Pretty much every time that we talk about child custody or parenting, the phrase “Best Interest of the Child” is either uttered or written. IF you have been divorced within the last decade or so, you have attended a parent education class which focuses on co-parenting.

 

We can actually tell a lot about our clients depending on how they react to the parenting class. Great parents seem to take the class hoping to gain some ideas and bad parents often think that they information doesn’t apply to them.

 

The principles should be basic but we want to share them nonetheless. If you are a co-parent, there are things that you should never ever do:

1. Never talk negatively about your co-parent. Your child loves both parents and, if you talk trash about their other parent, they will potentially internalize it as disapproval of who they are as an individual;

2. If the co-parent starts dating someone or gets married, do not criticize that new person to your child.  Children need to form their own opinions and build their own relationships;

3. Do not cancel out on parenting time if you can avoid it. Things happen: people get sick, work runs late and emergencies happen. Cancellations should be the exceptions, not the standard;

4. Do not set rules in your home that are drastically different from the home they have with your co-parent. Will there be some minor differences? Of course. The best things for a child are stability, structure and predictability. It doesn’t make a huge difference if one home eats at 5pm versus 6pm, but bed times that are hours apart will create a grumpy and confused child;

5. Do not spoil your children too much during your parenting time. It’s really tempting to be the “fun parent,” especially if you are not with your child on a daily basis. Kids do not love you because you sneak them extra cookies (though many grandparents would disagree);

6. Do not leave your homework to the other parent. Almost nobody enjoys Common Core math but chances are good that one parent doesn’t mind it as much as the other. Work together to use your talents, skills and knowledge whenever possible. Your children will benefit academically and they will know that both parents make them a top priority;

7.  Do not ignore your children when you have time with them. Consider playing XBox WITH your child instead of just letting them sit in the basement alone. Quality time is almost more important than quanity;

8. Do not forget to have fun together while also teaching life lessons. Chores are not really fun, but they are important and can be done together. Teach your child to mow the lawn, do laundry and other life skills, then celebrate a job well done together; and

9. Do not introduce your child to ever person that you date. If you are serious with someone, it might be appropriate that your child gets to know this new person. Before you introduce that person to your child, talk with the other parent and the child to let them know that this is going to happen so that everyone can support the child emotionally. If your child is not comfortable meeting someone, take that cue and wait. When you do make an introduction, keep it light and short. Allow your child and your person to develop a relationship on their own and at their own pace.

 

Kanye.

It’s very odd to sit down and write a newsletter about Kanye West. Sure, some of his songs are pretty catchy. Yes, he is super famous and his family is every where on social media. Normally, we don’t think about him at all though BUT his recent, erratic behavior makes him worth discussing from a legal perspective.

In case you have been cut off from social media and traditional news, West has experiencing some animated, manic behaviors as of late. His wife has confirmed that he is bipolar and his behavior suggests that West is currently manic and off of medications which would control the extreme range of behavior.

Rumors are spreading quickly that a divorce is on the horizon. If a divorce does happen, we would expect that there will be a discussion about custody of the children and some bumps in the divorce process (even if there is a prenuptial agreement).

Mental Health May Have an Effect on the Divorce Process 
The courts will not force someone to stay married to anyone, including a person with a mental health condition; however, the process is often a bit more of a roller coaster.
1. Concern over physical safety during the process and when that person lives alone. Depending on the person’s condition, he or she may be more likely to harm themselves or others. There are safe guards and orders that can be put into place to keep everyone as safe as possible;
2. Financial needs of the person with mental health concerns may require that a greater portion of the marital assets be allocated to him or her. Alimony may also be necessary if he or she is unable to work or has significant medical expenses; and
3. The process itself may take longer.  The person may not participate because they can’t find the strength to do so; this can be extremely frustrating for a party who just wants to get through the process as quickly as possible.

Mental Health May Have an Effect on Child Custody.
The courts evaluate each case individually to assess the best interest of the child(ren), which may include a variety of factors related to mental health of a parent:
1. Whether the condition is a short term matter or a lifelong condition;
2. Whether the parent  is actively committed to her treatment or therapeutic plan;
3. Whether the parent’s ability to care for himself or herself is compromised by the condition;
4. Whether and how the condition of the parent effects the safety and overall best interest of the child(ren) and their general safety; and
5. Whether the condition is being caused by use or abuse of drugs.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions regarding how mental health effects child custody and divorce or anything else.

Co-Parenting During the Corona Pandemic

Parenting during the Corona pandemic is a challenge for everyone. Chances are good that your family is spending a lot of quality time together in (fairly) close quarters and may be starting to get one another’s nerves. It’s also possible that your children are trying to play more video games than you ever thought possible and you’re possibly starting to see the nutritional value of a peanut butter cup. What can complicate this already challenging time? Co-parenting by divorced or separated parents.

How should you handle co-parenting during this time?
1. Stick to your typical parenting schedule. Your kids need some regularity, predictability and stability;
2. If you know that your situation is going to be changing (ie. nurses and doctors are working longer hours, people are being laid off temporarily, child care centers are closing), communicate that to your ex as soon as possible;
and
3. Work together to adjust and accommodate one another. We know that it’s not always easy to help out the other person, but remember that this is about your children, not your ex.

The Today Show had a great segment on this as well:

www.today.com/parents/how-divorced-parents-handle-custody-coronavirus-t176236

As of now, the probate and family courts are closed except for emergency hearings; however, many of these scheduling issues can be resolved by talking with one another. *

We hope that you stay safe and healthy!

Regards,
John and Faye

* Except where there is a restraining order in place and the parties cannot communicate. When parties are going to be co-parenting, we often ask that restraining orders permit for the parties to communicate via text about the children only; this allows the parties to communicate but allows for evidence of all conversations.

You might be surprised how many people go through a massive life overhaul all at once. They are in the middle of getting divorced, potentially moving into a new home and then WHAM, they quit their job or get fired. This happens ALL-THE-TIME but why?

For some people, they are trying to reinvent themselves for a multitude of reasons;
For others, they are trying to manipulate child support or alimony obligations (we don’t recommend this); or
They get fired.

Divorce can be an emotional roller coaster regardless of whether you wanted it to happen and how amicable the situation has been. The stress can have a massive effect on your body and mind, often leaving people distracted or absent minded. What can you do to help yourself before your divorce becomes an issue at work?

1. Communicate with your boss or human resources department to let them know what is happening. Not only will they potentially need to be involved with providing insurance coverage information, but they are more likely to be supportive and understanding if they they are aware of the situation and if you have reassured them that you will still get all of your work done in a timely manner;

2. Do not make a grandiose announcement or talk about your divorce at work, but if you do, only talk with a select group of close work friends and keep it to a minimum, especially during work hours;

3. Handle personal and divorce matters outside of work hours. Occasionally, you may need to respond to an email or call, but be mindful of your volume and content if you do so;

4. Do not use your work email for communication with your attorney. Some companies monitor their employees’ email and it will not benefit you for your company to know your personal business;

5. When you need to miss work to attend a divorce related meeting or appearance, inform your employer as soon as possible;

6. Put in the extra time at work if needed. If you are an hourly employee, don’t request over time pay if the extra time is needed to finish things that you would have normally finished but for the divorce;

7. If and WHEN you feel stressed or anxious, take a few minutes to refocus by getting some water or going for a quick walk;

8. Keep your emotions under control. We can assure you that if you get fired for poor performance or yelling at your boss, your spouse’s attorney will find out and will use it against you;

9. Get more involved with group projects if you can. Not only will it force you to be more accountable and keep you on schedule, but it will also give you an excuse to interact with others.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions about this or any other legal matters.

Regards,
John & Faye

If you haven’t already figured it out, inspiration for our newsletters often comes from pop culture or current events; this one comes from channel surfing in between innings and randomly catching a question on Family Feud.

What caught our attention? “If your husband told you that he wanted a divorce on Sunday, what would be the first thing that you do on Monday morning?” Of course, we were curious how people answered.

The answers that didn’t find a spot on the survey were entertaining: throw a party, go on a date, have sex with my spouse’s best friend and bad mouth the person.* We can’t tell anyone what to do, but generally speaking, we recommend not doing any of those things.

What *should* you do in the short term?
1. Call a lawyer to familiarize yourself with your legal rights;
2. Take care of yourself by remembering to eat, sleep, exercise and maintain your appearance;
3. Speak positively about your spouse in the presence of your children;
4. Try to avoid hostile confrontations with your spouse;
5. Remind your children that you love them and divorce will not change anything;
6. Seek out a therapist;
7. Answer questions that your spouse may have about things that may have occurred during the marriage in a respectful manner but be careful about asking questions while you are still angry;
8. Start collecting financial information about marital assets; and
9. Retain an attorney.

We realize that some of our suggestions may not be easy to do in the heat of the moment when you are hurt or angry. Chances are good that you will have some heated discussions, but civil discussions are usually more effective and productive.

As always, we are here to help you with any legal questions that you may have. Please feel free to call the office or email us at faye@wjslegal.com.

Regards,
John & Faye