilities determined by work or educational experience.

The assignment of income, also known as imputing income, can result in Court-ordered child support.

If a parent fails to meet their financial obligation and does not pay child support as ordered, arrears will accrue, and the parent could face additional penalties.

State Disbursement Unit (SDU)

In the past, child support was paid directly to the receiving parent. When a child support order dictated automatic deductions, the paying parent’s (payor’s) employer would withhold the amount ordered and send it directly to the other parent.

However, in 1996 the federal government passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Act, requiring states to create a centralized location where parents pay child support. The creation of State Disbursement Units facilitated payment by collecting child support and distributing to the receiving parent.

When a child support order utilizes SDUs to facilitate payment through employers, payors can have up to 50 percent of their wages deducted.

In addition to facilitating payment, the 1996 Act changed how payment was distributed if a payor had more than one child support order.

Prior to the implementation of the SDUs, child support orders were prioritized by date. For instance, if a payor had orders to pay child support for children from a previous relationship and for the most recent relationship, and the amount ordered for the first relationship more than 50 percent of their income, the first family would get the full amount while the second family would receive partial payment or nothing.

After 1996, a paying parent’s child support amount can change based upon how much the payor parent earns or if there are other child support orders or arrearages are owed by the payor parent.

The SDUs can adjust the distribution of child support to ensure all children receive support. This can result in a reduction of child support received if the amount owed for all orders exceed 50 percent of the payor’s income.

However, the original amount ordered is still due and arrearages will build up unless the paying parent pays the difference directly to the SDU.

Child Custody and Visitation

California recognizes two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody.  Legal custody refers to the ability to make decisions that affect the child’s health, welfare, and safety. Legal decisions include what doctors the child sees, what school the child attends, participation in religious activities, when the child can get a driver’s license, and more.

If one parent has sole legal custody, they are not obligated to consult the other parent when making decisions.

However, if parents have joint legal custody, they will both be able to make decisions. Ideally, both parents would communicate and agree on any decisions that affect their children.

Physical custody refers to the time spent with each parent and where the child resides. Joint physical custody, when children live with both parents, is the most common arrangement and the goal of California Courts.

However, it is not the best solution for all families, especially if domestic or substance abuse is an issue. If one parent has primary or sole custody, the other “non-custodial” parent has visitation.

Visitation schedules can vary depending on the relationship between parents and their children and work or school schedules. Common visitation schedules are unsupervised visits every other weekend, bi-weekly visits, alternating major holidays, or supervised visits once a week.

It is highly suggested that both parents work together to create a parenting plan detailing visitation, pick up/drop off times and more.  If you are unable to reach an agreement, a family law attorney can help you create a parenting plan that not only benefits the children but considers the parents’ schedules. In the event, you are unable to come to an agreement the Court can hear your concerns and create custody and visitation orders.

However, court orders will dictate the amount of time each parent spends with the children, which can result in orders that neither you nor the other parent agree with and have financial ramifications for many years.

Custody Disagreements

In some cases, the parents may not be able to come to a custody agreement. Regardless of how you feel about your spouse, you should not bring your children into the argument.

Nor should you try to dissuade your children from seeing the other parent. The Courts will consider this when making a custody decision.

In most cases, the Court will not let a child testify as to which parent the child wishes to stay with as it is not fair to make the child choose.

When determining custody, the Court will review several factors such as the amount of time each parent spends with the children, domestic violence issues, substance abuse, involvement in educational or extracurricular activities, and general care.

Child Custody Evaluations

In some situations, the Court may order a child custody evaluation to help resolve a custody dispute. If ordered, the court can appoint an evaluator, or the parents can choose a private evaluator.

In either situation, both parties are responsible for the cost of the evaluator. The evaluator’s role is not to treat patients, but to provide an objective evaluation with informed opinions to help the Court determine the most appropriate custody outcome. The evaluator will conduct an investigation and interviews to decide which parent can provide the best situation for their children.

Evaluators weigh several factors to make their decision, including reviewing interactions between parents and their children, if the parents allow contact or visits with the other parent, and how the children behave in front of each parent.

Spoiling a child will not get you extra points!  Once the evaluator has completed their investigation, they will submit their opinion to the Court for consideration.

An Attorney for the Child

In addition to a child custody evaluation, or in place of an evaluation, the Court may appoint an attorney for the child, referred to as Minor’s Counsel.

The role of Minor’s Counsel is to protect and advocate for the child’s best interest. As with the evaluator, both parties share in the cost of the child’s attorney. While the Minor’s Counsel generally has wide discretion in their investigation, it often involves multiple interviews with the children, and sometimes the parents.

Upon conclusion of their findings, Minor’s Counsel will present their recommendation and the children’s wishes to the Court for consideration when creating orders.

Following Court Orders

Parents who fail to follow court orders can be in contempt of the Court, resulting in fines or worse.

Parents of children who refuse to visit the other parent according to their visitation orders can also be held in contempt and face financial fines or even jail.

However, the success of contempt charges depends on several factors, including the child’s age and the concept of parental control. If your children are refusing to see their other parent, it is imperative you contact a family law attorney as soon as possible.

An experienced attorney can listen to your situation, advise the proper course of action to protect parental rights, and against contempt charges.

The Best Outcome

Even if you and your spouse cannot get along, it is better if you are able to create a parenting plan with the help of your attorneys.

The focus of any agreement should always be protecting the best interest of your children.

Consistent, cordial communication with your co-parent can help you and your children transition to the new family dynamic.

Additionally, discussing decisions surrounding the children’s health, safety, and welfare together can help avoid the stress of costly court appearances. In the event an agreement can’t be reached, an experienced family law attorney can help you protect your children and your parental rights.

The post Guidelines The Court Uses To Determine Child Support, Custody, And Visitation appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Visitation With The Non-Custodial Parent

10 Tips To Help Your Child Enjoy Summer Visitation With The Non-Custodial Parent

By Dr. Linda Mintle for Kids & Divorce

Visitation With The Non-Custodial Parent

 

Summer visitation and holidays with a non-custodial parent can be a time of challenge for children of divorce. It may be unsettling for a child to vacation with a non-custodial parent. From the child’s point of view, he/she will be in strange places, with strange people, with a parent less familiar with daily habits and needs. This may create some fear and anxiety about the vacation time.

So if you are a non-custodial parent planning a vacation with your child, or you have custody and are wondering how to prepare your child to be with the non-custodial parent, here are some suggestions to make your child feel more comfortable.

10 Tips To Help Your Child Enjoy Summer Visitation With The Non-Custodial Parent

1. You and the non-custodial parent make vacation plans for your child together. As incredible as this sounds, it will be easier on your child if you both work together. Arrangements should be made in advance and agreed upon.

2. The itinerary for the trip must be shared. The custodial parent needs to know where the child will be–phone numbers and addresses. I know some non-custodial parents resist this idea but in case of an emergency, the custodial parent needs to know how to find his/her child.

3. Send copies of important medical information on the trip. The non-custodial parent needs to know how to handle a medical emergency or problem and have the pediatrician’s phone number, insurance information, and medical records.

4. Be careful not to put guilt on your child. Your child should never be made to feel guilty because he/she is going on vacation with the other parent.

5. Work out any disagreements about the vacation away from the child before the vacation. Don’t put your child in the middle of disagreements between you and your ex.

6. Plan for separation anxiety. Send a photo with your child. Include his/her favorite blanket, pillow, animal or toy. Discuss ways to communicate–email, telephone, postcards or letters.

7. Be positive about the vacation. Talk nicely about the non-custodial parent and help your child anticipate a great time.

8. Normalize fears and anxiety. Tell your child it’s normal to feel a little anxious. Hopefully, that anxiety will fade as the trip progresses.

9. Send a camera and smile at the time of pick-up. Now is not the time to bring up unresolved issues with your ex.

10. Pray. Keep the non-custodial parent and the vacation on your prayer list. Pray for protection and positive interactions between parent and child.

“Originally posted by Linda Ranson Jacobs on the Kids & Divorce blog at, blog.dc4k.org  Copyright © 2013, DivorceCare for Kids. Used by permission.”

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4th of July without your children

Life, Liberty and Shared Custody: Surviving 4th of July Without Your Children

4th of July without your children

 

Are you in too much of a funk to give a second thought to fireworks and hotdogs? Holidays…the 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas can be difficult to celebrate if you are without your children. Let’s face it; watching other children in awe of the magic of fireworks isn’t easy when your children are spending the day with their Dad. Your “funk” is understandable!

Surviving 4th of July Without Your Children

How do you get yourself out of a funk?

One thing that has always worked for me is to let go of the guilt I feel over feeling less than celebratory. There is nothing wrong with missing your children, especially if your tradition has been to spend special holidays with them.

It has been my experience that feeling bad about feeling bad only made me feel worse. It was like piling one more negative emotion to deal with on top of everything else. If you are divorced and feeling alone and funked you are experiencing normal feelings. Accept that it is fine to feel how you’re feeling…berating yourself over valid feelings doesn’t do anything except make you feel worse.

You need to also give yourself permission to enjoy the holiday regardless of what kind of adversity you have or, are experiencing. Feeling lonely and isolated doesn’t have to become a foregone conclusion. Just because you aren’t all red, white and blue is no reason to immerse yourself in maudlin activities while others are out and about enjoying their 4th of July.

Here are a few suggestions that will hopefully help alleviate some stress and help you survive the 4th of July without your children.

1. Don’t participate in any 4th of July activities you feel obligated to participate in. If you aren’t in the mood to be around nosy relatives, then make a different choice. Listening to Grandma’s complaints or having to answer your cousin’s questions about your divorce can be nerve-wracking. Be kind to your nerves and yourself!

2. Friends who supported you through your divorce, who know what you’ve been through will also get you through a lonely holiday. Spend time with people who are invested in helping you get the most out of life…who better than close friends who don’t expect too much from you.

3. If you find yourself alone, remind yourself that you have a right to a good time. I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day alone one year. I wasn’t looking forward to it but now that I look back I realize that, although alone it was one darn good time. Whether it be the 4th of July or any post-divorce holiday alone, treat yourself to something special.

A bubble bath, a day of romantic comedies, a bit of wine and a few chocolates. Maybe even a sparkler or two! Pamper yourself on your day alone and be rested and relaxed for when the kids get home.

Stress and negative feelings during a post-divorce holiday can be difficult, but they don’t have to be debilitating. Making time to relax and do the things you enjoy is essential to keeping a balance. When facing a holiday alone, remind yourself that you have as much right to a good time as anyone else so, relax and enjoy the occasion to the best of your ability.

The post Life, Liberty and Shared Custody: Surviving 4th of July Without Your Children appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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equal parenting

 6 Things Fathers Should Think About if They Want Equal Parenting

equal parenting

 

Before and during the divorce process each parent has the same legal right to custody of a child. Mothers and fathers are on legal standing until one or the other gives up or is denied full custody rights.

What does this mean? It is complicated! Even more complicated if you don’t know your state’s child custody laws. Bottom line, until you have signed a custody agreement or a judge has handed down a custody opinion, each parent has the same legal rights when it comes to where a child lives, who the child lives with and anything regarding the child.

I’ve found that most fathers do not have a clear understanding of their legal divorce rights where the children are involved. And in most cases will give up custody out of fear of losing in court due to a gender “bias.” Which is a myth perpetuated by men’s rights organizations. A father has as much chance of winning custody if he pursues custody as a mother.

For example, I received an email from a father who was separated from his wife. He wrote, “My wife moved out with our children, and is refusing to allow me to visit with them. I found out the other day that my youngest daughter had been hospitalized for a minor illness and I wasn’t informed. What should I do?”

It is heartbreaking to hear from a father who, for some reason has come to the belief that his wife has more legal rights over the children. This father has the legal right to pack his children up and bring them home. He has the legal right to contact school personnel, pediatricians and anyone else who may have contact with the child and let them know he is being denied his legal rights and demand to be notified of anything concerning his children.

The longer he allows his wife to make the rules about how or if he can parent his children, the more likely he is to lose an extensive amount of parenting time with his children in divorce court. In my opinion, this is the biggest mistake fathers make during the divorce process. They do not take the necessary steps needed to retain equal parenting time or full custody of their children.

According to DivorcePeers.com, the majority of child custody cases are not decided by the courts.

  • In 51 percent of custody cases, both parents agreed — on their own — that mom becomes the custodial parent.
  • In 29 percent of custody cases, the decision was made without any third party involvement.
  • In 11 percent of custody cases, the decision for mom to have custody was made during mediation.
  • In 5 percent of custody cases, the issue was resolved after a custody evaluation.
  • Only 4 percent of custody cases went to trial and of that 4 percent, only 1.5 percent completed custody litigation.

What do the above statistics tell us about fathers and child custody?

For some reason, the vast majority of fathers are behaving in a way that is not in their best interest or the best interest of their children. Fathers may be giving up equal or shared custody because they’ve heard there is a gender bias, that mothers always win custody. They may give up more custody because they’ve been taught that “children need their mother.”

Here is the truth, you don’t know if there is a true gender bias in the divorce court system if you don’t go to court and fight for equal time with your children. And children need fathers just as much as they need mothers.

If you are a father who wishes to have equal parenting time with your children you are doing yourself a grave injustice if you give up without a fight.

If your attorney tells you, you don’t have a chance at equal parenting time with your children, look for another attorney. Don’t hire an attorney until you find one who tells you he will help you fight for that time you deserve as a father. And, don’t buy into the argument that the courts are biased in favor of women until you’ve proven to yourself that it is true.

6 Things Fathers Should Think About if They Want Equal Parenting Time After Divorce

  1. Do not allow your wife to dictate when, where and how often you will see your children. Document every time your ex keeps you away from your children and then use the court system to hold her accountable for interfering in your parenting time.
  2. Immediately hire an attorney or file a pro se petition with the court to establish equal parenting time with your children.
  3. Do not allow what you hear on father’s rights websites to dissuade you from attempting to gain equal parenting time or full custody. Just because one man was not able to obtain equal time or full custody of his children does not mean you won’t. You don’t go to work and do your job based on what others tell you, you are and are not capable of doing, do you? Then, don’t give up on your children based on what a few angry men say online.
  4. Do not let the financial cost associated with a child custody battle keep you from fighting. Which is more important, saving money for a child’s college education or fathering your child during their informative years and beyond?

Society still views mothers as caretakers and fathers as providers. I believe that one reason fewer men fight for equal time with their children has to do with their fear of legal fees and being left financially strapped and unable to provide for their children. When it’s all said and done, your time is the most important thing you can provide for your children. Don’t let money fears stop you from providing them with time with their father.

  1. Do not agree to less time with your child without first going through the mediation process or, if push comes to shove a full out custody battle.
  2. Do what you know, in your heart is right for you and your children. Don’t allow your head to become muddied with opinions from naysayers or those who’ve been there before you. When it comes to time with your children, you must let your heart lead what actions you choose to take.

I can’t tell a father what his chances of winning in a custody battle are. I can tell a father that if you aren’t willing to exert your legal rights your chance of winning equal or full custody with your children is zero. The questions you have to ask yourself is; how important is this issue to me? How important is it to my children?

If it is important then don’t allow fear of the myth of a “gender biased” court system keep you from pursuing your right to parent your children.

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Teenager Refuses Visitation With Their Dad

What To Do If Your Teenager Refuses Visitation With Their Dad

Teenager Refuses Visitation With Their Dad

 

Michael and Jennifer have been amicably divorced for six years. They have three children ages 6-14. As outlined in their final decree of divorce they split custody of the children on a 60/40 basis. The children are with Jennifer 60% of the time, with Michael, 40% of the time.

Until recently this arrangement worked well for both the parents and children. Jennifer worked weekends as a Registered Nurse and felt secure knowing her children were with their father and well cared for.

Michael traveled with his job during the week and worried less about his children knowing they were safe and sound with their mother. The children benefited from the quantity and quality of time with both parents.

Problems started when their oldest child became a teenager. Craig turned 14 and became less and less interested in spending Friday through Sunday night with his father. Craig had developed new interests; he wanted to “hang-out” with his friends on the weekends instead of his father.

Given their history and closeness, Michael was confused and hurt by Craig’s lack of desire to participate in their regular visitation schedule. Out of fear of hurting his father’s feelings, Craig didn’t want to discuss the situation with his father. This left Michael to wonder if he had done something wrong or if someone else was influencing Craig and undermining his relationship with Craig.

Needless to say, Michael became upset and started demanding that Craig visit as usual. Then Jennifer became involved and this once amicably divorced couple experienced their first post-divorce conflict.

Michael thought it was Jennifer’s fault that Craig didn’t want to visit; Jennifer felt defensive and lashed out at Michael. And Craig, he just felt helpless and responsible for all the chaos but still unable to be open and honest with either parent.

If Your TeenAger Refuses Visitation With Their Dad

When Children of Divorce Become Teens

Whether you are a divorced parent or not, here is the reality of raising children, the older they become, the less interested they are in spending time with you. That’s right, the day comes when children need to test their independence, develop their autonomy and Mom and Dad are rarely part of that process.

When your child reaches those teen years, the most you will get to do is set rules and boundaries and accept that time with you is no longer a priority for them.

What Should Michael Do?

Encourage Communication: Children want to communicate, to be understood and to understand. As parents, we have that advantage. What we have to do is make sure our children learn that they are safe in communicating with us. For some reason, Craig felt responsible for his father’s feelings. This sense of responsibility kept him from communicating what he was feeling.

Michael can encourage open communication by letting his children know they are not responsible for the way he feels and that when problems arise, solutions can’t be found unless everyone is willing to share their thoughts and feelings via communication.

Be Flexible: With a growing sense of independence, teenagers can begin to resent time-dependent visitation. Michael’s scheduled parenting time will need to turn into shared parenting time with Craig’s friends and interests. Michael needs to start planning his time with his children in a way that allows Craig to also have plans of his own away from time with his father. Willingness to do this will give them both what they need. It will give Michael time with Craig and Craig time to exert his independence and “hang” with his friends.

If you find yourself in Michael’s situation my advice is to not jump to the wrong conclusion. Many parent’s fear parental alienation, or dealing with a child who has developed anger toward them. In most situations where a child suddenly no longer desires to visit, the problem may be as simple as time with Mom and Dad is no longer being a priority for them.

 

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