Co-parenting can be a challenging task for any parent, but co-parenting with a narcissist can be even more difficult. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition that affects 1% of the population. It is a disorder characterised by a lack of empathy, an inflated sense of self-importance, and a need for admiration. Narcissists can be manipulative, controlling, and difficult to communicate with. If you are co-parenting with a narcissist, it is important to learn effective strategies for setting boundaries, communicating effectively, and managing conflicts.
What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition characterised by a lack of empathy, an inflated sense of self-importance, and a need for admiration. People with NPD often have an exaggerated sense of their own abilities and accomplishments, and they may believe they are superior to others. They may also be preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, or beauty. Narcissists may exploit others for their own gain, lack empathy for others, and have difficulty maintaining healthy relationships.
Co-parenting with a Narcissist
Co-parenting with a narcissist can be a challenging task. Narcissists may try to control the co-parenting relationship, manipulate their children, or use their children as pawns in their own power struggles. However, it is possible to co-parent successfully with a narcissist by setting boundaries, communicating effectively, and managing conflicts.
Setting boundaries is an essential part of co-parenting with a narcissist. It is important to establish clear guidelines for communication, decision-making, and parenting responsibilities. Boundaries help to prevent the narcissist from controlling the co-parenting relationship and allow the other parent to maintain their own autonomy.
Effective boundaries may include:
Limiting communication to specific times or methods, such as email or a co-parenting app.
Defining decision-making responsibilities, such as which parent is responsible for making medical or educational decisions.
Establishing a parenting plan that outlines parenting time, holidays, and special events.
Avoiding discussions about personal matters or past relationship issues.
Communicating effectively with a narcissist can be challenging. Narcissists may be manipulative, dismissive, or defensive in their communication. However, it is possible to communicate effectively by using specific strategies.
Effective communication strategies may include:
Using “I” statements to express feelings or concerns without blaming the other parent.
Staying calm and avoiding emotional reactions to the narcissist’s behaviour.
Sticking to specific topics and avoiding tangents or personal attacks.
Maintaining a professional tone and avoiding sarcasm or insults.
Documenting all communication and keeping a record of important decisions or agreements.
Conflicts are inevitable in any co-parenting relationship, but conflicts with a narcissist can be particularly challenging. Narcissists may try to escalate conflicts, manipulate the situation, or turn the children against the other parent. However, it is possible to manage conflicts effectively by using specific strategies.
Effective conflict management strategies may include:
Seek professional help
If you find yourself struggling to effectively communicate and manage conflicts with a narcissistic ex-partner, seeking the help of a professional can be incredibly beneficial. A licensed therapist or counsellor can help you develop coping strategies and provide guidance on how to navigate the complexities of coparenting with a narcissist.
Avoid engaging in power struggles
It’s essential to avoid engaging in power struggles with a narcissistic ex-partner. Narcissists crave power and control, and engaging in a power struggle can give them the attention and validation they seek. Instead, try to focus on what is best for your children and communicate in a calm and rational manner.
Communicate in writing
When communicating with a narcissistic ex-partner, it can be helpful to do so in writing. This allows you to carefully choose your words and avoid getting drawn into arguments. It also provides a record of your communication, which can be helpful if conflicts arise in the future.
Set clear boundaries
Setting clear boundaries is crucial when coparenting with a narcissist. Establishing boundaries can help protect you and your children from emotional abuse and manipulation. Examples of boundaries you may want to set could include limiting communication to specific times of the day or week, not responding to emails or texts that are inflammatory or manipulative, and not engaging in arguments over the phone.
Taking care of yourself is essential when coparenting with a narcissist. Narcissistic ex-partners can be emotionally draining and manipulative, and it’s essential to prioritise your own well-being. This can include getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, exercising, and finding ways to manage stress, such as through meditation or therapy.
In conclusion, co-parenting with a narcissist can be a challenging experience, but it is not impossible. It requires a lot of patience, understanding, and flexibility. Effective co-parenting strategies involve setting boundaries, communicating effectively, and managing conflicts that arise in a constructive manner.
Remember, the well-being of your children should always come first. It is essential to remain calm and level-headed when dealing with a narcissistic co-parent. Always keep your communication polite and respectful, and don’t hesitate to seek professional help if needed.
By implementing the strategies discussed in this article, you can create a more positive co-parenting experience for yourself and your children. Don’t give up hope, and always remember that you are not alone in this journey.
Q: What are some common traits of a narcissistic ex-partner?
A: Narcissistic individuals tend to have an inflated sense of self-importance, a constant need for admiration and attention, a lack of empathy for others, and a tendency to exploit others for their own gain.
Q: How can I effectively communicate with a narcissistic ex-partner?
A: It’s important to remain calm and rational when communicating with a narcissistic ex-partner. It can also be helpful to communicate in writing, set clear boundaries, and avoid engaging in power struggles.
Q: What should I do if my narcissistic ex-partner is emotionally abusive towards me or our children?
A: It’s important to seek professional help if your narcissistic ex-partner is emotionally abusive towards you or your children. A licensed therapist or counsellor can provide guidance and support on how to cope with the abuse and protect yourself and your children.
Q: How can I protect my children when coparenting with a narcissistic ex-partner?
A: Setting clear boundaries and communicating in writing can help protect you and your children from emotional abuse and manipulation. It’s also important to prioritise your children’s well-being and seek professional help if needed.
Q: Can a narcissistic ex-partner change their behaviour?
A: It’s possible for a narcissistic individual to change their behaviour, but it’s rare. Narcissistic traits are deeply ingrained, and individuals with narcissistic personality disorder may not see their behaviour as problematic. However, seeking professional help and therapy can be beneficial in some cases.
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Divorce can be an emotionally challenging experience for all parties involved, especially when it is a high-conflict divorce. Unfortunately, when parents cannot come to an agreement, it can negatively affect their children, leading to parental alienation. In this article, we will explore the connection between high-conflict divorce and parental alienation, and what parents can do to prevent it.
How High-Conflict Divorce Can Affect Children
A high-conflict divorce can have a profound impact on a child’s mental health and well-being. Children may feel like they are caught in the middle of their parents’ disagreements and may start to blame themselves for their parents’ issues. Children may also feel like they have to choose between their parents, leading to loyalty conflicts. These issues can lead to anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems in children.
What is Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation occurs when one parent deliberately tries to turn their child against the other parent. This can be done in subtle or overt ways, such as badmouthing the other parent, limiting contact with the other parent, or manipulating the child to choose one parent over the other. This behavior is often a result of a high-conflict divorce, where one parent is trying to gain an advantage over the other in a custody battle.
Signs of Parental Alienation
Parental alienation can be difficult to detect, but there are some signs that may indicate that a child is experiencing it. Here are some common signs of parental alienation:
Rejection of one parent: A child who is experiencing parental alienation may reject one parent without any valid reason. They may refuse to spend time with the parent, speak negatively about them, or even refuse to acknowledge their existence.
Lack of guilt: A child who is being manipulated may not feel guilty for their behavior towards the alienated parent. They may feel justified in their rejection of the parent and believe that they are acting on their own.
Inflexible allegiance: The child may be unreasonably loyal to the alienating parent, even in situations where the parent is clearly in the wrong. The child may take the alienating parent’s side in conflicts and refuse to listen to the other parent’s perspective.
Fear or anxiety: A child who is experiencing parental alienation may feel anxious or fearful around the alienated parent. They may believe that they are betraying the alienating parent by spending time with the other parent.
Lack of empathy: The child may show a lack of empathy towards the alienated parent, even if the parent is clearly suffering. They may seem indifferent to the parent’s feelings and needs.
False accusations: In some cases, the child may make false accusations against the alienated parent, such as accusing them of abuse or neglect. These accusations may be part of the alienation campaign orchestrated by the other parent.
It is important to note that these signs may also be present in situations where there is no parental alienation. Therefore, it is essential to carefully evaluate the situation and seek professional help before making any assumptions.
Preventing Parental Alienation
Preventing parental alienation requires a collaborative effort between both parents. Here are some tips and strategies that can help prevent parental alienation:
Put the child’s best interests first: Both parents should prioritize their child’s well-being and put their own issues aside. It is essential to create a safe and stable environment for the child. This means focusing on what is best for the child, even if it means compromising or making sacrifices.
Communicate respectfully: Effective communication is crucial in co-parenting. Parents should try to communicate in a respectful and civil manner, without blaming or criticizing each other. This can help reduce tension and conflict and create a more positive co-parenting relationship.
Create a co-parenting plan: A co-parenting plan can help set clear expectations and boundaries for both parents. It should include a schedule for visitation, holidays, and other events, as well as guidelines for decision-making and conflict resolution. By establishing a plan, both parents can have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities, which can reduce conflict and promote cooperation.
Avoid badmouthing the other parent: It is crucial for parents to avoid speaking negatively about the other parent in front of the child. This can create confusion and negative emotions for the child, leading to parental alienation. Instead, both parents should focus on encouraging a positive relationship between the child and the other parent.
Encourage a positive relationship with the other parent: Parents should encourage their child to have a positive relationship with the other parent. This can be done by speaking positively about the other parent, facilitating communication, and supporting their relationship. It is important for the child to feel comfortable and supported in their relationship with both parents.
Seek professional help: Family therapy and counseling can be a valuable tool in preventing parental alienation. A qualified therapist can help both parents work through their issues and develop effective co-parenting strategies. Therapy can also provide a safe and neutral space for parents to communicate and resolve conflicts.
Parental alienation can have severe consequences on a child’s mental health and well-being, and it is often a result of a high-conflict divorce. However, by putting their child’s best interests first, communicating respectfully, and working together to create a stable and positive environment, parents can prevent parental alienation and support their child’s healthy development.
If you are struggling with the emotional toll of parental alienation
Our team of experienced counsellors can help you process your emotions and give you the strength you need to keep fighting.
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Maybe you want to take your kids on a quick out-of-state visit to see their grandparents during the holiday season, or maybe you just want to take them skiing. In prior years, this hasn’t been an issue.
Now, however, you’re in the process of a divorce and you’re no longer sure what rules you need to follow. You share the parenting duties and have roughly equal time with the kids, but you’re not sure how much leeway you have when it comes to out-of-state travel. Here’s what you need to know:
You need to check your parenting plan before you do anything
If you’ve already established a temporary parenting plan with your co-parent, you need to look at the document carefully to see if it addresses travel – especially out-of-state travel.
Most likely, your agreement allows for in-state travel during your parenting time, but out-of-state travel probably requires your co-parent’s consent. That means obtaining a letter of consent for travel from your ex.
But, what if the agreement is silent on the issue? It’s still wise to obtain a letter of consent. That can prevent allegations of parental kidnapping or charges that you violated the parenting plan in any way.
It may feel a little intrusive to write up a letter of consent, because you should generally include all the information your co-parent may need, including:
An explanation of where you intend to travel with the children
A rough itinerary of your trip, including return dates
Contact information for the trip, including hotel information
The names of anybody else who will be traveling with the children
When you want your co-parent to agree to your travel plans, you need to be prepared to negotiate a little and make some concessions that will help them feel comfortable with the situation. That may mean promising to have the kids call every night before bed or agreeing to text when you hit certain points in your destination.
If your custody agreement doesn’t have a clear provision for out-of-state travel and you want to add one, it may be time to discuss modifications (before any final orders are put in place).
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At what age in Texas can a child help determine where he or she will live primarily?
In the state of Texas, when your child reaches the age of 12, he or she is legally able to help determine where they will live on a primary basis. However, a family court judge does not need to necessarily follow your child’s wishes and not consider any other information available to him or her. It would be a rare occasion where only the opinion of your child was factored into the decision of a judge. Rather, there are many circumstances and factors in play when it comes to determining an issue of primary conservatorship in a Texas child custody or divorce case. Not only is the opinion of your child important but also what is in the child’s best interests.
It would be a mistake for you to tell your child, or anyone else for that matter, that he or she is going to be able to choose where they live primarily after the family law case is over with. As we just finished discussing, your child will play a role in determining where he or she lives, potentially, but a family court judge will likely have much more evidence to consider than simply the wishes of your child when it comes to figuring out where he or she will live primarily. Children must abide by make custody orders until they reach the age of adulthood. Until then, the terms of the custody order will impact where your child lives and how often you and your co-parent can possess your child.
It used to be that if your child were over the age of 12 then he or she could sign some paperwork telling the court which parent he or she would like to live with primarily. A child’s primary residence is where he or she lives during the school week. The other parent would have visitation, most likely on the first, 3rd, and 5th weekends of each month. Primary conservatorship is important because it carries with it more time and likely more rights to be able to make decisions for your child.
Now in Texas, the law has changed that your child may speak to the judge in their office privately about their wishes regarding primary conservatorship if he or she is over the age of 12. Testifying in court about custody preferences does not happen very often. One of the reasons why this is very rare is that most parents do not want to put their child in the middle of a contested custody hearing or trial and therefore have their child feel like they are having to choose between you or their co-parent.
How it works is that if you or your co-parent file a motion with the judge to have your child be able to express to the judge their wishes as far as primary conservatorship is concerned the judge must interview your child in their office if he or she is over the age of 12. You may file the same motion for you were a child under the age of 12 but at that point, it is up to the judge whether he or she will allow your child to be interviewed. The facts and circumstances of your case as well as whether the judge thinks a child of their age will be able to express themselves adequately will also factor into the primary custody decision and whether or not an interview will be allowed.
How will the interview work with your child?
If your child is to be interviewed by the judge, then it must be in a non-jury trial setting. Fortunately, most child custody cases are bench trials before the judge and do not involve juries. As we just finished talking about the judge will determine whether to allow the interview to be conducted if your child is under the age of 12. If your child is 12 or older then the judge must allow for the interview to occur, but it is up to the judge’s discretion whether to allow for your attorney in that or your Co-parent to be present during the interview itself. However, if you or your co-parent request that a court reporter is present then the judge must allow for that to occur. Under no circumstances are you or your co-parent allowed in the judge’s office during this interview.
How closely does the judge have to follow the desires of your child as far as primary custody?
The judge is under no obligation to follow your child’s specific wishes or wants as far as primary custody or visitation. This is true for many reasons, not the least of which involves how the opinions and desires of teenage children tend to change quite frequently. One day your child could express an intense desire to live with you primarily. The next, the opposite could be true when your child wants to live with your co-parent. Very little may have changed overnight but your child is learning and developing and changes in their opinion like this are normal. However, that does not mean that a family court judge must necessarily take everything your child says at face value. Judges know enough to be able to determine that the opinion of teenagers tend to change rapidly for several reasons or no reason at all.
Oftentimes, children make decisions based on factors as simple as who allows the child to get away with more, who is less strict in the household, which parent lives closer to their friends, or which parent is “nicer.” I have seen children express desires to live with one parent over the other because that parent is a better cook. This is not to belittle or second guess the opinions of your children as they go through a very difficult stage in their life. However, it does speak to how the interests of your child at their age may be quite different than what is in their best interests. This is the standard that a family court judge and you as a parent must follow when making decisions for your child. Children are notoriously poor at making decisions that are in their long-term best interests. This is one of the most important reasons why a family court judge will not solely consider the opinion of your child when it comes to determining their primary conservator and place of residence.
Judges are also aware of the possibility that your child may be influenced by you or your Co-parent when it comes to making statements regarding their desire to live with one parent or the other. For example, you may be trying to influence your child by making him or her feel guilty about selecting your co-parent as the primary conservator. Many children can be influenced by feelings of guilt when it comes to giving their opinion on subjects like primary conservatorship. On the other hand, your co-parent may be attempting to bribe your child with gifts, leniency with their schoolwork and chores, or a later bedtime or curfew. These are other factors that a family court judge must be aware of and watch for when questioning your child about their preference for a living situation.
What are the most important factors that a family court judge will look at in considering the opinions of your child?
As with any person in the judge’s position, he or she will likely ask why your child is stating a preference for one parent over the other. If your child walks into their office and says that he or she wants to live with you primarily then a simple follow-up question would likely be why that’s the case. The judge will listen to your child’s answer for several reasons not the least of which is to determine the child’s thought process and maturity level. The more well-developed and thought out your child’s answers and explanations are the more likely the judge in your child’s case will be to consider the opinion as more valid and trustworthy. Age has a lot to do with this and is a major reason why children under the age of 12 are not always given the ability to speak to a judge about this subject.
If your child expresses their desire to live with a parent who allows for a later curfew, fewer rules, and more junk food then that probably will not sit well with the judge and he or she may end the interview at that point. It would be very unlikely for the child’s position to carry much weight with the judge.
What specific elements of a parenting plan can your child potentially choose?
Other than deciding which parent will become their primary conservator, the law in Texas does not provide much in the way of autonomy to your child when it comes to other decisions that can be made in your case. Imagine putting yourself in a position where your child can determine how and when you see him or her without being able to submit evidence or have a court consider your arguments. The child custody laws of Texas are designed to prevent a situation like this from occurring.
On the other hand, there is a possibility that a child custody evaluator, amicus attorney, or attorney ad litem is appointed to your case to provide the judge with another set of eyes and ears on the case to help him or her decide. All these people could be appointed (though likely not all in one case) to give the judge a different perspective on the case. Remember that no matter how much evidence you submit in a hearing or trial the judge will only know what is happening in your case based on what is going on inside the courthouse. Needless to say, what goes on outside of court is more indicative of who you are as a parent.
How can you convince a judge to let your younger child speak on custody issues?
If you have a child who is under the age of 12 then you may be looking for any tips that you can get your hands on as far as helping to convince a judge to consider strongly the wishes of a younger child. Remember that the judge does not even have to speak to a child under the age of 12 even if you were to file a motion requesting that this occurs. With that said, how can you get to a point where the judge more strongly considers their opinion when he or she is going to decide on naming a primary conservator of the children?
We have already talked about one of the options that you can consider- namely, asking the court to appoint an amicus attorney. An amicus attorney would represent your interests of you by communicating the child’s preferences to the judge as well as other information. This is sort of an inadvertent way to have your child’s preferences be made known to the judge without ever having your child step foot in the judge’s office. This may even be preferable for you if you want to do whatever is possible to your child as uninvolved with the divorce or child custody as possible.
Ideally, the amicus attorney will be told by your child where he or she wants to live primarily. That information can be relayed to the judge either in writing or orally in a hearing. Taking your child as a counselor may be a good way to help him or her sort out their emotions surrounding the family law case. It is also a way for you to get your child’s position on the record without having him testify. This could be done by calling the counselor as a witness either in a temporary order hearing or trial.
The best interest standard in a child custody case
The best interest standard is one that is applied in child custody cases across the country. However, be aware that the factors that a judge can consider do not appear in a specific order. Rather, the judge is empowered to make custody decisions based on the best interests of your child. He or she will consider these factors in some order when it comes to your child custody case.
Your relationship with your child is crucial when you are asking to become that child’s primary conservator. If you have been a well-meaning yet distant parent then you probably do not stand much of a chance to become the child’s primary conservator. This isn’t due to your being a bad parent or an absentee parent. Rather, it is due to your never having played that role in the life of your child before. Family Court judges are very conservative when it comes to handing down conservatorship orders. Do not expect miracles if you have never been the primary caretaker of your children.
Next, it can feel overly personal at times but your mental health and that of your co-parent are extremely relevant in the context of a child custody or divorce case. If you are battling with suicidal thoughts, extreme behavioral issues are important for the case to consider. If you do have any mental health troubles, then you should discuss them with your attorney at the beginning of a case. Do not hide these diagnoses or problems from your attorney. The last thing you will want to do is to completely not tell your attorney about the problems with mental health that you may be experiencing.
How old your child is plays a huge role in determining primary custody- especially if your child has spoken to the judge in their office. The older your child is the more mature he or she likely is. This means that a judge is more likely to consider their opinion. On the other hand, your child may be too young to testify to the judge and may be at an age where their main concern is who they are going to dress up as for Halloween.
It should be obvious to you that there are a lot of moving pieces in play when you are a part of a divorce or child custody case. For that reason, you should reach out to an experienced family law attorney to help guide you in a case. A consultation with an attorney who can answer questions and who can provide you with information is a great start. Find yourself an attorney with the heart of a teacher and you can succeed often.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
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My heart is as heavy for you as it is for me. Not only have you had to suffer through the loss of your relationship, but now you must determine your and your children’s future over maybe a three-hour mediation and face the long-term consequences of these quick decisions.
The caring for children while healing. The worry about their well-being. The constant waves of grief. And the anger. And now you must plan while in this anxious state. Oh, the stress of it all.
Divorce: Do Not Do What I Did
Do not do what I did. My focus became the custody of the children and all the parenting plan details – not the finances.
While I researched and hired one of the best lawyers I could afford, the realistic economic outlook for my life after was a blip on the horizon.
I did find articles on how to plan financially after a divorce as a stay-at-home mother. I did advocate for him to keep paying the children’s insurance and acquire a life insurance policy to secure his child support payments if anything happened to him (note – this was not a suggestion from a lawyer but something I read about online from another divorced mother).
In the state where we divorced, it is 50/50 everything – parenting time, medical bills, private tuition, and extra-curricular activities. I thought I understood what this meant.
The words from a former acquaintance after his divorce echoed in my head: “She calls herself a feminist but still wants me to take care of her after the divorce. We don’t have kids. We weren’t married that long.”
I would not be like her. Ah, my feminist pride.
I also remember hearing others talk about that same divorcee’s recent vacation pictures on social media as her “alimony adventures,” as if to suggest her financial decisions post-divorce were still tied to how much he had to, unfortunately, pay to her.
This is a limited perception. The profits went to pay off my house, and the rest went into a retirement account.
Yes, I am highly abundant in some ways. However, long term, I am distraught.
While I do wholeheartedly believe in the capabilities of women to work, to find meaningful, decently paid work while allowing flexibility for caregiving as a single mom is vastly limited.
I am a highly educated woman. I hold a Master’s degree and a certificate in Women’s Studies. Before staying at home after the birth of my first child, I was an adjunct English professor. And before that, I taught high school English full-time.
Educational professions are still highly gendered, meaning a career that is mostly dominated by females, which further means they are generally underpaid. There are not many opportunities without constant professional development demands (that require late nights, and weekend classes) to achieve, once again, limited roles and salaries for upward mobility.
This is important because although teaching provides flexibility like time off in summer, the disparity between a teacher’s salary and, let’s say, a CEO’s salary is massive.
Earning Power Should be a Factor in Settlement Negotiations
Nevertheless, instead of proclaiming an arbitrary rule of 50/50 in all finances, earning power should be a determining factor for financial decisions. If our main concern is the care of the children, then this idea isn’t shocking or anti-feminist.
So, I advise you: please look ahead. Pay attention to your financial future. Do not depend on lawyers to explain and advocate for your family’s needs. You must be discerning on this issue. You absolutely can ask for a different ratio.
Pay Attention to Your Financial Future
Frustratingly, this is something we as women must battle for instead of it being recognized innately by our exes and the courts.
If you were a stay-at-home mother for years before the divorce, your financial future is even more imperative.
The outlook that providing spousal support for half the amount of years you were married may look fair in the beginning. But the long-term view is clearly lacking.
I have applied to 127 various jobs in three years. I have tutored on the side. I have piecemealed adjunct positions, all the while being asked to pay half of private school education, medical bills, and other emergencies.
Perhaps you may have requested for the children to move schools or asked your ex to pay more tuition and then were told this was a clear manipulation tactic, that you were leveraging how much he cares about the children to make him pay for it, so you didn’t have to.
And let’s say perhaps your ex has a different “lifestyle” than you. Perhaps they drive luxury sports cars, or just built a new home, or have a house manager who does laundry and cooks and cleans, i.e., they have more than enough to provide a level of care for your children that you no longer can, a level they expect to be the norm.
When does this asking to look at finances differently stop being seen as highlighting excuses and victimhood instead of illuminating very real financial concerns for our children’s futures?
The economic warfare between divorced parents must cease.
The earning power of both parents must be a determining factor in the equality of the dissolution of marriage and the support of the children forward.
My retirement investment portfolio has substantially decreased in this post-covid economy. Teaching positions are few but have overwhelming numbers of applicants. Scouring the country to find a full-time professor job takes my children away from their dad. This is my reality. I wish I would not have been so short-sighted.
Stay-at-Home Mothers are Disadvantaged
But let me be clear – I do not believe stay-at-home mothers are financial victims.
Yes, systematically, we are disadvantaged (lower-waged careers, being the primary caregiver, breaks in work history seen as a negative, etc.)
But part of this is our own lack of financial knowledge and giving away our power as independent actors once married. We defer all financial decisions to our husbands. When half of the marriages end in divorce, we are clearly setting ourselves up for economic peril.
We have power by recognizing our part in the situation. Let me remind you; I said part. This is not all our fault. I am not victim-blaming here. I am looking for ways to support solutions to these issues.
But we have failed ourselves by failing to learn we have control from the beginning. We have control over the outcomes by what we advocate for in our divorce.
And I know I am giving you yet another concern on your already full plate. I hate that for us. And I recognize here I am asking us, women, to keep demanding we should be seen and heard, and understood in a world that doesn’t always do that.
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Co-parenting is rarely easy or straightforward, whether divorce has made your ex behave like a pig or they’ve always been a narcissist.
Sometimes it seems like he was created for the sole purpose of pushing all your buttons. Despite all that, you want to do what’s best for your kids and offer them stability, no matter how much your toxic ex gets under your nerves.
Keep Your Cool While Co-Parenting
You only need to worry about your interactions with him as long as he’s still being a good father. The best thing you can do is to keep them to a minimum where possible, even getting friends or family to help you exchange the kids. When you have to be in the same room together, use these tips to facilitate the best possible outcome.
Remove the Guesswork
You should both work to create a co-parenting plan you can agree on. Amicable discussions might not always be possible with a toxic ex. If they’re not willing to find compromises or work with you, try meeting with a couples therapist specializing in co-parenting.
You can involve lawyers and go to court if nothing else works, but that really should be a last resort. A judge can help make final decisions, but they ultimately don’t know you, your ex, or your kids personally.
Wait 24 Hours
Almost any issues you have with your ex can wait 24 hours. Holding off will give you time to take some breaths and get much-needed distance from the situation. If you respond in anger, he’ll see he was able to ruffle your feathers and count it as a win. He’s also more likely to use whatever the situation was as a trigger again.
Take a whole day to sit with your feelings and decide if the interaction truly needs a response. Ask for advice from a close friend or family member. Perhaps there’s a better way to handle the situation that’ll spare your feelings and your kids.
Be Intentional With Communication
The best tip for dealing with a toxic ex is to get all important communication in writing. Email is a good method since nobody can change what’s written. This way, you have physical proof to use in the future if necessary. Keep track of anything that could be labeled abusive.
Hopefully, things won’t get that far. You want to be able to move on with your life and co-parent with as little contact as possible. However, having any interactions documented in writing will be extremely helpful if you need to present a case.
Focus On What’s in Your Control
You can’t control how your ex chooses to parent. As long as he’s keeping your kids safe and meeting their basic needs, he can call the shots at his house. If your co-parenting relationship is particularly toxic, your ex may try to get under your skin by intentionally letting the children do or eat things you wouldn’t have approved of when you were together.
Refrain from reacting right away. His intention might just be to get a rise out of you, so don’t give him the satisfaction. Even though it’s difficult, you must remember that you each get to choose how you parent as long as you keep the kids safe and obey any court orders.
Lean On Your Support System
Establish a strong group of supportive friends and family. You’ll want to have people to vent to when things get especially frustrating. You may also need their help facilitating pick-up or drop-off with your ex. Call on your clan to get you out of the house and distract you on the rough days when your kids aren’t with you.
Despite your negative feelings, it is best to keep any discussion of your ex-positive while around your kids. Having adult loved ones to lean on will give you a separate outlet for your emotions rather than letting them loose on your children. The environment you offer your kids significantly impacts their development, so make sure it’s a positive one.
Become a Self-Care Pro
Trying to wait before reacting, making concrete co-parenting plans, and leaning on your support system will significantly improve your ability to deal with your toxic ex.
The next step is to spend some time reducing your stress levels. Dealing with your ex regularly isn’t easy on any divorced mom, and suddenly having time without your kids is a difficult adjustment. Use your newfound time away to its fullest extent. The possibilities are endless: pick up old hobbies, read a good book or invest in your education. Whatever you choose to do, the focus should be entirely on you and what brings you joy.
Talk to a Therapist
Your friends and family can be a great support system, and you should definitely talk to them about how you’re feeling. However, they can’t possibly see the situation from a completely neutral viewpoint.
Seeing a therapist will help you get the clarity you need. You’ll probably even learn some new coping skills and strategies. Your counselor will also be able to treat you appropriately if it turns out you have any mental health issues because of everything you’ve been through.
These tips will help you get through co-parenting encounters with your dignity intact and stay stable for your kids. If your ex only exhibits toxic behavior in his interactions with you, this should be enough.
However, if his actions hurt your kids or you know or suspect any form of abuse, get help immediately. Involving yourself could only lead to more trouble for you or your children. Instead, reach out to the proper authorities like the police or children and youth services. In an emergency, don’t hesitate to call 911.
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Narcissistic families do a very good job of looking “normal” to the outside world. But inside they are full of self-loathing, hurt, anger, anxiety and pain.
The impact of having a narcissistic family of origin can last a lifetime and reveal itself in relationships, behaviours, thoughts and feelings.
This guide will reveal the truth behind the curtain of narcissistic families with the aim of helping:
Individuals who have experienced a narcissistic family of origin
Those who have escaped a narcissistic family (either through birth or marriage) but are struggling with comprehending their reality
Those who are attempting to co-parenting with a narcissist and have concerns about their child repeating these same damaging patterns
Anyone who is going to court against a narcissist and is looking for more understanding and the correct terminology to use when explaining the situation to professionals
Anyone with an interest in understanding narcissistic families
Types of Narcissist
There are many different terms used to describe narcissists (cerebral, somatic, overt and covert, malignant) but I think these labels sum up the behaviours much clearer.
The toxic narcissist
A toxic narcissist “continually causes drama in others’ lives at the very least and causes pain and destruction at the very worst,” says clinical psychologist John Mayer, PhD. If someone in your life has caused more extreme issues, like gotten you fired from your job, physically abused you, or led to the end of a relationship, they may be a toxic narcissist as well.
The psychopathic narcissist
A psychopath is an unstable, aggressive person, and these traits also show up in the psychopathic narcissist. A psychopathic narcissist, which is a type of toxic narcissist, will often be violent and show no remorse for their behavior.
The closet narcissist
This one can be trickier to spot than other types of narcissists because the person isn’t always obvious about their disorder. However they demonstrate the main characteristics of narcissism including feeling entitled, constantly needing other people to admire them, being preoccupied with success, being jealous of other people, and lacking empathy for others.
“They’re a bit more codependent,” says psychotherapist Alisa Ruby Bash, PsyD, LMFT. “They often try to pretend that they’re really selfless, but like to associate themselves with someone that they admire and ride their coattails.”
The exhibitionist narcissist
The exhibitionist narcissist is on the opposite end of the narcissism spectrum from the closet narcissist. This person takes advantage of other people and is often haughty and arrogant. They’re also blatant about their self-centered behavior. They love to be centre of attention and become angry if they are not.
The bullying narcissist
This person combines two terrible traits: bullying and self-absorption. Bullying narcissists build themselves up by bringing others down. They’re often fixated on winning and will mock or threaten others to get their way. They ultimately get joy from making other people feel bad, small, or unworthy.
The seducer narcissist
They will often seem to admire or fawn over you, only to write you off once they no longer have a use for you.
In my opinion, most narcissists can display elements of each of these but one will be their default character.
Characteristics of Narcissists
The likelihood is that very few people will know someone who has clinically diagnosed Narcissistic Personality Disorder because narcissists will rarely seek help for their behaviours. They are often diagnosed with other disorders which mask the true condition. However, I do feel it is important that you know what the official diagnostic criteria is so that we can look at how it presents in families:
(1) has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
(2) is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
(3) believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
(4) requires excessive admiration
(5) has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
(6) is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
(7) lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
(8) is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
(9) shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
NPD in the family context:
Will expect everyone to bow down to them in the family. Has high behavioural expectations of the children. Wants everyone to think they are the perfect parent so will push the child into presenting as perfect which can cause a child great anxiety and make them very fearful of mistakes
Can totally distort reality for the whole family by becoming fixated on what they “should” be doing or being. Children will often overhear their children lie to other people and this can be very confusing when the narcissist (and school/nursery and society in general) have a zero tolerance on lying. The child will struggle to organise their morality as it is one rule for the narcissist and another for everyone else.
The narcissist may over exaggerate the child’s skill or experience in order for the narcissist to achieve their own aim of feeling special. This can set the child up for disappointment, failure and rejection which the narcissist will then punish them for “making them look bad”
Narcissists will ruin special occasions, including their own children’s birthdays to make themselves centre of attention. Parties can be extravagant to show off and have everyone tell them what amazing parents they are for going to so much trouble. They will often exert themselves into situations which are none of their business because they feel they have the power to influence (grandiose sense of self) and then take all the credit (even if they did very little or even made it worse)
Narcissists expect everyone to do as they say. The rule by fear and neglect. If family members disobey them they are punished either with rage or silence and others learn to do as they are told.
Everyone is a commodity to the narcissist including their own children. They will parade them to gain attention from others but ignore them when they do not serve them. This is very confusing to children who need stability and consistency from their parents. Children will also witness lots of changes in people who are around the narcissist. They make and break relationships really easily so children learn not to become too attached to anyone.
To the narcissist, the only feelings that matter are their own. Their mood becomes the mood of the whole family. Everyone learns to respond and sooth the narcissist. In a healthy parent-child relationship, the parent soothes the child but when a parent lacks empathy it is the child who soothes the parent, teaching the child their feelings are not important and making it difficult for them to recognise their own feelings as they are so enmeshed with the narcissists.
The narcissist doesn’t trust anyone and so have a very persecutory view of life. Coupled with their grandiose sense of self and their belief they are entitled, when they see others with things they want or deem of value they become very jealous and can make accusations as to how someone made that achievement. They will even accuse their own children of lying, cheating or stealing from them.
A narcissistic parent looks down on everyone and is quick to criticise. They will compare their children to themselves and others to belittle their achievements.
There are some additional behaviours which are common for narcissists to exhibit:
Projection – the narcissist will tell the child they are feeling something which they are not which can cause long term identity issues as they are unsure what their own feelings feel like
Conditioning through punishment and reward – children of narcissists tend to seek out vulnerable relationships because they have been conditioned to seek out punishment and reward for their behaviours in order to get the attention they need
Triangulation – we will be covering this more shortly but essentially narcissists will use their children to get around someone’s boundaries
Idealise and devalue – children of narcissists cycle through being idealised and devalued on a daily basis as they try to meet the expectations of the narcissist. We will explore this more later
Fear – PTSD and developmental trauma is common in children of narcissists. Their bodies become addicted to the stress hormones and this can cause long term damage to their brain.
Create anxiety – children of narcissists never know where they stand with a narcissistic parent because the narcissist has a disorganised attachment style (more on this later) which creates extreme anxiety as they are unsure how to behave to get their own needs met
Gaslighting – one of the narcissists favourite tools is to distort reality so that they can then control it and they do that by constantly changing the goals posts, denying what was said and making the child question what they saw, heard and felt. It contributes to PTSD, anxiety and long term mental health problems
Emotionally unstable – the narcissist does not have the skills to regulate their own emotions and so they rely upon others (either a spouse or their children) to soothe them. Children quickly learn to spot the signs of dysregulation and how to appease their parent. Walking on eggshells contributes to PTSD, anxiety and long term mental health problems
Alienation and isolation – narcissistic families have secrets which they must keep at all costs. This means relationships are superficial and children’s friendships have to be approved by the narcissist. If anyone disobeys the narcissist or doesn’t meet their expectations they are cut off completely. Children learn by observing the price of disobedience. Read more about Attachment Based Parental Alienation here.
Narcissistic families follow a pattern of behaviour and are almost identical in every narcissistic family. Understanding these themes can help you to move out of the dynamic and into a healthier relationship.
We all know narcissists love to triangulate. Well they will do it with their own children as well as everyone else.
Triangles service three main purposes for the narcissist:
They get to abuse boundaries
They keep everyone in set roles designated by the narcissist
They can be used to ostracise anyone who doesn’t play by their rules
Families will often not communicate directly with one another but through other family members. No one knows who they can trust and this is all purposefully directed by the narcissist to ensure that they remain in control. This also covertly sends the message to everyone that “you are not good enough” because they do not feel valued by anyone.
Another use of the triangle for the narcissist is that they create a very clear hierachy with them firmly established at the top of the tree. Even the spouse is below them and can often be replaced by a child. The narcissist will involve children in parental arguments and encourage them to align with them. This achieves three things:
Gives the child power they are not emotionally or cognitively capable of understanding and dealing with
Pushing the other parent out of the adult position, taking away their authority and putting them into a position of being controlled
Making it easier for emotional cutoff to occur
The narcissist is always ready for the relationship to end and so creating this hierachy and involving the children, means they are ready for the emotional cutoff which comes at the end of a relationship. They will then initiate something known as a role reversal.
This reverse is achieved through a range of behaviours by the narcissistic parent. Firstly, the child becomes the regulatory object for the parent which means that they respond to the emotions of the parent (as the ex spouse used to). The child learns to read the parent’s emotions and responds accordingly to prevent them from completely dysregulating through anger, rage or withdrawal.
The child has been conditioned to know that this is the only way to keep the attachment in tact, which they are desperately clinging on to for survival. The narcissistic parent will punish the child when they don’t meet their needs and reward them when they do. Regular repetition of these behaviours ensures the role-reversal relationship is permanent.
The final part of ensuring the hierarchy is reversed, is for the child to completely align themselves with the narcissistic parent which is achieved by creating an “understanding of shared grievances” against the other parent. For example, the child picks up a picture of the other parent and the narcissistic parent gets really mad. The child puts the picture in a drawer and the narcissistic parent buys them a new toy. They then push that to evoking criticism of the targeted parent using the same conditioning techniques. The child may say they had a good time with the other parent and the narcissist lashes out and tells them they are so ungrateful for all that they do for them. So the child mentions they had a disagreement and the narcissistic parent gives them a hug and tells them that they understand how angry and controlling the targeted parent can be. The child quickly learns that to regulate the narcissistic parent’s emotions and get their own needs met, they simply need to criticise the other parent. This is pushed and pushed until the child rejects the parent, believing it is their own choice. This reduces the anxiety for the parent which in turn reduces the anxiety for the child. At this point the ex spouse is alienated from their own children and the child has lost a loving and healthy parent.
Another triangle at play is the drama, or Karpman, triangle. This is not only playing out in this scenario but is often the basis of the trauma reenactment.
The narcissist will pull the children into the triangle to play whichever role is remaining. If the narcissist has decided they are the victim today, the spouse must be the abuser so the narcissist will encourage the child to take their side and “gang up” on the other parent. If the narcissist chooses to be the rescuer, they can accuse either their spouse or the child as the other roles. The narcissist will accuse the child of being abusive towards the spouse or another child so that they can “rescue them” and manipulate the relationship to win their affection and look like a hero. The narcissist will only ever play the part of the hero or the victim.
Unfortunately the impact on the child is that they take on all three roles in this triangle and learn that relationships are about drama and manipulation. Leading them to seek out abusive partners themselves in adulthood.
All members of a narcissistic family can become co-narcissistic because the personality, opinions and feelings of the narcissist are dominant amongst family members. Everyone is conditioned to think the same and there is very little individualisation within narcissistic families. It is very cult-like. As adults, members struggle with their own identity and often seek validation from others and can be people-pleasures.
Many narcissists use either their own “illness” or the children’s “illness” to control public perception of them, ensure they can act the martyr, create a co-dependency amongst family members and use guilt to control everyone. Being mislabelled as having an illness is extremely confusing for a child who feels fine but is constantly being told they are X, Y and Z. It also teaches them that deception and manipulation can get you sympathy and attention which is a foundation for narcissistic behaviour in adulthood.
Narcissists have no understanding of child development and so will expect their children to do things which they simply are not capable of due to their age. Narcissistic parents will criticise their children for not doing what they want them to, even though they do not have the capacity to do it, which leaves the children feeling they are a failure and letting the parent down in some way.
They will also expect the child to take care of them. This may be physically but is usually emotionally. Everyone in the family has responsibility for managing the narcissists emotions but for very young children this impacts brain development, especially around emotional processing, because they children learn about emotions from their parents helping them to understand and process them but with narcissists, it is the child who has to help the parent.
Trauma gets passed down from generation to generation until someone decides to do the work and heal the wounds. We learn how to interact, have relationships, view ourselves and the world from our early experiences. Life with a narcissistic parent means the overriding theme is trauma. Trauma creates long term damage to the brain and this impacts how we interact with the world. If you grow up seeing power, control and manipulation, you tend to attract the same types of relationships as adults. Helping yourself or your child to heal that trauma can break the cycle.
Everyone is a commodity to a narcissist including their own children. The moment they are of no use to them, they will discard them. This can be hard for a child to understand and they will often internalise guilt and shame, thinking they must have done something wrong and they weren’t good enough.
Conforms to avoid rejection, criticism and shame
Presents as being a high achiever, follows the rules, seeks approval from others, very responsible
Inside they feel guilt, hurt and inadequate
Are the emotional punch bag for the family
Presents as being hostile, defiant, rule breaker, in trouble
Inside they feel rejected, hurt, guilty, jealous and angry
Often the family clown whose role is to make others happy
They present as immature, fragile, cute, hyperactive and distracted
Inside they are fearful, anxious and insecure
They are dependent upon the family
They present as hostile, manipulative, aggressive or self pitying, blameful, charming and having rigid values
Inside they feel shame, guilt, fear, pain and hurt
Be clear on what you will and won’t tolerate. Practice grey rock techniques and saying no. You have been conditioned to do as you are told and to obey. You know that not doing so will result in rage, silence or smear campaigns. You have to make peace with the consequences.
Structure in all settings can provide children with a safe, predictable, and secure buffer from insidious psychological damage. The emotional roller coaster a narcissistic parent perpetrates can be even more detrimental to a child’s healthy ego-development than overt abuse.
Nurture your inner child
You didn’t get the parents you deserved. You can’t change that. But you can give yourself what your younger self needed. Be kind to yourself. Love yourself unconditionally.
Unleash your superhero
What happened to you isn’t fair but staying in the victim mentality gives the narcissist all the power so it’s time to realise you are more powerful than you think. You are in control of your own life. You decide what you do on a day to day basis, you get to create your own future. Set yourself some clear goals of how you want your life to look.
Help your child to feel strong by giving them choices at home. Help them decide what they want out of the relationship with their parent and support them whatever they decide.
Reduce your contact
It is OK to put yourself first and only speak to your family on your terms. Your well-being is your responsibility and priority. Limit the length of phone calls, decide what topics you will or won’t talk about. Have an exit plan if you go to visit.
The narcissist will use contact with their child to control you. It is triangulation. Ensure that call times (including length of call) and methods (who calls who, what app is used) are included in your parenting plan. You do not have to be present. If your child isn’t old enough to make the call, you can start the call and leave them to it.
Learn, teach and model social/emotional intelligence
If your parent was a narcissist, you may struggle with your emotions. Take the time to really FEEL your emotions. Don’t be afraid of them. Notice where they are in your body and understand that all emotions have a purpose.
Give lots of praise and examples of the behaviours you want to see in your child. I recommend family meetings and rules to help them develop problem solving skills. Encourage them to label their own emotions through what they feel and sense in their own body. Narcissists project which can make emotions confusing for children. Also make sure you let them know how you are feeling so that they can see what a healthy expression of emotions looks like.
Nurture your child’s unique qualities and independence Narcissists are self centred and they see their children as extensions of themselves. This can present as both egotistical admiration and self hatred depending on their mood. Help your child to see themselves as an individual by encouraging them to know their own likes, dislikes, wants and needs. Narcissistic families are often enmeshed so nurturing their independence is so important in helping them to differentiate themselves from their parent. It will protect them from being used and abused in the future.
Helping other to understand
If your friends and family (or even professionals) are struggling to understand the dynamics of your family, here are some examples of narcissistic parents from films:
Mother from Tangled
Stepmother from Ever After A Cinderella Story
Holy hell – family dynamics
Shameless – father
Rachel Getting Married
Marvellous Mrs Maisel
If you recognise your own childhood in this post and are struggling to make sense of it or are unsure how to recover, our adult narcissist specialist therapist Rachel can help you unpick your emotions and create a healthier narrative for your life moving forward. Book a free consultation to see how she can support you moving forward.
If the parenting plan indicates that a child can go to school within a certain mile radius or in several different school district options, then your ex-wife can consider a change of school for your child, but again, it most likely has to be agreed upon.
If the parties do not agree to the change, then usually the status quo remains until the party requests a hearing with the judge in order to reach a decision.
If the school district change is granted, who is responsible for the additional driving? If the driving is done during your parenting time then you are responsible. Prior to agreeing to any school change, it is best to examine your different options.
Look into if this works for your schedule, if your child can take a bus, etc. If any of these are real concerns of yours then you need to compromise with your ex.
One option is to agree to the school change if she agrees to pay for a portion of the before- or after-school care costs and gas expenses you will incur.
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Co-parenting can be easier with these 5 tips for a successful New Year. August is here, school is starting… NOW WHAT?
Whether you are newly Divorced, or a few years removed, it seems every school year raises new issues with parenting plans.
The first step for successful co-parenting for back to school is reviewing the school calendar with your parenting plan.
Before school starts sit down -hopefully, face to face and with the kids (depending on age) to look at the school year. When are the 3-day weekends, when will holiday exchanges be, what extracurricular activities are the kids doing and who needs to take what kid where.
Get the kids excited about school. Show them you are dependable and FOLLOW THROUGH.
Consider apps such as Talking Parents or Google Docs to be able to share the kids calendars and schedules between parents and kids.
Realize in August that the school already planned your entire year!!! Make sure each parent has login to school calendars, events, grades, and attendance. Each parent must participate in holding kids accountable ESPECIALLY in two households!!
MEET THE TEACHERS & STAFF
The second and very important tip for successful co-parenting during the school year is taking the time to meet your child’s teachers and staff.
Appreciate that your child is 1 of 20-30 kids in her class. By seeing a face, understanding where your child is when and knowing what your parenting plan and expectations are, your child will have a much better year. Set your kid up to succeed!
Make sure you know how to login to the child’s school portal or online information.
Make sure your child’s teachers know how to contact you both, or as orders specify, and the best way to communicate with you. Understand the homework and project expectations clearly. Most importantly take responsibility for your role in parenting your child during the school year.
Whether Christmas or Spring Break, the third tip for successful co-parenting for back to school is planning your school year vacations at the beginning of the school year.
Some parenting plans are particular about who has what school breaks and holidays. Others are TERRIBLE – no pickup drop times, not date specific, sometimes not even mentioned – yet in the emotions of the holidays some make the special time a nightmare for the kids. Don’t be that parent.
Especially if you take the time to review the school schedule in early August, figure out who the kids are with each holiday for the year, talk about if you pl. to travel or not, consider the kids’ concerts, parties, tournaments, and social events. #Communicationiskey
Vacation time is meant to be quality time, less stress, and a time to reconnect with family. YOU can make that happen by planning in advance!
REVIEW THE PARENTING PLAN
Co-parenting is easier when you review the current language of your parenting plan to see if changes are needed or at least make sure everyone is on the same page for the year.
So often parents amend the court orders out of convenience or need without drafting, signing, and filing a Stipulation with the Court. If anything happens, the Court will rely on the existing orders.
August is a great time to review your current parenting plan, assess the child support needed to properly support the children, and see what changes you need to help your children.
WHO IS PICKING UP THE KIDS?
The fifth and final tip to successful co-parenting for the school year is to coordinate your personal and professional calendars with your children’s school and activity calendars. Regardless of whose day it is to parent, your children may need you both to participate in and enjoy their school year and activities.
I strongly suggest that the parent with the children should take the kids to the other parent if there is not a “meet in the middle” location. The other way usually seems to have the kids feeling the other parent is taking them away.
Kids these days engage in so many activities! Some parenting plans are super clear on what parent is responsible. Other parents take the activities as “bonus” time to be with the kids, and are happy to coach, drive carpool or participate with the kids – regardless of who is parenting that day.
Do what is easiest! Who lives closer? Whose work schedule is more accommodating? Who does your kid want to be with for that specific event? Jack loves playing basketball with me but likes having his dad at football practice more. Anni would rather have her dad pick her up from school but prefers our girl lunches and show time together.
August is hard for everyone. Summer ends, school begins, and transition and stress is inevitable. I hope this blog is helpful for you and your family! Happy New Year!
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By its very nature, divorce is not a pleasant experience. Involve divorce attorneys and Family Court Judges and the unprepared person, the situation becomes much more stressful. In most cases, a person is so emotionally worn down by the time they decide it’s time to divorce they’ve not had the wherewithal to consider what the legal process of divorce entails.
Once the legal wheels start spinning, there may be no turning back. The moment those papers are filed, everything you’ve worked for sweated for, and planned for during your marriage is at risk. The wheels spin fast at first, then slow down to an agonizing pace. Days can seem like weeks, even months!
You find yourself smack in the middle of the divorce process with the sinking feeling that things might not go as planned. That great idea that you had…to divorce and move on with your life might not have been so great after all. In fact, it has turned into an absolute disaster.
Welcome to the wonderful world of divorce and its cast of supporting characters…lawyers, judges, interrogatories, continuances, custody disputes and high expectations. Most parties to a divorce have never been involved in legal litigation, used an attorney, or been inside a courtroom. For them, divorce is their first sobering involvement with the world of legal litigation. Divorce is both an end to a marriage and the beginning of an education in family law.
If you aren’t emotionally prepared to maneuver the choppy waters of the legal divorce process, you are not ready to divorce.
What do I need to know before hiring a divorce attorney?
Who has to move out of the marital home?
What is divorce mediation?
If you are confused by the above questions, you are not ready to enter the legal process of divorce. You’ve got some learning to do! And until you’ve done your homework, believe me, you don’t want to find yourself tangled up in the legal process of divorce.
There are 3 things you should do when it is time to divorce.
Once you’ve come to terms with the emotional ending of your marriage and gotten yourself financially prepared, you will need to do the following:
1. Understand Divorce Law:
Most will tell you that your legal education begins with a divorce attorney. I strongly disagree! No one is prepared to hire a divorce attorney until they have an understanding of their state’s divorce laws which will give them a better understanding of what they should and should not expect from a divorce attorney.
Divorce in the United States is governed by laws that are particular to each state. State divorce laws deal with all aspects of the divorce process, from residency requirements to child custody to the division of marital property.
2. Be Prepared:
There are documents a divorce attorney will need to get your divorce underway. Gathering these documents and having them ready before you hire an attorney can help keep those “wheels” spinning and allow you to feel more prepared.
This is not fun, but you will be glad you took the time to compile these documents at the beginning. You will need copies of tax returns for the last three years. If you filed separately, you will need copies of your tax returns and your spouse’s tax returns. Make copies of all bank accounts, joint accounts, and individual accounts for the last year.
Credit card statements for accounts held jointly and separately should be copied and provided to an attorney. You will also need at least three paystubs or proof of monthly income for yourself and your spouse, a list of all monthly expenses, a list of all marital assets and debts, and a brief description of how parenting duties are handled between the two of you. Once you’ve put together these documents, you are ready to hire a divorce attorney.
3. Hire a Divorce Attorney:
This is the person who will promote your best interest during the divorce process. You won’t find a divorce attorney who has as much invested in your divorce as you do BUT with a little research, you can find one who is invested enough in his/her legal reputation to make sure that you are legally protected.
A look at the divorce process
Below is a loose outline of 8 things that happens during the divorce process. I say loosely because each state and local district handles divorce differently. Regardless of your state’s laws and your district’s legal procedures, you will experience each step in some form or another.
1. File for Divorce:
A divorce or dissolution usually begins with the filing of a form, typically referred to as the original petition for divorce. This must be filed with the court that deals with marriages in the county where you live, which may be called the Family Law Court. After the petition has been filed, a copy must be served on (or delivered to) your spouse.
2.Divide Marital Property:
You will need to either work out an agreement on how your marital property is to be divided or argue about it in divorce court. Courts prefer that the parties work things out for themselves, and some states or counties require mandatory mediation, which means meeting with a neutral third party who will help you resolve conflicts over who gets what. If the parties can’t agree on a way to divide their property, the court will decide.
3.Distribute Marital Debt:
Debts incurred during the marriage need to be divided between the spouses along with the property. Joint debts may be deducted from the amount of property the spouses own together, or some debts may be considered the responsibility of only one spouse. This depends on the system your state uses for dividing marital debt.
4. Negotiate Spousal Support:
Support paid by one ex-spouse for the support of the other used to be called alimony but is now often called spousal support or maintenance. The laws for spousal support vary a great deal from state to state, and you should be sure you know what your state requires. Spousal support can be awarded to both husbands and wives.
5. Decide Child Custody/Visitation:
The single most important thing parents need to work out in a divorce or dissolution is the way they will continue to raise their children and what kind of custody they will use, and it’s always best if they can work out this plan cooperatively. Some states call this a parenting plan and no longer use terms like custody and visitation.
There are many questions that must be resolved, such as where the children will live, how much time they will spend with either parent, where they will spend holidays, or which parent will make decisions about the children. One or both parents might make legal decisions, such as where the children will go to school and what medical care or medication they will receive. Parents also have to resolve issues about the religious training and activities of the children.
If the parents can’t agree on these issues, the court will consider the best interests of the children in resolving the conflicts. The court will look at the gender of the parents and children, their physical and mental health, emotional bonds, the effect on children of changing their living situation, and—if a child is around 12 years or older—the child’s preference.
The court also considers practical matters such as the ability of the parents to provide the necessities of life, such as shelter, food, and clothing. Court orders involving children are never final. They can always be changed if the best interests of the children require it.
6. Calculate Child Support:
After a divorce or dissolution, both parents remain responsible for supporting the children. Divorcing parents need to negotiate child support or the courts will use state guidelines to do so. There are several factors to consider in working this out, such as the income and assets of the parents and whether one parent has primary childcare responsibilities. If the parents can’t work this out agreeably, the court will make the decision and order the parents to comply.
Divorce mediation is a process where the divorcing parties sit down with a mediator (a neutral third party) to work out and resolve conflicts over property division, finances, debts, and support and/or child custody/visitation. If the state is paying for the mediation, the mediator often reports back to the court with information about the mediation session(s).
The parties can also arrange their own privately paid mediation sessions, which will be completely confidential. Decisions reached in mediation aren’t legally binding but can be included in the court’s final order or decree. Attorneys usually don’t attend mediation sessions, though they may be available to advise the parties on legal issues.
8. Final Judgment of Divorce:
The final judgment of divorce is the final order of the court that legally ends the marriage. The final judgment can also contain legally binding orders about other issues, such as child custody, child support, visitation, spousal support, property division, and how property division is to be carried out. It can also restore the pre-marriage name to one or both spouses.
Filing for divorce means stepping into the world of the Family Court System.
It is a world of legal rules and, at times, extreme emotional stress. It can change the way you live, the way you think, and the way you do things. Ignorance of what takes place in the system and how to take care of yourself can be the mistake that kills your chances of a successful post-divorce life.
I’m sharing with you information about the divorce process and the negative aspects of the legal process not to dissuade you from leaving your marriage. My concern is that you fully understand the process before putting yourself in the middle of the process.
Knowing when or if it is time to divorce means having a comprehensive understanding of exactly what it means to divorce. Unless you are in a situation where divorce can be handled in a civil manner between you and your spouse having full knowledge of what to expect in a conflicted divorce scenario is the only way you will be able to protect your legal rights.
The steps that I’ve shared above may seem simple, cut and dry but if you are divorcing a spouse who is angry, hurt over your decision to divorce or is unable to accept the idea of divorce you will become involved with a system in which no one wins but the system.
I’m not someone with “standard” views on marriage and relationships. I do however have traditional views when it comes to choosing to divorce once you’ve committed to a marriage. It is my opinion that if you get married you should put in the appropriate time and attention to the marriage and do everything possible to save the marriage before making the choice to divorce.
When you take the vow, make the promise to stay with someone for the rest of your life, “for better or, for worse,” it is no small thing. I’m keen on folks keeping promises but for every promise made there is a price to pay and when the price you pay in your marriage becomes too high it is better to break your word than do harm to yourself by keeping it.
Here is the problem as I see it…people get married for a lot of foolish reasons. Some marry because they think society expects it of them. Some marry because they think it will solve some problem they are grappling with. Some believe marriage is the natural end to any relationship, that something is wrong if a relationship doesn’t culminate in marriage vows. Some marry because marriage confirms them as a person.
None of us marry without the expectation that the marriage will last “until death do us part.” But, that doesn’t always happen; our expectations about marriage are not always met. Nothing is more evident of that than the 40% divorce rate we experience in this country. In my business as a marriage educator and divorce consultant I often wonder why people don’t take more seriously the high rate of divorce. Could it be they don’t because there are some very, very good reasons to divorce?
The decision to divorce should only be made if something is radically wrong in the marriage. What do I mean by radically wrong? Well, there is abuse, infidelity, broken trust, disrespect to name a few examples of marital problems that might not be overcome with hard work.
We don’t take lightly the decision to marry; we should not take lightly the decision to divorce!
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