co-parenting during coronavirus

Co-Parenting During The Coronavirus Crisis

co-parenting during coronavirus

 

During this unprecedented time of the Coronavirus and quarantines, many co-parents are finding themselves in un-charted territory with regards to their parenting plan and whether and how they should carry it out.

Here are some helpful hints for co-parenting during the coronavirus crisis:

Be open, communicative, creative and flexible!

This is a time like no other, so we need to be open, we need to be flexible, and we need to get creative and think outside the box.

If you have a parenting plan that is requiring something that can’t be done (or can’t be done safely at this time, like air travel), get creative. But first, communicate!

Reach out to the other parent and brainstorm. Can the visit be delayed, or time added onto the next visit? Can you do virtual visits with Zoom, Facetime or Skype where the kids can eat a meal, play a game or just chat with the other parent?

If you have a parenting plan that can be carried out, but you question the safety, communicate your fears. Research suggests that the Coronavirus is not generally dangerous for children, but reach out to your pediatrician if you are unsure or if your child has immune compromising factors and then discuss with your parenting partner.

Once again, communicate, be flexible and get creative!

If it is not advised to make frequent visits, perhaps the visit duration is lengthened, and the frequency is lessened. Or maybe you do a mix of virtual and in person visits, or meet in a safe outdoor space to go hiking, play soccer or be in nature together.

Do not operate out of fear

There is a huge amount of panic and fear surrounding this situation, which is bringing up deeply buried fear from past circumstances and triggering internal and external defense mechanisms of all kinds. Notice the space you are operating and making decisions from. If you are operating out of fear, take a break to process your feelings before you move forward with decision making or discussing with your co-parent.

Take several deep breaths and re-center, releasing all of the fear you may have taken on from the media or others around you. Breathe through any personal fears that you have. Notice what fear or feelings are coming up for you that may not be related to the current issue. Be with all of your feelings and allow them to move through your body. Once you are more centered, make decisions from a grounded, clear space.

What can we do to help our children cope with missed visits?

Be honest with them about what is happening. Let them know that Mom or Dad really wants to see them, but it isn’t safe right now, so you will do whatever you can to find ways for them to connect (see above with virtual visits, outdoor meetups, etc.) and then do it.

Find ways for your child to connect with them even if they can’t connect in real life. You can help them create a card, letter or other work of art to send in the mail, write a song or a poem, or teach them how to connect energetically.  This can be done through an imaginary hug, a special prayer, or a dream meet-up where as they fall asleep they think of a place they want to meet their Mom, Dad or other loved one in their dream, and what they want to do together. We often use the beach or Disneyland for our dream meet-ups! They can also have imaginary visits where you would ask what they would want to do and what they would want to say to their other parent if they were there.

Keeping communication open and finding ways to connect helps your kiddo feel like the other parent is being included and is top of mind even though they can’t be together and it will help them feel more secure.

What if we don’t agree?

If you and your co-parent cannot agree, or you do not have a co-parent who is willing to be flexible and creative with you, do what you can on your side. If you have a written parenting plan as part of a divorce or other legal agreement, you will need to make reasonable efforts to carry it out if they are demanding that you do so.

Try to engage help in the form of a family counselor, pastor, mediator or co-parenting coach if you need help trying to reach an amended agreement for the short term.

And remember, as Wayne Dyer said, “Conflict cannot survive without your participation.” Don’t engage in anything other than a peaceful, direct discussion and process through any emotions or triggers on your side that come up as a result of something your co-parent is saying or doing.

The only thing you can ever control is yourself and how you react to others. In this time of fear and frenzy, don’t make it worse by adding to it.

Please Note: This should not be considered legal or medical advice. Please contact your attorney for guidance on required visits and your doctor for any medical questions regarding the safety of visits.

The post Co-Parenting During The Coronavirus Crisis appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Want to resolve your Texas family law case outside of court? Remember these rules of engagement

Community Property issues in Texas family law cases

Originally published by The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC Blog.

Premarital and Marital Property Agreements are contracts between you and your spouse or spouse-to-be that can have a great deal of importance. A signed, written agreement between the two of you that allocates debts and property into either the community or separate property column will determine how each piece of property is treated in the event that your marriage ends in a divorce. We hear about premarital agreements or “prenuptial” agreements all the time in the media when rich, famous people get married. However, these sort of agreements are not just for the uber-wealthy.

A premarital agreement will go into effect the day that your marriage begins. Most people that enter into these agreements do so to limit the amount of property or debt the community estate will accumulate over the course of their marriage. On the other hand, if you and your spouse were to enter into a similar agreement during the course of your marriage it would be known as a marital property agreement. Essentially both documents are the same, it is just a matter of when the agreement comes into being- before or after the marriage has started.

How a premarital or marital property agreement works in the context of a divorce is that whichever spouse files for the divorce will reference the property agreement within the Original Petition for Divorce. When it comes time for the final orders of your divorce to be filed at the conclusion of your case, a copy of the agreement will typically be attached to those orders as an exhibit for reference purposes.

How is community property divided in a divorce?

If you and your spouse have not entered into a premarital or marital property agreement, then it is the responsibility of the judge to divide your community property and debts. That is, the judge must divide the property in the event that you and your spouse cannot agree to do so in mediation or in an informal negotiation settlement conversation. Keep in mind that although Texas is a community property state, debt and property does not have to be divided 50/50 between you and your spouse. Factors like the size of each of your separate estates, fault in the breakup of the marriage as well as your income will weigh on a judge if he or she must divide your community estate.

In many cases, the community property that you and your spouse own cannot be divided straight down the middle. Let’s consider the most commonly divided large item of property that you and your spouse could have: the marital house. The easiest route that you and your spouse could go would be to sell the house and split up the equity that you would get after the mortgage and other costs of the sale are taken care of. There is relatively little hassle in doing this and allows both you and your spouse to wipe your hands clean of this asset and move on.

However, that is all true when you take the sale of the house in a vacuum. Consider what could change if you and your spouse have a child together. In many cases, a judge will award the family house to whichever parent is named the primary caretaker of your child. Obviously, it would have to be shown that this parent can afford the mortgage payments on their own. The reason a judge would order this would be to allow your child to have some degree of stability and consistency by remaining in the family home after the divorce concludes.

If you are the parent who is not awarded the right to be the primary caretaker of your child then you may be wondering where this leaves you. Would a judge really order you to leave the house, not award you primary responsibility for your child and then not allow you to gain any monetary benefit from the house? The answer to that question is, no.

Many times what a judge will order is that the house should be sold as soon as your child turns 18 and the sale proceeds will be split between you and your ex-spouse at that time. Or, you may be able to exchange any equity in the house for another piece of property in the community estate that could equal the value. For example, if there is a classic car that was purchased during the marriage that roughly equals your equity position in the home, that vehicle could be awarded to you.

The thing to keep in mind is that while a judge will do their best to divide the community estate in an equitable fashion, no judge is perfect. It is an impossible task to ask a judge to learn your family dynamics well enough over the course of a one or two day trial to do a perfect job of dividing the community estate. This is why we encourage people like yourself to do everything that you can to attempt to settle your case in mediation rather than to leave the decision up to a judge.

Will you have to pay spousal maintenance in your divorce?

Simply put, spousal maintenance is a payment that is ordered by a judge to be made from your future income to support your ex-spouse after your divorce has concluded. Although it is not a term that is officially used in Texas, many people know of this relationship as “alimony.” You and your spouse can agree to some degree of spousal maintenance in mediation, so don’t think that you have to go see a judge if you want to push for spousal maintenance payments.

Spousal maintenance is typically ordered towards the benefit of spouses that lack sufficient property to provide for their minimum basic needs. The key is that you and your spouse need to have been married for at least ten years in most cases for a judge to be able to order that you receive spousal maintenance. Other circumstances that could lead a judge to order that you should receive spousal maintenance is if your spouse has engaged in acts of family violence against you in the two year period prior to your divorce or you or your child have a disability that negates your ability to work outside of your home.

How much spousal maintenance can be awarded in your divorce?

A judge has limits to how much in spousal maintenance can be awarded in your case. Additionally, a judge can only order that spousal maintenance payments be paid for certain periods of time depending upon the length of your marriage. Your judge will need to determine how much money you would need to meet those minimum, basic needs that we just finished discussing. Either way, a judge cannot order that you receive more than $5,000 per month or 20% of your spouse’s gross monthly income in spousal maintenance. Your spousal maintenance award will be limited to certain periods of time unless you can present evidence that shows due to an incapacitating injury or physical impairment that you would be unable to earn an income to support yourself.

How issues related to your child can impact your divorce

Your Final Decree of Divorce will be the final orders issued in your divorce case. These are the marching orders that you and your ex-spouse will need to follow until you come back and have those orders changed/modified, if you do that at all. Part of those final orders will be a section that covers a Parenting plan for you, your ex-spouse and your children. The conservatorship designation of both you and your ex-spouse, a visitation schedule, child support, medical support and any other issues relevant to your family will be detailed in this section.

The reason why so much detail is put into a parenting plan is to, in theory, minimize the risk that you and your ex-spouse have as far as disagreements and animosity that surrounds co-parenting in your post-divorce life. Of course, this may not be the case for you and your ex-spouse but the intention is to lay out a clear cut path for your parenting to take in hopes to creating some sense of post-divorce harmony. If issues arise in the midst of that post-divorce life there are steps you can take to correct those issues- more on that in a later blog post.

How long does the parenting plan/child support plan go into effect for?

A family court in Texas has the ability to enforce orders regarding your child until that child graduates from high school or turns 18- whichever occurs later in time. In the event that your child has a physical or mental disability that requires that he or she remain in the home for a longer period of time, the court will likely continue in its authority to enforce child support, custody and visitation orders until a later date.

When we talk about custody of a child in Texas, we are really talking about who is able to get physical possession of your child and on what basis. The word “custody” actually does not come up in the Texas Family Code, but it is a term that is used so much in our society everyone involved uses it with regularity. For the most part, you and your spouse will share in custody rights and duties associated with your child.

If it comes down a trial, the judge will need to make decisions in relation to custody of your child that are in that child’s best interests. A joint managing conservatorship is one where you and your spouse share in the rights and duties of raising your child on an even basis. The only rights that will differ significantly are the rights to determine the primary residence of your child as well as the right to receive child support. Only one of your can do those things associated with raising your child.

In rare instances, either your or your ex-spouse may be named as a sole managing conservator of your child. If there is a history within your family of family violence, child abuse/neglect or a protective order has been issued against either of you, then the sole managing conservator designation would be appropriate. Basically, the sole managing conservator is able to be in physical possession of your child much more and also holds more of the rights and duties associated with parenting your child on a daily basis.

A court would also look to whether or not you or your spouse have been absent for long stretches of time from your child’s life or if there has been a great deal of conflict in your relationship with your child and/or your spouse. The parent who is not designated the sole managing conservator of your child does not lose all of their rights, but their rights are curtailed because it is believed that doing so is in the best interests of your child. The sole managing conservator specifically has superior rights when it comes to making decisions for your child in regard to educational and medical issues.

Questions about divorce in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

We were able to cover a lot of information about divorce in Texas today. If you would like to ask us any questions or need us to clarify any of the points that we made please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week with our licensed family law attorneys. These consultations are a great opportunity to ask questions and receive feedback about subjects that are important to you and your family.

Our attorneys and staff take a great deal of pride in being able to work with clients from across our area in the courtrooms of southeast Texas. We aim to always provide excellent represesntation of our clients while maintaining a strong sense of integrity and customer service. Contact us today in order to find out more about how we can assist you in your family law case.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



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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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What’s your role in the school nativity?

What’s your role in the school nativity?

Your child has been chosen as Third Shepard in the school nativity. That sinking feeling you have isn’t because they didn’t get a starring role. It’s because you know you did. Turn up to the play (like you want to) and you’ll be cast as the Judas. Stay away and, well, you’ll be cast as the Judas. There’s no winning. You’re between a rock and a hard place.

But what if you cast yourself – as the grey rock?

What if for these few precious moments of Away in a Manger and little Johnny dropping baby Jesus you can be just a normal dad sat watching your little one play the best third shepherd that has ever been played?

As we prepare for the Christmas season the levels of control and opportunities for conflict hit fever pitch. With all your emotions to play with your ex will feel like all her Christmases have come at once. And I don’t want to speak for you here, but I don’t think she was on your Christmas list was she? So let’s not give her what she wants.

Just like the teachers have handed out all the roles and helped the children practice their lines. She’s been doing exactly the same. Telling all her friends the stories, probably the children too.

Now don’t feel rubbish about that.

You and thousands of others are going through the exact same thing right now. I promise you there is never a reason to actively try and destroy a healthy relationship between a father and their children. Even if you did say her sister looked hot in that top once.

Between personal experience and community groups I am still dumbfounded, shocked and devastated by the things I see guys go through to be with their children.

Let me say, my Dad wasn’t at one single school play, parents evening or awards ceremony. In fact until I was 12 it was my reality that he wasn’t at all interested and had abandoned us. Last year (aged 35) I put up Christmas decorations with my dad for the first time ever. It was and will always be one of my happiest childhood memories, even if it did come 30 years too late.

I tell you this now because I want you to know a child’s love for their father can beat this situation your’e in. Despite having no memories of my dad and only one single photograph of us together it was enough that I never gave up hope he might love me.

So how do you show up to the school play without taking centre stage?

  1. Choose your performance. By far the easiest option is to see if there is more than one performance planned. If so you can arrange to go to the opposite one to your ex-partner. It doesn’t absolutely guarantee you won’t need these next steps too but hopefully it will give you a fighting chance.
  2. Practice your lines. Know that there is a good chance someone will wind you up, your ex, a teacher, one of their friends. Now this may be a deliberate attempt to provoke a reaction or the simplest of comments that digs away at one of those hot buttons we all have. But either way, preparation is key. Understand what is likely to piss you off and what is likely to be water off a ducks back. Then have some stock answers for the things that will piss you off. Literally write out and practice your lines, role play, pretend you’re a grey rock in the play.
  3. Choose your state. Rushing from a stressful meeting at work, through crappy traffic worrying you’re going to be late and skipping lunch will not help the best you show up. So physically prime yourself. Allow yourself time to do something that makes you feel amazing just before you go in, gym, swim, walk the dog, anything that will physically make the endorphins happen. You’ve seen Braveheart and Gladiator – those dudes went at battle in the best possible physical and emotional state for a reason.
  4. Know you can leave at any point. If things do take a turn for the more theatrical then exit stage left. Take things as far away as possible from an audience and go home if that’s what it takes. At all costs avoid a public display of crazy. (saw one of those in town today – I think someone had been a very naughty boy!)
  5. Take a calming influence with you. There’s always that one mate who tries to be a diplomat and calm things down. The one who seems to take life horizontal in all ways. They are a great person to have by your side. Especially if they know your little one too. On that note, while of course your new partner has the right to see the little on in the play I would ask if this year is the most important time for that to happen?

If you’re wondering what a grey rock reply looks like, we’ve written up some lines to inspire you… These are designed to be non-confrontational and give little wiggle room for false accusations.  Naturally you’ll want to rehearse them in a ‘Hugh Grant in Love actually’ rather than a ‘Bruce Willis in Die Hard’ kind of character!

I understand.

Yes.

No.

Acknowledged.

Ok.

Thank you.

That does not work for me.

I will think about it.

I do not agree.

That information is wrong.

I intend to follow the court order exactly as it is written.

I do not agree with your version of reality/history and choose to disengage now.

I see things differently.

Received and noted.

Please comply with the court order/parenting plan.

I will be following the court order/parenting plan.

I will think about that and email you later.

Unless something has changed, my previous position has not.

I hope you find peace with whatever you are struggling with internally that causes you to respond in a negative manner continuously. I wish you the best.

I do not feel these misrepresentations warrant a response, I see no purpose to this exchange other than to increase / incite conflict. As such, I am noting my objection and your attempts to portray me in a negative light.

I will continue to comply with the court order/parenting plan as consistency is in the best interest of the children.

Just because you say something does not mean it is true. I will abide by ​the court order/parenting plan.

I am not going to participate in your perceived conflict.​ ​I will abide by ​the court order/parenting plan.

You will just need to make your best parenting decision.​ I will abide by ​the court order/parenting plan.

You’ll need to discuss that with your therapist or solicitor.

Your attempt to elicit a negative response from me has been noted.

I will not respond to false accusations and manipulations of events.

Wishing you all the best this festive season,

The Nurturing Coach Team

The post What’s your role in the school nativity? appeared first on The Nurturing Coach.

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mothers have an advantage in custody disputes

Do Mothers Have an Advantage in Custody Disputes?

mothers have an advantage in custody disputes

 

If you are going through a divorce, a primary concern is often your children and your child custody arrangements. It’s difficult for any parent to contemplate not having their children living with them all of the time, but it can be even more difficult for mothers who have a close bond with their children.

If you and your husband cannot come to custody terms that you both can sign off on, the court will need to decide the matter for you. While many people think that mothers have a natural advantage in such disputes, the truth is far more complicated. Understanding the basics related to child custody can help you navigate the process while standing up for your own parental rights.

Legal Custody

Custody is divided into two major concerns that include physical custody (related to with whom the children reside at any given time) and legal custody. It’s important to recognize that in the vast majority of divorces, both parents share legal custody, which refers to a parent’s rights to make important decisions on behalf of their children. These decisions include:

  • Matters related to your children’s health and well-being, such as medical care
  • Matters related to your children’s education
  • Matters related to your children’s religious upbringing

These are fundamental issues that shape your children’s lives, and it’s very likely that you and your divorced spouse will continue to make these important decisions together, although one parent is sometimes given tie-breaking authority.

Physical Custody

Physical custody relates to with whom your children reside primarily and to their visitation schedule with the other parent. While many people believe that mothers have an advantage when it comes to physical custody, this really isn’t an accurate assessment in many cases.

Do Mothers Have an Advantage in Custody Disputes?

The Court’s Stance

If you and your divorcing spouse cannot come to mutually acceptable terms regarding your children’s custody arrangements, the court will intervene and make a determination of how you will split custody rights.

The court will always favor what is in the best interest of your children, but this is obviously open to interpretation, and it’s important to remember that the court has considerable discretion in the matter. You obviously know your children in a way that the judge never can, and you know what’s best for them.

Courts often favor the status quo when making child custody decisions. In other words, if the mother has been the primary caregiver and she and the children are living in the family home while the case is pending, the judge may be hesitant to upset the balance and may be more inclined to award the mother primary custody.

This is generally more a function of how things are commonly arranged than it is a function of favoring the mother or of the mother having an advantage in the matter.

The Considerations at Hand

In determining child custody arrangements, the court is guided by the children’s best interests, but in the process, it takes a wide range of variables into consideration, including:

  • The emotional connections between each parent and the children
  • Each parent’s ability to provide the children with a loving home and a healthy life
  • Any criminal history
  • Any history of domestic abuse – either physical, emotional, or sexual
  • Any substance abuse issues
  • Any pertinent parental considerations that could affect the decision, such as age or disability
  • The location of each parent’s residence (who lives closer to the children’s school, for example)

None of these issues are gender-specific and, as such, the court’s decision cannot favor the mother. Many mothers, however, are already providing primary custodial care, and courts are not fond of dramatically disrupting children’s lives when they’re already going through the emotional challenge of divorce. After all, divorce is hard on everyone, but children are especially vulnerable.

Your Children’s Voices

Many parents wonder if their children’s preferences will guide – or should guide – the court’s custody decisions. The fact is that many judges will speak to your children privately (especially older children) and will take their preferences into careful consideration, but the decision is simply not up to your children.

The court is making determinations related to your children’s custody exactly because they are children who need custodial care. When your children are adults, they’ll make their own important decisions, but for now, those decisions must be made for them. Your children’s voices, nevertheless, may help guide the court’s ruling.

Reaching a Resolution

If you’re going through a divorce, emotions are inevitably running high. The stress and heartache of divorce leave many couples unable to reach mutually agreeable terms on many important issues. Both of you, however, naturally put your children first, and if you can find a way to hammer out custody arrangements that you can both live with, the court and its considerable discretion won’t need to be involved in the process.

Reaching a compromise with your children’s father can come in many forms. If you aren’t able to work together personally (which isn’t uncommon), your attorneys can attempt to negotiate an arrangement, and you can also address the issue via mediation – with the legal guidance of your respective divorce attorneys.

The post Do Mothers Have an Advantage in Custody Disputes? appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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single moms at christmas

A Message To Single Moms At Christmas

single moms at christmas

 

A Message To Single Moms At Christmas

Hey! Hey, you! I see you there, staying up late, searching for the best deals and worrying about how you’re going to put presents under the tree. I know you’ve been squirreling money away since July, hoping to surprise your kids with more than you were able to give last year.

I understand all too well how much easier it would be if you had another income to work with. How much weight would be off your shoulders if you didn’t live paycheck to paycheck all year long?

I know that this time of year is hard, if only because you want to do so much more for your kids than you can.

But I saw you carrying a tree as big as you through the lot all by yourself, never once complaining or asking for help. I saw you bundling the entire family up, going neighborhood to neighborhood to admire the lights as Christmas carols played on your car radio.

I know that most nights, when you’re not too tired or rundown, you try to sit with them and read at least one Christmas story, sometimes in front of a fire. I’ve seen you making hot chocolate and breaking out the advent calendar, determined to make happy holiday memories for those little people you love so much.

I know you’ve been sharing your favorite holiday movies, beaming with pride as your kids laughed at Elf” or giggled through “A Christmas Story” (Fun fact to impress them with: The same kid who played Ralphie grew up to play one of the head elves, supervising Buddy at the North Pole. Ask your kids if they can spot him!)

I saw you flipping through your Christmas cookie recipes, trying to plan a time to bake with your favorite little people—trying even harder not to think about how much you don’t need those cookies around your house. (It’s the holidays, let yourself indulge a little. I promise you deserve it.)

I know you may be worrying (or even heartbroken) about spending Christmas alone this year (perhaps it’s their dad’s turn to have them) or about not being able to give them the Christmas they deserve if they will be with you. I know that it’s not just the presents that get expensive this time of year.

The visits to Santa, the tree, the new ornaments, even the baking supplies; it all adds up. And maybe you have a job where you won’t get paid on the days you aren’t working, making this a short month with less money coming your way.

I see you trying to do the very best you can anyway.

I know you bolt out of bed some nights, remembering that you forgot to hide the elf. So you jump up and move him while it’s on your mind, and then you can’t fall back asleep for another two hours. Only in the morning do you realize how unoriginal your new hiding spot was.

And I know that you are the only one wrapping gifts and that because you’re tired and stressed out and a little short on personal time, the corners aren’t just right. And you’ve got a few presents with scraps of paper taped together because you don’t have any to waste.

But you know what? Your kids don’t seem to care. They don’t mind that there are only a few presents under the tree, or even that the tree is second-hand and a little beaten up.

They aren’t upset you had to skip the Santa visit this year, and they remember all the Christmas stories by heart—because you’ve read them every year before now. And do you want to know the best part? They think you are beautiful enough to eat all the cookies without fear.

Maybe this is the first year you’ve been doing it all on your own, or perhaps it’s always been like this. Either way, there is an extra pressure there when you are solo parenting around the holidays. You never want your kids to miss out. You never want them to feel as though they don’t have everything every other family does. And this time of year, that missing presence can feel even harder to ignore.

But I promise you’re doing just fine. Amazing, even.

Because every step of the way, you are putting your kids first. You are pushing and striving to make this holiday season better than the last, to stick to the traditions, to create the memories and to show your kids just how much you love them.

You are a superwoman. And I’m here to tell you, even if those attempts don’t go exactly as originally planned, they know it.

And they see you, too.

They see you bending over backward to make the holidays special. They see you slapping a smile on your face as you sing, even though the circles under your eyes are dark. They may not be beaming with gratitude just yet; in fact, it might take them years to tell you just how much your efforts meant. But they see you, and the memories you are working so hard to make.

You are singlehandedly creating Christmas, and your kids are benefitting daily from that fact. They see you, and they’ll always remember…

The carols.

The hot chocolate.

The lazy elf.

The love.

All of this will mean so much more to them than anything you could possibly put under the tree. In fact, years from now, they won’t remember what gifts they got this Christmas—but they will remember how hard their mom worked to make it special.

You’re doing an amazing job. So be kind to yourself this holiday season; you deserve some happy memories, too.

Merry Christmas,

Olivia

The post A Message To Single Moms At Christmas appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Infidelity Affect the Outcome of Your Divorce

Will Infidelity Affect the Outcome of Your Divorce?

Infidelity Affect the Outcome of Your Divorce

 

Infidelity is a common cause of divorce throughout North America. However, the effect that an affair might have on the outcome of your divorce case will vary depending on your jurisdiction. Different laws set out different standards for how infidelity impacts a divorce, and the following is some information about adultery and some examples of how your divorce outcome might be swayed if your spouse was unfaithful.

Adultery as Grounds for Divorce

For a long time, a spouse had to state “traditional” grounds for divorce that were based on marital misconduct, such as adultery. While all jurisdictions in North America now allow no-fault divorce based on the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage, some jurisdictions still allow spouses to claim fault-based grounds for divorce. In many cases, fault-based grounds can eliminate the need to be separated for a period of time before obtaining a divorce.

If you allege infidelity as grounds for a divorce, your spouse will have the opportunity to contest your allegations. If your spouse does contest, you will need to sufficiently prove the adultery occurred to obtain your divorce. This does not mean that you need to catch your spouse in the actual adulterous act, though you do need to present credible evidence that infers they were engaged in extramarital sexual conduct. Such evidence may include:

  • Statements from friends, family members, or other witnesses who knew about the affair
  • Credit card charges for gifts, hotel rooms, romantic meals, trips, or other expenses related to the affair
  • Emails or text messages
  • Not coming home often or another departure from normal routines without explanation
  • Seeing your spouse with another person

If you are unable to present evidence to support your claims of infidelity, the court can deny your petition for a divorce based on those grounds. You might need to file for no-fault divorce, which might require a period of separation before the case can get underway.

Adultery in a No-Fault Divorce

Many people file for no-fault divorce because it seems simpler or because their jurisdiction does not allow fault-based grounds. In this situation, infidelity may or may not play a role in the divorce process. While you can end your marriage without the court considering infidelity, your spouse’s conduct could still come into play when deciding certain issues in your divorce.

Property Distributions

In some cases, your spouse might have wasted marital assets on an affair. If you have records showing your spouse racked up credit card debt or otherwise spent money on gifts, meals, vacations, or other expenses related to their infidelity, you can claim your spouse wrongfully wasted assets that were rightfully half yours. In this type of situation, the court can decide to award you a larger property award to make up for the funds your spouse wasted for extramarital purposes.

Spousal Support Awards

Whether infidelity affects spousal support (or alimony) awards will depend on the law and policies in your jurisdiction. The laws can vary significantly, including the following:

  • Some jurisdictions prohibit judges from considering infidelity when it comes to spousal support, as the focus should be on the financial need of the recipient spouse
  • Some jurisdictions prevent a spouse from receiving alimony if they were unfaithful
  • Some jurisdictions entitle a spouse to a higher spousal support award if their spouse was unfaithful

It truly depends on where the divorce is occurring, and a knowledgeable divorce lawyer in your jurisdiction can advise you how infidelity might affect your alimony award.

Child Custody

Some spouses might think their children should not be around a parent who sets an immoral example by having affairs. However, a spouse’s infidelity does not make them automatically unfit to parent under the eyes of the law. Instead, the court will consider what is in the best interests of the child when determining custody arrangements. Some factors the court might consider include:

  • Is the adulterous spouse engaged in affairs with numerous people at the same time?
  • Does your spouse expose your child to inappropriate situations as a result of his affairs?
  • Is the adulterous behavior accompanied by substance abuse, being gone for long hours, or other behavior that puts the child at risk of harm or neglect?

If the court believes that your spouse’s parenting abilities are impacted by the circumstances accompanying the infidelity, it might impact the custody determination.

Resolving Your Divorce Case

Even if you are rightfully angry and hurt by your spouse’s infidelity, this should not be the driving force leading to a certain outcome of your divorce. Family courts encourage divorcing spouses to focus on resolution instead of blame and fault, as this often makes it easier to compromise and reach out-of-court agreements. In some cases, raising the issue of infidelity can improve your divorce outcome while, in others, it might simply distract from the important issues and not impact the outcome at all.

If you are filing for divorce because your husband was unfaithful, it is important to examine all of your options and strategies with an experienced divorce lawyer. This way, you can take the best approach to ensure the best possible outcome of your case.

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Covert Narcissistic Ex Nearly Destroyed Our Children

Maddie’s Story: How My Covert Narcissistic Ex Nearly Destroyed Our Children

Covert Narcissistic Ex Nearly Destroyed Our Children

 

In part one and part two of my story, I discuss how I no longer feel responsible for his behavior and, how I found it so easy to fall in love with him. Today I want to discuss how my covert narcissist destroyed our children.

I guess I should say, nearly destroyed because, thankfully, for them, I was always there to guide them through the damage he did to them. Even with my guidance and love, the damage is there and will last their entire lifetime.

There is nothing more heart wrenching than having no recourse against someone who is doing grave emotional harm to your children. If a stranger had done what their father did, I would have had recourse. But, since it was their father, the family court system turned a blind eye to his behavior.

It started from the beginning, the very beginning before I even knew there would be a divorce.

I’m sharing this information in bullet points in order to keep my thoughts straight and not running together. We’ve been divorced for nearly 2 decades, there is no way I can share the entire story but, these are issues I remember as being the most damaging.

How My Covert Narcissistic Ex Nearly Destroyed Our Children

  • He made the decision to divorce without a discussion with me. One day he was there, the next he was gone. Here is how he told our children before he ever told me. He went to our older son’s school and checked him out of school. He told our son, to not ask him any questions, to get in the car and he would explain after they picked up our younger son. He then went to our younger son’s school and checked him out. Once they were all in the car, the boys in the backseat, he turned, looked at them and said, “Your Mom and I are getting divorced. I’m leaving and never coming home.” Needless to say, our sons became very emotional. They thought they came from a happy home and family. He had just dropped a bomb on them. They begged and pleaded for an explanation, but he refused to look at or respond to their questions and evident distress. He pulled up into the driveway or our home and told them to get out. He left them standing in the driveway, crying with our youngest who was six at the time, writhing on the ground.

 

  • He didn’t see the children for a month after that and when he did, he was only interested in spending time with our youngest. When our oldest son, asked him why he never invited him to visit his father told him, “because I have a deeper bond with your little brother. “I think I love him more than I love you.” I told him he couldn’t take one without taking both, that I would not allow him to ignore the needs of our older son. So, he began visiting with both boys. The problem? Both boys had questions about why he left, why he was doing what he was doing. He refused to answer their questions or allow them to ask questions. He said, “I won’t have my time with you marred by unpleasant conversation.”

 

  • Our oldest eventually stopped going on visitations with him and requested his Dad join him in therapy to work through their “relationship issues.” His Dad refused therapy together but said he would see our son’s therapist on his own when he had time. When asked by our son why he didn’t want to go with him, he responded with, “I don’t owe you anything, not my time, not my feelings, NOTHING.” That’s when our oldest son gave up on his father.

 

  • It’s been 14 years since he’s had a conversation or spent any time with our oldest son. My ex has a DIL and granddaughter that he has never met and, given his actions must not have an interest in meeting. He also has a grown son who is in therapy to deal with the damage done by a father who abandoned him.

 

  • My ex continued to visit with our youngest son. He saw him once a month. No phone calls, email or contact between those once a month visits. Our younger son would email and text him, but he never got a response. He asked his Dad to call on Tuesday nights to help him study for spelling tests. His father refused. He asked his Dad to help him build a car for the Boy Scout’s Pinewood Derby, his father refused.

 

  • Three years after our divorce my ex became seriously involved in a relationship with a woman who had an older daughter. That is when he completely cut off our younger son. He had no communication or face-to-face contact with your youngest or oldest sons for six years.

 

  • When our younger son was 16, he had a psychotic break. He was hospitalized and diagnosed with PTSD and Bi-Polar Disorder. His medical records state “Psychosis due to parental abandonment.” According to the Psychiatrist our son needed his father. The Psychiatrist called my ex and my ex told him that there was nothing he could do to help. That what was going on was my fault, not his. How could it be his fault because he hadn’t seen the kid is six years. The psychiatrist told him that, that was exactly why our son was having issues. My ex hung up on him.

 

  • It’s been another 8 years with no contact from their father. Since the day he left the marriage he has not sent a Christmas gift, Birthday gift, attended a graduation, wedding or acknowledge the important things in their lives.

I’m happy to report that both sons are flourishing. They are stable, ethical men. Both have great careers and one has a lovely family. The majority of their day-to-day lives are lived without thought of their Dad and what he did to them.

They both, however, are in therapy. One is on medication he’ll take for the rest of his life and neither will be rid of the scars left by a covert narcissistic father who discarded them as if they were dirt on his shoes.

The Family Courts and Emotional Abuse of a Child

You can protect your child via the courts if they’re being emotionally abused. You can request a custody evaluation, get a Guardian Ad Litem for them, or a psyche evaluation. There is nothing you can do via the courts to protect a child from abandonment by a father.

Google, “Legally forcing a man to visit his children” and you’ll come up with nothing. I came up with one article that said, “visitation is a privilege, not a legal responsibility?” Since a man who abandons his children isn’t breaking any laws there is no way to hold them legally responsible for the damage done by their abandonment.

That’s why I tell other mothers who are dealing with the damage done by such fathers that it’s up to them to clean up the mess to the best of their ability. It’s up to all us mothers who’ve watched a narcissistic father damage his children to do our best to cushion the damage being done.

We can’t fill the hole left by an absent father. That isn’t within our power. We can let our children know that we are their “ride or die.” We can promote their emotional wellbeing by enlisting friends and relatives to show them love and support.

If you’re lucky you’ve got a brother or father who can step in and take up some of the slack and become surrogate fathers. It still won’t fill that hole left by the father but, there is never too much love and caring given to children who’ve been abandoned.

I was thinking about the Catholic church the other day and how suits can be filed by people who were molested by Priests. My hope is that one day, adults who were abandoned by a parent will have the same right to sue that parent for punitive damages. It won’t make them whole again or undo the damage but, I can think of nothing better than legally punishing a parent who skipped out on their children.

Protect your children, Mamas! You are their lifeline. You are their hope. You are all that stands between them and their narcissistic father.

The post Maddie’s Story: How My Covert Narcissistic Ex Nearly Destroyed Our Children 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.

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hiring an effective attorney

The Secret to Hiring an Effective Attorney:  Emotional Intelligence

hiring an effective attorney

 

My parents divorced right after I was born and I was raised by my mother. She was a social worker for the New York State Division for Youth. She worked there for decades and I can remember going into her government office, in Syracuse, New York, and raiding the office’s supply closet. Money was always tight.

Being raised by a single mother was challenging, for sure, but I was very fortunate that my mother was emotionally intelligent. In fact, had I been raised by my father I suspect my life would have been far less purpose-driven and more focused on self-centered endeavors. I am a very lucky man in that respect.

I am now a divorce and family attorney with a family of my own. I speak with people every day about divorce, custody modifications, relocation, decision-making and everything else one would expect of someone managing a large family law firm. I watch competitors everyday market to their “target audience.”

Marketing Based on Fear:

We have a lot of “Men’s Rights Firms” here in our state, and they get many clients calling every day. We have law firms locally that market “aggressive representation” (admittedly I did as well in the beginning) and messaging similar to “We Win Family Law cases.”  Nobody wins these cases. I see no value in advertising expertise or specialty related to the sex of a client. It’s marketing based on fear, and it’s natural for parents to be fearful as they contemplate major life changes.

I disagree with the idea that you need to have any plan in place other than being very deliberate and thoughtful about choosing an attorney.

He cheated on you.

He lied to you.

He isn’t a good dad.

He used marital money to buy his mid-life-crisis answer.

If someone told you, when you are raw and emotional, to get aggressive and hire Lawyer X to fight for you, I suspect you would think that is a good idea. I suspect I would feel the same way. But that is really, really bad advice.

The Secret to Hiring an Effective Attorney:  Emotional Intelligence

Fighting and being aggressive has its place in every family law case, but how you fight and how you are aggressive is the key. Understand that you are extracting yourself from a dysfunctional relationship. There is pain, fear, anger and every other emotion open and available for you to experience.The feeling you do not want is regret with your choice in representation.

I strongly suggest that you seek representation that does not mirror you, your emotions, or your anger…at least at the outset. Do not hire an attorney who gets you motivated to destroy him. If your case warrants a parenting time restriction, or a protection order, a private investigator or a Child and Family Investigator then the right attorney will guide you only after he or she understands your case, your relationship with your husband and children, and your goals.

Choose an emotionally intelligent lawyer. 

What exactly is that?

Emotionally intelligent people are…aware. That’s all. But that’s huge! An emotionally intelligent attorney uses all her tools in her toolbox. She doesn’t react to opposing counsel who thinks being a jerk is in the job description.

An emotionally intelligent attorney uses data, strategy and thought in accordance with a communicated plan of action geared towards a successful outcome. They think about their actions and advice, understanding the raw nature of the situation, and they don’t exploit the client’s fears. Emotionally intelligent attorneys can inspire and protect clients, oftentimes, from themselves.

Think about it. Your husband cheated on you with someone you know. He is clearly a piece of trash and shouldn’t have parenting time because he can’t be trusted. Right? Or, even more cutting, he introduces your children to her as he and your babies “accidentally” run into her while grocery shopping. You want it to stop. You want him to pay dearly. That mindset will have many lawyers licking their chops to follow your strategy and blow it all up…and bill you for it all.

Emotional intelligence is not a weakness. It is the epitome of strength and most lawyers don’t have it. Emotional intelligence is seeing the case from both the 30,000-foot view, anticipating behaviors based on the data, and having the legal and factual knowledge to make strategic decisions that benefit the client in the short term and long term.

Emotional intelligence is not ripping off scathing emails to opposing counsel, at your behest, because you are hurt. Emotional intelligence is using your narcissist husband’s abusive texts to your advantage by waiting until he portrays himself the way he sees himself and opposite to what the facts, collateral witnesses and written or recorded communications conclusively portray him to be.

If your “aggressive lawyer” did what you asked, or on her own, acted, by emailing opposing counsel and threatened your husband you will feel better…and you likely lost the benefit of all the data because you allowed the lawyer to tip off your husband that he has bad facts to overcome.

Emotionally intelligent lawyers see the forest through the trees and effectively save you from your emotions, while at the same time advancing your effectively strategized case towards a successful resolution. Sophisticated, emotionally intelligent representation can be lulling your husband to sleep with false confidence, only to trap him in his lies at mediation or trial.

That is effective, and even aggressive, representation and is done at the highest level by very few attorneys.

There is nothing worse than lining up a narcissist with his own words/actions/behaviors only to see this leverage disappear because a lawyer was lazy, greedy or both.

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