Tis the season! The season of New Year’s resolutions, of course. Now, I’m not typically a resolution kinda guy. I’m more of the mindset that anything worth doing shouldn’t require a start date, however, I do see the value of using January 1st as a fresh start date. Some people choose dieting or their finances or work and career goals but this post is all about my New Year’s Resolutions for the Co-Parent. Let’s get started (please be sure to share your resolutions – even if they’re not co-parenting related) in the comments below!).
#1 Maximize Our Quality Time
One of the single most difficult aspects of being in a co-parenting situation (for everyone involved) is that contact is limited. If you’re a full-time parent, you may sometimes struggle with the notion of needing a break from your children. When you’re in a co-parent relationship, it’s quite the opposite. I miss my son on almost a daily basis – sometimes even when he’s here with me I’m already thinking ahead to when he has to leave. I know that’s not very healthy, but I sometimes think ahead when it’s time for him to go. My resolution is to live more in the ‘now’ and to maximize the moments I have with him and build memories that will last me though those times when he’s gone.
#2 Maximize My Cooperation
This resolution is actually one that’s dependent on another party, obviously. I’ve always said that I wished we cooperated more, but sometimes emotions can get in the way of logic – even when it comes to what’s best for our children. Our relationship didn’t work out but we’re ‘stuck’ with each other until my son turns 18 (and beyond, really). I think I’m usually a fairly agreeable person, but I resolve to try even harder to cooperate with my ex in 2012. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to stand up for myself and my son when necessary, but our cooperation is essential to raise a happy, well-adjusted son.
#3 Maximize My Presence
Parental presence isn’t just a problem with single or co-parent situations. I’ve known full-time parents that aren’t REALLY present in their children’s lives. There was a great DadChat discussion on Twitter (#DadChat is Thursday nights at 9pm Eastern) last night that talked about online safety and one of the key points of the discussion is having a presence in your child’s life. Know what they’re up to. Listen to what they have to say. Observe their behaviors and pick up on some of the ‘clues’ that might get missed by not being truly present.
Those are my three New Year’s Resolutions as a co-parent. What are yours?
One of the sure-fire ways to gauge an attorney’s experience in their area(s) of practice is to quiz him or her about their experiences.
Divorce sucks. A lot. It’s no fun, it costs a crap load of money (potentially) and it’s almost always painful for everyone involved. Add children to the mix and it’s even more difficult, painful and expensive. I really wish someone sat me down all those years ago before my divorce and gave me some marriage-ending advice. Well, I’m here to pass along a few things I learned during my divorce that will, I sincerely hope, save you some time, headache, heartache and money. If you have additional tips to share, please feel free to do so in the comments below!
Divorce Attorney Question #1 – How many FAMILY LAW cases have you tried in court?
A wise man (my dad) once said (yesterday on the phone) that referrals from friends are great for things like movies, restaurants and maybe even dentists. When it comes to referrals for attorneys… well, it can be very hit or miss. Why is that?! For one, your divorce may be different than theirs. Maybe yours is contested and theirs wasn’t. Maybe yours involves children and theirs didn’t. There are a million variables to consider when choosing an attorney, quite frankly, it gives me a headache just thinking about it.
One of the sure-fire ways to gauge an attorney’s experience in their area(s) of practice is to quiz him or her about their experiences. An excellent question to ask is, “How many FAMILY LAW cases have you actually taken to trial and what were their results?” The attorney will have to be honest with you and if they answer with anything less than what you’re willing to accept, consider finding another attorney – especially if you think there’s a chance your case will go to trial.
The BEST way to arm yourself going into a disputed family law case (such as a custody dispute) is to bring along an attorney with experience specifically with those types of cases. Experienced attorneys will know case law without having to research (research that will cost YOU), will know more of the nuances of the laws and will even have more knowledge of sitting family court judges (and maybe even somewhat of a rapport) than less-experienced attorneys. Choose wisely and always choose track record and experience over enthusiasm!
Divorce Attorney Question #2 – What is your hourly rate?
Reputable attorneys will provide you with the rate at which they bill per hour up front. It doesn’t hurt to ask questions about how they bill their time, though. Those panicked calls when something comes up can really hit your pocketbook when you consider you’re probably being charged somewhere north of $200 per hour. Don’t be afraid to ask how they bill, if you’ll be invoiced, if they charge per call, per minute, per 15 minutes, etc. Knowing more about how they bill will give you more information about how quickly you’ll burn through your retainer.
Divorce Attorney Question #3 – What is your retainer fee and will you consider taking less?
Consider for a moment what retaining an attorney actually is. You’re hiring them to work for you. You’re going to pay them to be on your side; to be your advocate. That’s going to cost money, but how much money may vary. Attorney retainers typically range in the thousands and attorneys will often require different retainers for different types of cases. If your case will be relatively simple and straight-forward, consider asking the attorney if they’ll take less retainer. I’ll tell you with 99% certainty it’s a lot harder to get a refund on a retainer than it is to provide them with additional funds if the initial retainer runs out!
Divorce Attorney Question #4 – How many cases have you handled like mine?
You may think your case is unique, but chances are an experienced family law attorney has “been there, done that” before. Experience definitely counts when choosing an attorney so be sure to ask the attorney what their experience has been with cases like yours. Reputable attorneys will give you an honest opinion about your odds at succeeding and the length (and therefore, cost) of the case to you. Being empowered with this information may help you make more intelligent decisions during the entire separation and divorce process.
Divorce Attorney Question #5 – What is your experience with opposing counsel?
Attorneys that know their stuff can be invaluable during a divorce. Part of ‘knowing their stuff’ include having experience with your soon-to-be ex spouses choice of attorney. They’ll know right out of the gate (potentially) if the opposing attorney is prone to settling, is more of a go-getter or is just there to bill hours. Knowing more about your opposition can dictate how your own case is handled and can greatly improve your chances of success and lighten the load on your wallet!
There you have it – 5 hard lessons I’ve learned over the years when it comes to choosing a family law attorney. I truly hope you’re able to use them in your case and they help make your life just a little bit easier! Choosing an attorney is a serious matter and shouldn’t be taken lightly. I am neither an attorney nor an accountant. Any legal or financial advice I give is my opinion based on my experience.
By the time this article posts my son will have turned 9 years old and I will have missed his birthday.
Co-parenting can be difficult enough without the added stress of dealing with an unreasonable ex. I know this first hand. Earlier this month I wrote a post titled, Co-Parent Dad: Tales of a Second-Class Parent that took a shallow dive into my own personal feelings about being a single dad co-parent.
Voluntarily taking a back-seat as a caring, involved father is difficult to do, to say the least – but because of the way many states’ laws are written, a large number of fathers are required to do just that. My regular schedule with my son during his school year means that I don’t see him for a week at a time every-other week. That’s very difficult to do under good circumstances, but when there are co-parenting and communication difficulties, it can be excruciating.
I have a hard and fast rule on this site that I never post anything that ‘bashes’ an ex and I’ll maintain that standard for myself and anyone else that guest posts on my site. The fact is that many parents – both moms and dads – have a great deal of difficulty when dealing with their ex for really no logical reason at all. How do you handle a situation when the behavior of the other party just doesn’t make any sense?
By the time this article posts my son will have turned 9 years old and I will have missed his birthday. How am I clairvoyant, you ask? My ex refused to allow me to see him on his birthday due to a technicality in our custody agreement. The exact wording of the section of our agreement is below:
Three (3) hours of visitation with the child(ren) between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m during each child’s birthday. The non-residential parent shall confirm to the residential parent at least ten (10) days in advance of each child’s birthday of the intent to exercise this visitation. This visitation shall be awarded to the residential parent, if the child’s birthday falls on a regularly scheduled visitation day.
Battling technicalities exactly like this was one of the reasons that prompted me to file for a modification. What this says is that I (as the ‘non-residential’ parent) am required to request time with my son on his birthday at least 10 days prior. If I do not make this request in time, she can refuse. In reality, she doesn’t even need a reason to say no since my request is just expressing my ‘intent’. This year I mistakenly forgot about the 10 day requirement and made the request only 8 days in advance. She refused to allow me to see him on his birthday because of this technicality. I’ve seen him on every one of his previous birthdays (except another instance of her also refusing contact before we had any agreement in place) and my son also told me that he wanted to see me on his birthday. I can’t speculate as to my ex’s reasoning – she wasn’t technically in the wrong, but her decision didn’t only impact me but it affected my son as well. He was brought to tears at the idea of not seeing his dad on his birthday and I can’t say I blame him.
How I Deal With My Unreasonable Ex
Dealing with difficulties like this can be almost too much to handle at times. Irrational and arguably damaging behavior and that which seemingly goes against all logic can be very frustrating. Here are a few tips that have served me well so far when dealing with my unreasonable ex.
Tip 1 – Look for a Work-around
Instead of rolling over or blowing up, I went looking for my own work-around to patch up the situation. I called the school and learned the details about what was required to have lunch with my son that day. I didn’t get my regular 3 hours with him as our agreement provided, but at least I still got to see him on his special day and spend some quality time together.
Tip 2 – Choose Your Battles
This tip and the next will, at first glance, be a little bit contradictory. I could have gone ballistic when she informed me that I wouldn’t be ‘allowed’ to see my son because of my late notice, but I kept my cool. Escalating a situation is often not the best course of action when it comes to custody matters. Doing so will risk hurting more than your ex and can also have an impact on your children. If your intentions are pure then your children’s best interests really should be your primary concern.
Tip 3 – Stand Up For Yourself
Tip 2 is not advocating being a total push-over, but instead is a ‘choose your battles’ recommendation. If you feel that you’re regularly taken advantage of and (especially) if you think your child’s other parent is making decisions that clearly aren’t in your child’s best interests, you should take action through the proper legal channels. Consulting with an attorney and discussing your case is really the best way to enact change in your situation.
Notice: This information is not intended to constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon in lieu of consultation with appropriate legal advisors in your own jurisdiction.
This is a post that’s written from the heart, so please bear with me just a bit as I peel my heart off my sleeve. I’m going to try not to sound like some bleeding heart but, in reality my heart is bleeding – you just can’t see it. I’ve been keeping a few secrets from you and it’s been hard. I understand if you want to break up and never come back to my site again, but I really think you should hear me out.
This topic hits home for me in a way not many do.
I’ve been struggling with something for the past few months that I feel like I need to let out or I’m going to burst. This whole co-parenting thing is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be! Yeah, nice revelation there, huh? From coordinating schedules, school responsibilities (and school…um, challenges – to say the least - more on that some other time) and even just dealing with the every day has become such a headache in my co-parenting relationship with my son’s mother. On my side, it all stems from the divorce agreement I signed a few years ago or rather, what ISN’T in the agreement that should be.
Primary Parent, Secondary Parent
Attorneys are NOT created equal – I learned that lesson the hard way. My divorce lasted nearly 3 years and left me feeling completely drained and devalued. I felt at the time as if it were sucking the life straight out of me. It was partly my fault for dragging my feet at first; I’m not exactly sure why. But then once the ball did get rolling it felt like a knife was being stuck into me at every step of the process. I was worn out. I couldn’t take it any more. So, I settled on things I probably shouldn’t have just to get it over with and for the pain to stop. Little did I know, the legal-ease at the time would stack the chips against me even more than I realized (or than my attorney explained).
I had legally become the secondary parent; a second-class parent.
At the time, Florida divorce law still used what many consider legacy wording that provides for a ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ parent. The wording has since shifted from the primary/secondary to what they call parenting plans now. The core language is more equal now than just a few years ago. The language of primary and secondary are no longer used. Unfortunately, I’m stuck with the status quo unless I can successfully modify my agreement.
What did primary and secondary mean, exactly? Well, I was responsible for child support, naturally. I’ve never missed a payment yet and never will, God willing. I’m responsible for providing health insurance and 58% of uncovered medical expenses. Not a huge deal – that’s not what bothered me at all. What did bother me is that I had been relegated to the parental backseat. For example, I have to request time with my son on holidays well in advance. I understand the need to schedule in advance but, “Can I see my son from 3pm – 6pm?” isn’t something that a parent that’s been involved since the beginning should be required to ask of the ‘primary’ parent. The best part? “Nope!” can be the answer with little recourse on my part – and it’s happened. Twice.
It’s All Downhill From Here
In March of 2011 I filed a petition to amend my custody and child support agreement for a few reasons. First, I wanted to get that skewed verbiage changed. I’m a good dad and I want to be treated like a parenting equal. I want a fair shake in parenting my son. I shouldn’t have to ask permission to see my child – that right should be a given for me. I really think that’s best for my son as well. Second, I want more time with my son – and he wants that too. I asked him before I filed. There was no sense in trying to change things if he didn’t want them changed. When both parents are ‘fit’ parents and they live within relative close proximity of each other is there a (good) reason why time with the child(ren) shouldn’t be split 50/50? I can’t think of a single one. My son needs a strong father-figure in his life and a positive, supportive mother in his life as well. I think he’s owed that much. This story isn’t over yet, obviously. It’s just getting started. I know a lot of others are going through something similar, so I’ll try to share some of my experiences along the way, as I work through my quest to modify my support and visitation agreement. If you’ve got experiences of your own when going through a divorce, please feel free to share them in the comments below or you can contact me directly if you’d like to keep things more private.
Thanks for being there for me. I’d like to be there for you, too.
Are you caught up in a skewed co-parenting situation as well? What are your experiences in dealing with the courts during a divorce or when filing a petition to amend your support agreement and/or parenting schedule? Do you think both parents should, by default, have equal rights unless there’s a clear reason for them not to? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
When contractual agreements are finally agreed upon and signed, the prior emotional upheaval created during divorce proceedings can create a list of regrets. To avoid emotional or ill informed mistakes, you’ll want to attempt to gain the upper hand with civility and strength. Dealing with your spouse’s divorce lawyer will require a calm, calculated and practical approach.
Divorce Tip #1 – Hold it In and Deflect
The aforementioned emotional trigger-finger is an easy target for your spouse’s divorce lawyer to hone in on. Regardless of the blatant or underhanded comments and/or demands your ex-to-be or his or her attorney hurls your way, deflect, deflect, deflect. As in most cases, keeping your cool will reap greater benefits in the long run.
Divorce Tip #2 – Remain Active
Let your attorney know beforehand that you will be an active participant in the process including viewing pertinent documents from both sides. If your spouse’s attorney attaches transcripts of any harsh, untrue or other potentially damaging language that your attorney misses, you may be able to have it removed before it goes on record.
Divorce Tip #3 - Educate Yourself
Do the best you can to educate yourself on your rights and how your particular state plays a role in that. Often, the court you are filing with will offer anything from an informational packet to an actual class allowing you to learn about your pending divorce. Avoid sitting through negotiations like a ‘deer in the headlights’ and seek out a capable court clerk, ask your attorney, purchase a text or go online to the chamber of commerce, town hall, state or court’s website to seek self-education help. As attorney’s may go through the everyday, rote process, sometimes clients are the ones to catch forgotten information that may pertain to protecting themselves from their adversary’s misinformed or potential, underhanded practices. Also, if you can educate yourself about your spouse’s attorney regarding their work record, reputation and overall personality this may also create an advantageous edge for you and your attorney.
Divorce Tip #4 – Stay Realistic and be Willing to Concede
Expecting your attorney to treat your spouse’s attorney like a sworn enemy is unrealistic. Lawyers are often working peers that are simply trying to make a living just like everyone else. Ask your attorney how well they know your adversary. If they have a friendship it may work to your benefit especially if you remain calmer than your spouse during the process. In addition, holding on to material items out of spite will only pour fuel on the fire. Know when to concede to requests for things that will not make a difference in the years to come.
Divorce Tip #5 – Watch the Bill
In some divorce proceedings, covering your spouse’s attorney fees is one of the contract points that may come your way. If this is the case and you agree to it, then requesting a copy of your adversary’s billing log should be within your rights. Going over such billing with a keen eye can sometimes save you money. This should be applied to your own attorney as well.
Keep your cool, even when things get a bit hairy. Talk to your own lawyer and do your best to have as little contact with your spouse and his or her lawyer as possible. The process will be far behind you before you know it.
About the Author: Matt Tomasino is a full-time writer with a major focus on personal finance, law, and relationships. He can often be found contributing finance content to CreditLoan.com.
The question may seem a bit elementary at first glance, but what is the definition of a single parent? What makes someone a single mom or single dad?
I was a bit surprised to hear multiple answers to this question that I felt all had some validity to them. The circumstances leading up to someone being a single dad or mom can dictate this definition.
The two primary definitions have one very distinct difference between them. Below are the two opposing definitions.
Single Parent, a Wider Definition
First, let’s start with an ‘official’ definition from Wikipedia.org:
Single-parents (also lone parent, solo parent and sole parent) is a parent who cares for one or more children without the physical assistance of the other biological parent in the home. “Single Parenthood” may vary according to the local laws of different nations or regions.
According to this definition, a single parent is simply any parent raising a child (or children) without the other biological parent in the home. To me, this means any divorced parents that have partial or full custody of their children are each single parents, even if they aren’t full-time parents.
The definition varies by state or region so one state may define a single parent as one that has sole custody with the other parent not being involved while another state could have a completely different definition.
This is roughly the definition I use when I define what a single parent.
Single Parent, a Narrow Definition
Another commonly-held definition of a single parent is closer to that of a sole parenting situation where the parent is solely responsible for the care and upbringing of the child or children.
The other biological parent is not only not present in the home but does not assist the primary (sole) parent in any way. In this definition, many of those included in the first definition are eliminated as single parents. Solo parents would only be those either widowed (or widower) or abandoned by the other parent.
What do you think? What is your situation? Are you a single parent? Or a solo parent?
How did you come to be a single parent or solo parent? At what point does someone stop being a single (or solo) parent?
Is marriage required to change this status or does dating or even living with someone change this status? I’d really like to hear your thoughts and histories!
The following is a guest post from one of my favorite new blogs – Doubting Thomas. More info about the author can be found in the bio at the end of this post.
For many people, the divorce process is a gut-wrenching one, filled with emotional turmoil and upheaval even in the most amicable of circumstances. When you add children into the mix, the process only gets more complicated; the little ones you swore you would protect from life’s hurricanes are now caught in the eye of the storm. What’s a parent to do? When your world is turned upside down, there is hope. By following a few basic steps, you can keep your sanity and bring your children through this difficult time.
Types of Divorcing Parents
Before we talk about healthy parenting, we need to take a quick look at what isn’t. Divorce is like a psychedelic drug – it can make otherwise competent and rational parents become strung-out messes, babbling incoherently and abandoning all pretense of maturity. Many parents fall into one of two categories during this time:
Good Time Charlie (or Charlotte)
Photo: by Family Oon via Flickr
These parents are concerned with winning some imaginary popularity contest with their kids. Every visitation consists of late nights, junk food, movies, and throwing rules out the window. Go to “Chuck E’ Cheese” every Saturday? Sure thing! Homework? No way – that’s your Dad’s problem! We’re gonna have fun! These kids return to the other parent with a ‘Disney World’ hangover and absolute disdain for boundaries. Mom ceases to be a Mom: she is a “buddy.”
Photo: by Donnie Ray via Flickr
Yes, folks, there is a 51st state in America – the State of Denial. Unfortunately, many parents, like the ostrich, choose to bury their heads in the sand and leave the kids to fend for themselves. These moms and dads, so wrapped up in their anger or sadness, fail to take care of all but the most basic needs of their children. The end result? Already vulnerable kids resort to any means necessary to get attention and validation. No parenting is just as damaging as weak parenting.
Effective Parenting Tips During Divorce
So what can you do during these trying times? When so many things are uncertain, what our children need can be broken down to three points:
Be Consistent & Be Clear
More than ever your kids need to know where they stand with you, and look to you for stability and security with so much change. Even if you are moving to a new home (or a new city!), there is an immense amount of comfort for kids in the familiar routines. Whether it is as simple as the same bedtime they had when you were married, or new habits that symbolize your new family unit, these patterns help children realize that all will eventually be well. Likewise, they need clear direction on the rules, whether it is about homework, hygiene, or between-meal snacks. This may not result in winning the aforementioned popularity contests, but remember parents, this isn’t American Idol! J
With so many electronic distractions today, our kids need to know that they are a priority, especially at this time. Make a point to turn off the computer & TV, put down the iPhone or BlackBerry, and “plug in” to your kids. Whether it is a game of “Go Fish,” reading a favorite story, or drawing pictures together, that investment of time is priceless. Let your children take the lead on planning the activity – it doesn’t have to be a fancy production, just the simple act of showing your kids that they are first place to all the other distractions speaks volumes to your relationship with them.
Create a “Safe Feelings” Zone
Photo: by Evil Erin via Flickr
As adults, we take for granted how many options we have at our fingertips to cope with the pain of divorce. Between therapists, friends, support groups, and coworkers, we have many resources – often our kids aren’t so lucky. Many children have a hard time expressing how they feel and don’t know where to turn to get help in dealing with everything that is going on. That’s where you come in! Our children often fear being honest with us due to loss of love, or fear of reprisal. Your job is to create a safe place in which they can open up about their feelings and talk about them without judgment.
My kids and I have a routine in which they get 20 minutes a day of my undivided attention to talk about anything that’s on their mind, no holds barred. Sometimes we talk about problems at mom’s house. More often, we talk about school, band, homework, mean friends, or mean siblings! The point is that they know that they have my complete focus and can express what’s on their mind. It is amazing to me the difference it has made in how they are able to cope with trying situations. They don’t always use the 20 minutes, but they know it is there when they need it.
So there you have it – my two cents on parenting while navigating the turbulent waters of divorce. There are a number of great books out there on parenting through a divorce, but I hope that this post offers a few tips to guide you, regardless of where you are on your journey.
Bio: Doubting Thomas is a single guy in his mid-30′s with four kids, one dog and one random sense of humor. He blogs on his website about the surprises, twists, turns and changes that many experience in divorce, dating and relationships. Thomas is often his own worst critic and has been challenged to find the positive side to some of these changes. He uses that doubt to examine reasons, beliefs and perceptions and tries to emerge from that introspection a stronger person.
Just going through some of my old posts and cleaning up stuff that no longer applies. Well, guess what? Being separated and trying to date is still a bad idea. If you’re separated and trying to date you may want to reconsider. How can you start a new relationship before you’ve ended a previous one completely? On the other side of the coin, if you’re dating someone that’s separated: GET OUT. You’re setting yourself up for heartache and disaster. If you’re really that interested in the person (and they, you) then why not wait until they’re officially single before you get too serious?
The phenomenon of ‘separated and dating’ has come to my attention in recent days – namely because I’ve seen an influx of profiles from people listed as being ‘legally separated’ but interested in a LTR. This, like most other dating situations, is a very grey area (or gray area, depending on your preference).
Is it ‘ok’ to be ‘separated and dating’? I, myself, began to date after a year of separation. My divorce took a while to process due to the complexity and legal red tape more than the ill will on either part. I felt like that was enough time for me to work past my issues to ensure as little baggage as possible was carried forward. My hope is that everyone has this same revelation, but obviously that’s not the case.
There definitely is a stigma attached to people that are separated and dating – probably more so for men than women. I just don’t think men are as picky about who we date. Women, on the other hand, often times flat out refuse to date men that indicate they are separated (for various and often legitimate reasons). Personally, it would depend on the situation for me. How long have you been separated? Has paperwork been filed? Are you bitter/depressed/angry about the breakup and will you carry that into your next relationship? Are you just looking to ‘sew your oats’ or are you looking for something serious again?
Separated and dating can work, but I really think it’s up to the individual. This is clearly a choice the separated person has, and, like any other choice, this one can very easily be a healthy or an unhealthy one.
In solitude the mind gains strength and learns to lean upon itself. Laurence Sterne
For Every End, a Beginning
First, there is the end. Then there is the transition. Then rebirth. This is the cycle of all major life events. The end of a relationship can be a huge adjustment. What was once a source of comfort and likely the center of your daily life is turned absolutely upside down. You will quite literally go from seeing your family every day, to only seeing them half of the time and that s about best-case scenario. As a parent, this can be one of the most difficult aspects of splitting up with your ex and can even be a reason (if only in your mind) for staying together. How does one deal with this adjustment? How, as loving, adoring, nurturing parents, do we go from spending so much of our time with our children to spending so little?
It Is What It Is.
Love is unconditional, relationships are not. – Grant Gudmudson
I m not one to be blas about anything but, to an extent, that s what we have to do as parents after a divorce where children are involved put on our big boy and big girl undies and deal with it. Ideally a family stays together. When that s not possible, it may be best to split up. It s not great, it s not good, it s not really even ok. It is what it is. When divorce is inevitable and you re better off splitting up, what can you do to minimize the impact of the divorce and time-sharing on you and your children?
Post-divorce it is every parent s responsibility to remain as active in their childrens lives as humanly possible. Just because the child may be staying with the other parent that night doesn t mean you stop being a mom or dad. Time with the other parent isn t a vacation from parenting. Children are not an out-of-sight, out-of-mind marital accessory. They need to know that they are still important to you after you re no longer able to tuck them in every night. Make that bedtime phone call. Attend the parent-teacher conferences, dance recitals, baseball games and other events that you d likely attend had you not split with your ex. A divorce is never an excuse to stop being a parent. No matter what happens between you and your ex, stay involved in your childrens lives.
Different, Yet the Same
Maintaining similar routines, environments and experiences as close to normal as possible is widely regarded as what is best for children after a divorce. It s not practical to simulate being a nuclear family besides, children would easily see through the rouse if you try to trick them. Creating a safe space for them in their new (second) home is very important to helping children adjust after a divorce. Their address may change but your love for them won t and it s important that they understand different doesn t have to be a bad thing.
Onward and Upward
Idleness is the root of mischief. – Chaucer
About the worst thing any (especially non-residential) parent can do during a transition from nuclear family to single parent is to sit and wallow in your own misery while your children are away. You ll likely discover a new feeling of loneliness that you hadn t felt in the past. This is completely normal! Especially early on I learned to loathe Monday, Tuesday & Thursday nights. Summer breaks were especially trying when I would go entire weeks without being able to see my son. They were torturous to me and I was at risk of sinking into a depression if I didn t do something about how I was dealing with my solitude. I was alone in my thoughts far too many hours a day. Something had to give. You must (MUST) deal with those feelings whether it be alone or with personal or professional assistance from the outside. What you do with all of that newly-found freedom and down time and how you respond and deal with those feelings may determine your success or failure as a parent and even your future happiness. The stakes are that high.
I did my best to see my situation as an opportunity rather than let it drag me down. I suddenly had hours of free time per week that I hadn t enjoyed since, well, since my teenage years! Do not squander this opportunity! Grab yourself by those bootstraps and do something positive! Take the time to better yourself by going back to school, start a productive, creative and/or self-fulfilling hobby (like writing) and generally keep yourself busy.
We all know that the holidays can be both a stressful and joyous time – it feels like life’s pace is accelerated as we attempt to continue on with our everyday lives in addition to the dinner parties, shopping, decorating, event planning and attending responsibilities that are added to our already bulging calendars. Co-parenting during the holidays can easily add to our already high stress levels as well. Stretched schedules are stretched even further given the onslaught of school events, end-of-the-year concerts and recitals and other celebrations to attend. When both parents are involved, this often means you’ll see more of your ex during the holidays than the rest of the year. If the relationship is already strained this can make for some very uncomfortable situations.
How do you deal with the added stress of the holidays, especially when you’re in a co-parenting or custody-sharing situation? Below are a few ideas to help you deal with your holiday co-parenting stress.
Communicate. Early and Often.
The back and forth and non-standard time-sharing is often the single largest source of stress when it comes to holiday co-parenting situations. While you may have a normal visitation schedule the rest of the year, it is often interrupted by holidays to include more time for parents to spend with their children as they enjoy their winter break from school. The best way to deal with schedule changes is to agree upon the holiday schedule well in advance. Your schedule may be outlined in excruciating detail in your visitation agreement or it may be somewhat flexible. For the more flexible agreements, don’t wait until the last minute to decide when each parent will have the children. Hash out the schedule early and put it on your calendar so you won’t forget. I even like to add the correspondence or notes to the calendar so that I can see the context of the agreement for that particular holiday. That way I know exactly what my thoughts were at the time when I requested or agreed to a certain schedule.
No one likes a Grinch, especially during the holidays. It’s important to pick your battles with your ex and that concept especially applies to the holidays as well. Holiday schedules can be hectic and when they are, it’s best to be as flexible as possible. Being flexible will show your children your and your ex’s ability to compromise and work together like adults. And who knows, maybe your flexibility will be returned in the spirit of the season?
Enjoy the Moment.
Much of the original meaning of the holidays often seems lost – it’s a shopping holiday now more than a time to get together and spend time with friends and family. Don’t let the external stressors get to you. Remember what the holidays are for – relaxing, recharging and spending time with those you cherish the most. Do something extra this season that you didn’t do last year. Maybe you didn’t put up lights outside last year? How about taking your children caroling to the neighbors for an hour and enjoying hot cocoa afterward? Or bake a batch of grandma’s recipe cookies from scratch? It’s often the little things during the holidays that stick with us over the years. Don’t forget to enjoy those moments.
Child Support Laws Changing 1/1/11Big changes are on the horizon in Florida when it comes to alimony and child support guidelines in the state of Florida. These new guidelines take effect on January 1, 2011 and will impact how a non-custodial parent’s child support obligation is calculated. I can see an upside and a downside to these changes. For those agreements that squeek under the current 40% timeshare guideline required to ‘significantly’ reduce the support amount, there may be some changes. Time share of 20% as of 1/1/2011 will be what is required to qualify for a “significant reduction” in the child support amount.
The ability to claim a child as a dependent on a tax return is also changing. Current IRS guidlines dictate that the parent with primary residential responsibility automatically gets to claim the child(ren) on their taxes unless the residential parent agrees to give up/share the deduction (more info here: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8332.pdf.) If I’m interpreting the changes correctly, this will be changing to a rotating basis when the new laws take effect.
Of course, I’m no attorney but this information is readily accessible on the internet for Florida and other states. Below is the specific excerpt from the Florida Department of Revenue’s published document, “Changes to Florida Tax and Child Support Enforcement Laws”. Bolded and italicized text has been added by me for emphasis.
Effective Date: January 1, 2011
Statute Reference: Sections 61.29 and 61.30, F.S.
Chapter Law: Sections 4 and 5, 2010-199 (CS/HB 907)
Provides that each parent has an obligation to support his or her child, that the guidelines schedule is based on the parents’ combined net income as if the parents were living together and that the guidelines encourage fair and efficient settlement of support issues.
Adds that when information about a parent’s income is unavailable in a child support proceeding, income shall be automatically imputed to the parent and there is a rebuttable presumption that the parent has income equivalent to the median income of a year-round, full time worker as derived from the current population reports or replacement reports published by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Specifies how a court may impute income in an amount other than the median income. To do so the court must conclude that the unemployment or underemployment is voluntary and identify the amount and source of the imputed income for which the party is qualified.
Changes how support is determined for a parent with a net income that is less than $850 per month. Specifies that the obligor parent’s support payment shall be calculated as the lesser of the obligor parent’s dollar share of the total minimum support amount and 90 percent of the difference between the obligor’s net monthly income and the current poverty guidelines as updated in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Federal Register for a single individual living alone.
Deletes the requirement to reduce child care costs by 25 percent before adding them to the basic support obligation.
Adds the impact of the Child & Dependent Care Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit as a basis for deviating from the guideline amount.
Changes the guidelines deviation for significant time-sharing (shared parenting). The percentage of overnights that may be considered as significant time-sharing is reduced from 40 percent of the overnights a child spends with one parent to 20 percent.
Changes the amount of time that triggers a mandatory deviation from the guideline amount for substantial time-sharing from 40 percent of the overnights to 20 percent.
Good or bad, it’s coming one way or another. Thanks for reading.