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Yes, it can. The Petitioner or Movant must file a Motion to Modify Post-Divorce Spousal Maintenance in the Court that made the initial order. Procedures for filing an original suit apply, which means the former spouse receiving maintenance must be served with citation.
At an evidentiary hearing, the Movant bears the burden of proving that a material and substantial change has occurred such that the Movant no longer can longer afford to pay the Court-ordered amount. In proving that a material and substantial change has occurred, the Movant must prove the facts and circumstances that existed at time of the original order and the facts and circumstances that exist now.
Whether the comparison proves to be “material and substantial” is determined at the judge’s discretion. If proved, the amount of reduction is at the judge’s discretion.
Author Jim Cramp is a retired active duty colonel and the founder and principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm, PLLC. The firm provides a spectrum of family law-related services to clients in the greater San Antonio region, across the United States and throughout the world. The firm specializes in Federal Civil Service and Military Divorce matters.
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If you’re going through a divorce or separation, you probably haven’t even thought about the holidays. But experts stress that it’s important for people who are in transition to develop coping strategies well in advance of the major calendar events.
Holidays like Thanksgiving, Passover, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve can intensify feelings of sadness, loss, and failure. For newly separated and divorced people, the holidays can really emphasize how much their lives have changed.
If you’ve spent every significant holiday with your children, being apart from them for the first time can be devastating. Ted, a Chicago-based architect, remembers his first Thanksgiving away from the kids. “I went to see a movie alone and all I could think of was my kids around the table without me,” he says. “It was pretty well the lowest point in my life.”
Adjusting to the holidays as a single person without children can be just as stressful. After her divorce, Anne spent the first few Thanksgivings and Christmas holidays with her parents at their home in upstate New York. The 37-year-old legal secretary felt like she had regressed into a second childhood.
“I love my parents,” says Anne, “but the whole me, Mom, and Dad thing was just too much.”
Roberta, a separated PR consultant from San Diego, tried to escape her loneliness and depression with shopping trips to local department stores. “I couldn’t believe my credit card bill in January,” she says. “But the worst part was that I kept seeing happy families everywhere. I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘why can’t that be me?’”
Even if your life isn’t exactly where you’d like it to be right now, the good news is that we all have choices about how and where we spend our holidays. Look at it as an opportunity: by being proactive and exercising these choices, you can create new and meaningful traditions for you and your family. Here are seven strategies and tips for enjoying – rather than avoiding – the upcoming holiday season.
7 Tips For Enjoying Instead Of Avoiding The Holidays Post-Divorce
1. Take a Positive Approach
No More Holiday Blues by the late Dr. Wayne Dyer is an inspirational little book that offers positive suggestions in a quick-read format. He maintains that as adults, “we’ve come to believe that the holiday season is really only for children… thus only children can enjoy the holidays; adults must suffer through them.” To illustrate his point, Dyer has included a chart that compares childlike attitudes (“I can’t believe it’s over already, it seems like it just started”) to “neurotic” adult attitudes (“Thank God it’s over. If it lasted one more day I’d have a nervous breakdown”). Sound familiar? This year, try to recapture some of the joy you experienced as a child during the holidays.
2. Start Planning Now
Don’t wait until the week before the holiday to decide who gets the kids for the holidays or to blow the dust off your address book. If you have children, it’s important to get some sort of communication happening with your former spouse well in advance; if they’re old enough, get the kids involved in the decision-making process as well. Be fair in deciding where the children will spend their time, and remember that generosity breeds generosity.
There are many non-confrontational strategies you can use to navigate scheduling issues for the holidays. You can avoid stress by planning well in advance and being flexible: you can plan a fun Christmas celebration with your kids a day before or after December 25 if they’ll be with your ex on the actual day.
It will be very difficult at first not to have your children on a particular day, so you should plan ways to avoid falling into a blue funk. If your ex has the kids on a particular day, you can feel lonely or seize the opportunity to have lunch with an old friend, book a day at the spa, or lounge in a bubble bath with a glass of wine – whatever makes you feel happy.
If you don’t have children, or if your ex has them for this holiday, gather up your courage and reach out to your friends and family. Let them know that you’re going to be on your own. You can’t always count on them to approach you first. People can be intimidated by divorce. They may not know how to deal with your situation, or they may be afraid to take sides. You’ll be surprised how receptive they’ll be once you break the ice.
Even though you may be apart, there are so many ways to communicate with your children and other loved ones over the holidays. Get technology on your side: send a warm text or email, call, or arrange to Skype with them. Be mindful of not infringing too much on their other parent’s holiday time with the kids – especially if you’ll be seeing them soon.
Also, make sure your text message, emails, tweets, videos, Facebook posts, etc. reinforce your reputation as a great co-parent. This means no criticizing the other parent, and no pictures of you doing tequila shots at a swim-up bar! (For more information about this, read “Managing your Reputation during Divorce”)
3. Change your Expectations
Give yourself permission to enjoy this holiday any way that you choose. You don’t have to be lonely, even if you happen to be alone. “Loneliness is an attitude that can be changed, and aloneness is nothing more than a temporary absence of other people,” says Dr. Dyer. “If you allow yourself to indulge in self-pity or fantasies of how your holidays ought to (or used to) be and then permit yourself to become depressed, you’ll be defeating yourself and bringing on the holiday letdown.” If you think you’re going to be alone over the holidays, seize the opportunity to do something you’ve always wanted to do.
4. Create New Traditions
The holiday season is steeped in sentiment and tradition, which is why people who are in transition sometimes choose to ignore the holidays altogether. “I just couldn’t face unpacking the ornaments from our first Christmas together, from our fifth anniversary, or from our trip to Germany,” says Roberta. “I may never be able to bring them out again.” Fortunately, there’s no rule that says you have to keep any of the trappings or traditions from the past. Decide what works for you and what doesn’t – and edit accordingly.
Jamie, a divorced mother of two from Toronto, suggests that families of divorce be adventurous and design new rituals and traditions for their families. She turned to her Celtic heritage and developed an elaborate holiday ritual centered around the “cloutie dumpling,” a traditional Scottish cake that she used to make with her ex-husband’s great-grandmother.
“Jean and I used to get together and make this dumpling in November,” remembers Jamie. “We’d sit up until two in the morning and she’d tell me stories of Scotland.” Your cultural background is a good place to start when creating new traditions. “Nothing fascinates kids more than stories of your background,” says Jamie. “Through your heritage, children experience a sense of continuity, a sense of who they are as human beings.”
There are many opportunities for newly-single people without children, or parents without custodial access, to create their own traditions. Just remember that it’s important to know your limits. If you can’t bring yourself to join a dinner party where you know the other guests will be couples, invite your friends and family to celebrate with you at your home. You can also create a new “constellation” of family or friends for the holidays. Judy, a mother of three from Chicago, created a “friend family” by making Christmas dinner at her house for five of her closest friends.
If you belong to a support group, get to know one another socially. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re going to be alone over the holidays, you can get together with people who understand what you’re going through, even if it’s just for a walk or a cup of coffee.
5. Make Gift-Giving More Pleasurable
Gifts are an integral part of the holiday season. Unfortunately, the gift-giving experience is too often accompanied by high prices, commercialism, and heavy crowds – factors that can cause great stress for separated or divorced people.
Try giving gifts from the heart rather than the mall: for instance, consider giving a family heirloom to your child as a gift this year. Write a card or note about the heirloom, explaining that it has been in the family for several generations, and what it means to you. A gift of a personal belonging can have great significance, too. Bob, an artist who lives in New York City, gave his daughter his leather backpack, a worn and cherished possession that she had admired for many years; she was thrilled with the gift.
You might also consider supporting your favorite charities and arts organizations or ordering gifts from mail-order or museum catalogs. Visit local merchants, buy gift certificates from a favorite restaurant or from a greenhouse, rent an indoor skating rink for an afternoon, give concert or theater tickets – the options are limitless, so just use your imagination!
One of the best non-monetary gifts you can give your children is the gift of goodwill towards your former spouse. Agree to a ceasefire, at least during the holidays.
If you must venture into the shopping mall this holiday season, try to enjoy the experience of being out in the world – the decorations, the lights, the music.
6. Relieve Stress with Diet and Exercise
In her book Anxiety and Stress, Dr. Susan Clark suggests that individuals who are under major life stress gradually eliminate (or at least limit) foods that intensify anxiety symptoms. These foods include caffeine, sugar, alcohol, food additives, dairy products, red meat and poultry, and wheat and gluten-containing grains. Foods that are believed to have a calming effect include vegetables, fruits, starches, legumes, whole grains, seeds and nuts, and fish. (For more about nutrition to help you think more clearly and be calmer during divorce, see “Nourishing your Stressed-Out Brain”.) Be realistic about your diet during the holiday season. Face the fact that you’re going to have that eggnog, but try to exercise regularly; it really helps with your emotional state.
7. Be Proactive
If your family or friends are not around this holiday season, you might want to consider helping out with the festivities at your church, synagogue, or community organization. Reaching out to a neighbor, a shut-in, or someone less fortunate than yourself this holiday season will take courage, but it can give you back your sense of place in the world.
Remember that there is nothing inherently depressing about the holidays. “If you anticipate that things will be depressing, you will rarely disappoint yourself,” says Dr. Dyer. “You must look within yourself and resolve to have a positive attitude, regardless of the tasks that lie ahead of you, or the fullness of your holiday schedule.” This year, look beyond the ghost of Christmas Past. Live in the present and plan for the future, and you’re sure to discover the true meaning of the holiday season.
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I’m a divorced mom who has shared custody of an 8-year-old girl. I have a good job, great friends, own a house, and am generally happy.
However, I have personal issues that I am working on that I constantly hope will resolve faster. I own it, I mostly hate it, and I’m working through it.
I have guilt, I have entitlement, and I have anger. One day, one of those three things is going to get the better of me.
Negative Post-Divorce Feelings I Have:
I want more for my daughter. I want her to have the happiest easiest life. I want her to walk to school and have friends and play and go to birthday parties and sleepovers. I want her to worry about kid things like her best friend has more scrunchies than her, or that she didn’t know who to sit with at lunch in the cafeteria.
I don’t want her to worry about which parent she will be with for the first day of school, or her birthday, or the holidays. When our neighbors have birthday parties for their kids, it might be a weekend she is with her dad. There is always a 50% chance. She misses out, and I don’t want my beautiful girl to miss out on anything.
She has to worry about her homework and if her piano music got copied and sent to dad’s house. Are her favorite shoes at mom’s house? Because she wants to wear them to a party. It breaks my heart that I can’t give her the life that other parents can, by providing one home that she lives in and can thrive in, as opposed to two.
This is a big one. I endured a lot in my short marriage. Excessive drinking, lying, and infidelity. My ex-husband had an affair my entire pregnancy and left me to fend for myself. When he was around, he was not a nice person. He made his resentments very well known to me.
The night before my daughter was born, the San Jose Sharks were in the playoffs. I was to be induced the next day. I told him I was making a special dinner for us since it is our last night before the baby comes. He left work, stopped at the bar for a drink, and came home to find out that I had recorded the wrong channel. I recorded the news instead of the Sharks game. He had a massive tantrum, including yelling at me that I can’t do anything right, I am useless, and for God’s sake, I’m not even wearing TEAL.
I cried, and packed a bag and spent the night in a hotel so I could have a peaceful night before giving birth. After being induced, 72 hours of labor, hemorrhaging and needing emergency surgery and a blood transfusion, I had my baby. She was perfect.
So yes, shouldn’t I be entitled to have my own daughter on her birthday? Not every other year, but every year. Shouldn’t I get to raise her and love her and be with her daily? The law says that no, I shouldn’t. That his genetic material made up 50% of our daughter, so he gets 50% of her. On good days I am glad she has a good relationship with him. On bad days, I don’t think he even deserves the title of father since he was such a jerk during my pregnancy and her first couple of months.
I think I deserve more time with her. That am entitled to more. Did he have hyperemesis during pregnancy and was bedridden? Nope, that was me. Did he almost die during labor? Nope, me again. Did he party and binge drink, and sleep with another woman for months while I was sick and alone? Yes, he did. Entitlement is a killer, and at times I think it eats at my soul.
I left my husband twice. The first time when my daughter was 6 weeks old when I discovered his long involved affair. When my daughter was a year old, I decided to try a relationship with her dad again since he appeared so remorseful and made great strides in cleaning up his life. That lasted about 2 years before the binge drinking, blacking out, and other precarious outings with women started.
He was drunk driving quite a bit. His behavior was erratic. I wanted to fix up my daughter’s room by painting the walls and getting some cute little decals. He had a tantrum and said she wasn’t worth it, and he refused to spend the money and demanded I return everything I bought. The last night we were ever living together as a married couple, a policeman had to pick my little girl out of her crib in her onesie pajamas, and told me I had 5 minutes to get a go-bag since my husband was so drunk the police officer said he was not to be trusted.
I was in such a hysterical state, that I packed my car with my daughter, our dog, and a bag filled with shoes. SHOES. Nothing else. That is how crazy an incident like that can make a person. I left him and went to stay with my parents and told him I would be back in one week and he better have found another place to live by then.
Do you want to know what this horrible human being did?
He went to rehab.
He started rehab 2 days after my daughter and I left. He has been sober for almost 5 years now. He has a great job, a house, two cars, a boat, and is president of the PTA. I can’t even make this stuff up. I am grateful every day that he is healthy and seemingly happy and has stepped up as a father. He wants to be involved in everything that our kiddo does. He drives on field trips, he takes her on vacations, and he has taken her to more playoff games for Bay Area sports teams than most grown adults have gone to.
So why am I so angry?
Because he put me through hell. I have sheltered my daughter from any of it so her father and I can sit next to each other at her dance recitals or gymnastics classes. I have bitten my tongue and sacrificed my daunting ego so that she has a loving relationship with her father.
The jerk who came to the baby classes drunk is now the head of the PTA. He has a girlfriend of several years and they take my daughter on trips together. They take her to church. They painted her room at her dad’s house pink. She has a cute bedspread and a ton of toys, and a basketball hoop him the backyard at his house.
She loves her dad. Which on good days I am so grateful for. So when I have Christmas every other year alone watching Netflix, and eating copious amounts of ice cream, I get angry. Angry at him for being so great now, angry at myself for putting up with so much, angry at all the happy families that are spending Christmas together. Just plain angry.
My ex-husband and I still argue. We still have disagreements about custody and money. Our daughter has no idea, and we are able to sit together at school functions without clawing at each other’s eyes. I am several years in as a divorced mom, but it honestly feels like this journey just started. Like I should be farther along than I am.
I should be happy for my ex-husband. I should be enjoying my free time more, I should be traveling, going out, laughing. Sometimes I am doing great; however, sometimes I am missing my daughter and I don’t know who I am without her. Everyone says it gets better, and sharing custody gets easier. After several years as a co-parent, I shouldn’t have so much guilt, I shouldn’t be so entitled, and I shouldn’t be angry.
But it is my process and my truth. And I can decide to let it get the better of me, or thrive.
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