Traveling with your children during (and after) divorce

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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Should the Child Decide on Custody?

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

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as what may happen if a child custody or divorce case is filed.

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woman breaking a chain

Are You Advocating For Yourself in Your Divorce?

woman breaking a chain

 

My Dear Divorced Moms,

 

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.

My Divorce was Seen as “Equitable.”

My divorce was seen as “equitable” because the sale of our businesses and properties was split 50/50.

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.

Well, what is equitable here for all involved?

When does this get seen as an issue of earning power instead of an issue of revenge?

When does this become an issue based on seeing what each parent truly values instead of the well-being of their children?

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.

Not only should long-term earning power be considered in divorce, but we must become soldiers in our personal war, developing financial due diligence as women.

We must learn. We must speak. We must advocate. We must. We absolutely must.

And I’m sorry, honey. Lots of work to still do. The only thing I can offer you to lighten the load is community.  I’m here. I am hearing you. I am seeing you. I am understanding you.

In solidarity,

Emily

The post Are You Advocating For Yourself in Your Divorce? appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Relaxed woman with sunglasses on and arms crossed

7 Smart Ways to Keep Cool While Co-Parenting With Your Toxic Ex

Relaxed woman with sunglasses on and arms crossed

 

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.

It’s relatively common for women who’ve experienced an ugly divorce to have PTSD, anxiety, or depression. A therapist or doctor can get you the treatment you need if you’re experiencing any of these conditions.

Gauge the Level of Toxic Behavior

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.

The post 7 Smart Ways to Keep Cool While Co-Parenting With Your Toxic Ex appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Narcissistic Families – Hidden In Plain Sight

Narcissistic Families – Hidden In Plain Sight

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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. 

  1. 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.”

  1. 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.

  1. 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. 

  1. 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:

  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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”
  4. 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)
  5. 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.  
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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. 
  9. 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.

Common Themes

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.

Triangles

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:

  1. They get to abuse boundaries
  2. They keep everyone in set roles designated by the narcissist
  3. 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.

Co-narcissism

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. 

Fabricated Illness 

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. 

Parentification

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. 

Generational Trauma

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.

Discard

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.

Family Roles

Golden Child

Scapegoat

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

 

Mascot

Victim

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

 

Read more about the family roles in our blog Pedastal Or Pit

Overcoming parental narcissism

Establish firm boundaries

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
  • Mommy dearest
  • Holy hell – family dynamics 
  • Shameless  – father
  • Rachel Getting Married
  • Marvellous Mrs Maisel
  • Ordinary people 

 

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.

The post Narcissistic Families – Hidden In Plain Sight appeared first on The Nurturing Coach.

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child care

Changing School Districts With Joint Custody

child careQuestion:

My ex-wife and I share 50/50 custody and disagree about changing our kids’ school districts.

She wants to pull our kids out of the school district they have been in their whole lives (the one in my neighborhood) and enroll them in a school district closer to her a few miles away.

How does changing school districts with joint custody work? Can my ex-wife place the children in another school district without my consent?

Answer:

Joint custody and school decisions can be very complicated.

When the parties both have legal custody of the children, also known as joint legal custody, both parents must agree on the major decisions for the children, such as school, medical, and religion.

Cordell & Cordell understands the concerns men face during divorce.

Can your child move school districts if it is within the court-ordered limits? Every parenting plan has different language in it that is tailored to your situation and your child.

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.

The post Changing School Districts With Joint Custody appeared first on Dads Divorce.

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5 Tips for Successful Co-Parenting During the New School Year.

5 Tips for Successful Co-Parenting During the New School Year.

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. 

 SCHOOL CALENDARS

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.

VACATION TIME

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!

The post 5 Tips for Successful Co-Parenting During the New School Year. appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Time to Divorce.jpg

Time To Divorce: Do You Know What To Expect During The Divorce Process?

Time to Divorce.jpg

 

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.

Can you answer the following questions?

  • How is custody of children decided in your state?
  • How does the court divide marital property?
  • Can I move to a new location after 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.

7. Mediation:

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.

Understanding the emotional, financial and legal aspects of divorce before deciding to divorce means you will be making an informed decision about how and with whom you want to spend the rest of your life.

After Thoughts

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!

The post Time To Divorce: Do You Know What To Expect During The Divorce Process? appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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18 Tips For Successful Co-Parenting

18 Tips For Successful Co-Parenting

 

Co-parenting after divorce is challenging but doable with planning focused on the children’s needs.

Agreement on rules for co-parenting is key, setting up guidelines for both parents, and having a constructive and productive dialogue with your ex is crucial for forming an effective co-parenting relationship.

Tips for successful co-parenting

Raising children is already hard work, so you can only imagine how much harder it becomes with joint custody.  So, make it easier by planning, reaching an agreement, and keeping communications open.

Shared parenting after divorce can greatly impact the mental and emotional well-being of children, which is why the entire divorce process should be healthy and mess-free. Begin the journey of co-parenting by addressing the issue during the divorce process.

No longer husband and wife.

The relationship with your former spouse changes when you start co-parenting with your ex.

The focus of your “relationship” is now the connection you have as your kid’s other parent. It’s important to emphasize that your children hold more importance to you than the conflict that resulted in ending your marriage.

Demonstrate to your kids that your love for them will prevail through effective and persuasive dialogues with your ex. While no co-parent can give a concrete answer to what is a perfect relationship with their former partner, here are co-parenting tips that make the process uncomplicated.

1. Set co-parenting boundaries.

After being officially divorced from your partner, you’ll have to set co-parenting boundaries and ground rules to start building a new working dynamic of your family. These include keeping things businesslike and establishing conversational limits. Your ex doesn’t need to know every detail of your personal life if it doesn’t involve your children and vice versa. Setting these boundaries will help avoid future co-parenting conflicts and introduce new behavioral guidelines that both parents must follow.

2. Focus on healing yourself to prepare for co-parenting with your ex.

To become a good co-parent to your child, remember to own your role in ending your marriage and reflect back on your mistakes to move on to the next chapter of your life.

3. Create a family plan for your children along with your former partner.

Write out a document depicting the details of your family plan for your children. Create the co-parenting plan with the best interests of your kids in mind. Outline specific aspects of how much time the kids will be spending time with your co-parent, how the children’s schedule will be after the divorce, as well as how co-parenting conflicts will be resolved.

4. Don’t project your anger and resentment onto your children.

It’s almost impossible to immediately bounce back after getting a divorce—especially if your former partner was abusive. However, if you do end up getting joint custody, remember to love your child more than you hate your ex-partner. Set aside any anger, resentment, or hurt for the sake of your children and put forward their happiness, stability, and future well-being.

5. Don’t use your kids against their parents.

Nothing good ever comes out of bad-mouthing your ex-partner. Even if your former spouse was the worst to you, never insult them in front of your children. Do not vent your frustrations about your co-parent to your kids—you make them conflicted and leave the impression that they must take sides. Keep your children out of your co-parenting conflicts.

6. Don’t use them as a messenger either.

If you use your kids to pass on messages to your former spouse, you’re essentially avoiding having dialogues with your ex and putting your children in the center of your co-parenting conflict.

One of the most important co-parenting tips to keep in mind is to make your relationship with your ex-partner as peaceful as possible. No sending passive-aggressive messages, especially through your kids.

7. Create a sense of security for your children.

In unsure times like these, it’s crucial to make your children feel safe and secure. Do your best to put them first, even if it requires involving mediation in the divorce proceedings.

Remember to also allow your kids to have power in your co-parenting relationship—encourage them to take some of their things to your former partner’s house, let them know it’s okay to want to stay with them. Always assure them that both co-parents love them equally and they’re not to blame for your separation.

8. Focus on bettering your communication with your ex-spouse.

The key to having an effective co-parenting relationship is improving your communication with your ex-spouse. Calm, consistent, and calculated dialogue with your ex helps to positively impact your relationship with your kids.

Don’t forget to make your children the focus of your conversations. While it may seem impossible to be on good terms with your former spouse, your goal is to have conflict-free dialogues with your ex for the sake of your kids.

9. Make visitations and transitions easy for your children.

Being a child who frequently moves from one household to another is overwhelming. You’re saying “hello” to one parent and “goodbye” to the other. Make these transitions easier for your kids by reminding them they’ll be leaving for the other parent’s house a few days before the visit. Another useful co-parenting tip for these situations is dropping off your children instead of picking them up—you wouldn’t want to interrupt a special moment.

10. Be a flexible parent to avoid co-parenting conflicts.

While being a strict parent is necessary to establish behavioral guidelines and set agreed rules for children, it doesn’t hurt to chill out every now and then.

So what if you co-parent dropped off your kids 30 minutes late? When you compromise and let minor things slide, your former partner is more likely to become equally flexible in the future.

11. Keep in mind that fair doesn’t necessarily mean equal in co-parenting.

Since your children divide their time between co-parents, the time you spend with them is limited and precious. Sometimes, it’ll seem like your co-parent is organizing extra-curricular activities when the kids are supposed to be spending that time with you.

Learn to refrain from starting co-parenting conflicts in these situations by seeing the bigger picture—what works for you may not be in your children’s best interest. Support your kids at all times.

12. Respect your children’s time with their other parent.

Simultaneously, respect each other’s parenting time. Let your kids spend quality time with the other parent without disturbing or potentially sabotaging their time. Acknowledge your former partner’s authority to your children, whether or not you agree with every decision they make.

Successfully co-parenting after divorce is possible when both parties respect the fact that each co-parent has the best interests of the kids in every decision they make.

13. Plan regular co-parenting meetings.

Have regular check-ins with your former partner not only to form an effective co-parenting relationship but to also improve your communication with your ex-spouse. The co-parental meetings should revolve around your children’s schedule after the divorce, as well as their health and well-being.

Keep the meetings brief and to the point—take to each other with respect and listen to what you both have to say.  Take notes and share them with your ex so there is no confusion on what was discussed and what was agreed to.

14. Don’t expect your co-parent to strictly follow your rules.

Although you might have a specific approach regarding raising your children, your co-parent might disagree with certain aspects of your methods. They might let them do things—not necessarily dangerous or unsafe—that you don’t normally allow them to do.

Your co-parent might let your kids stay past their bedtime or allow them to have ice cream at late night hours. Abide by the agreed rules for your children, but don’t expect to strictly follow them at all times.

15. Share your children’s photos of important events with your co-parent.

No parent wants to miss their children’s birthday, graduation, or any other important life event on purpose. However, if you or your co-parent happen to miss a certain event, do send pictures of the occasion to make them feel they’re a part of the family.

Don’t trigger co-parenting conflicts and accuse them of deliberately not attending the event. Try to understand where they’re coming from and why they can’t come to the occasion. After all, they’re also your kids’ parent and they deserve to be a part of their lives.

16. Make important family decisions with your co-parent present.

Unless your co-parent is abusing their power over your children, do not make necessary decisions regarding your kids without your ex-spouses’ input. Hold a brief discussion about the subject before meeting your co-parent to explain further.

Avoid sending one-sided emails or messages to your co-partner in these cases—words may get lost in translation in texts and emails and your effective co-parenting relationship may be compromised.

17. Establish a support system for shared parenting after divorce

Co-parenting after divorce may get overwhelming, so don’t hesitate to reach out to friends and family to help you overcome these difficult times. Having joint custody with your ex-spouse can be paralyzing, but as long as you know you have a support network, moving forward becomes doable.

18. Create a fresh co-parenting plan when new partners are introduced to the family dynamic.

You can’t stick to the same co-parenting plan forever. Children grow up, you introduce new parenting methods, and eventually, new people become a part of your family. Go over the co-parenting plan with your ex-spouse to change or add new behavioral guidelines and further discuss new co-parenting boundaries.

Joint custody arrangements can be stressful when you don’t have an effective co-parenting relationship. Stress, exhaustion, and trauma might get the best of you. However, co-parenting plans can be created early on in the divorce process.

Have fruitful and productive dialogues with your ex and come up with a family plan for the children with the presence of a divorce mediator.

Make joint custody work, enable your kids to thrive, and incorporate as many co-parenting tips as you can in your everyday routine to make life after divorce effective and contented.

 

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children of divorce

Can we temporarily change our parenting plan by verbal agreement until quarantine is over?

children of divorce

Question:

Can we temporarily change our parenting plan by verbal agreement until quarantine is over?

Answer:

I practice law in the state of South Carolina. Unless you live there, I cannot inform you as to the specific laws of your state, but I can give you some general observations on family law issues and how they are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, based on the jurisdiction where I practice.

The answer is yes, and it highly is encouraged that parents be reasonable in attaining such an agreement. It is inevitable that both parties will experience some roadblock that renders their rights short of what is court ordered. Both parents should expect to make concessions for the other to abide by the spirit of the agreement as much as possible. A family court judge undoubtedly will respect the parties and their decisions considering the circumstances.

If you are the parent being asked to make a change in the parenting plan, then you should consider these requests. Keep in mind that your conduct can be scrutinized by a judge if the facts show that you were not being reasonable under the circumstances. It also is important that you make clear to the other parent that the change strictly is intended until such times as things get back to normal. You should be careful in not allowing the other party to misconstrue the change as a new agreement, but rather a temporary agreement.

If you are the parent requesting for a change in the parenting plan, then you should memorialize these communications whether the changes are consented to or not. Memorialized communications can be recorded through text message, email, or any other form of written communication wherein you can justify the other party’s intent. If the changes are not consented to by the other party, then these communications will come in handy when illustrating to a family court judge the conduct of the other parent should you need to go to court in the future. Similarly, these memorialized communications will protect the requesting parent should the other party claim some violation of the Agreement in the future. The bottom line is that written communication is key when communicating with the other parent.

Due to the fact-specific nature of this situation, I would strongly suggest you contact an attorney who handles family law matters in your jurisdiction to see how your state’s laws specifically can help you with this serious situation. This type of attorney should be helpful in providing you specific assistance for your matter. Remember, I am unable to provide you with anything more than tips, so please consult a domestic litigation attorney in your jurisdiction to obtain specific advice as to the laws in your state and how they particularly impact your potential case.

To arrange an initial consultation to discuss divorce rights for men with a Cordell & Cordell attorney, including South Carolina divorce attorney Chris Jacobcontact Cordell & Cordell.

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