Everything You Need To Know About Family Law

Family Law

For most people, the first thing that comes to mind whenever they come across the phrase “family law” is divorce. Divorce, while a huge part of family law, is just one area of the said legal field.

Family law encompasses a wide range of matters covering anything and everything that pertains to family matters and domestic relations.

Along with divorce, child support, property division, and child custody are the most common areas of family law. Here’s an overview of what each area involves.

Divorce

Divorce is a legal decree that dissolves a marriage. Once a divorce becomes final, both parties will no longer be legally bound to each other. They can move on with their lives, free to remarry or forge a domestic partnership with another person.

Both parties can go for a “no-fault” divorce or a “fault-based” one.

Under no-fault divorce statutes, a spouse can file for divorce without holding the other spouse responsible for the marriage’s end. Loss of affection, irreconcilable differences, and irremediable breakdown are among the grounds for a no-fault divorce.

Fault-based divorce, meanwhile, can be obtained based on grounds that include domestic violence, adultery, drug and alcohol abuse, and abandonment.

Spouses file a fault-based divorce for a number of reasons. Some use a fault-based divorce to get the required waiting period for finalizing the divorce waived. Others do it to sway the court when it decides on subsequent child custody, child support, and alimony cases.

Child Custody

Divorce proceedings, as well as paternity and legitimation cases, typically tackle child custody matters.

When resolving child custody cases, courts in most jurisdictions rule based on the best interests of the child. The factors that determine what’s best for the child may vary from state to state, or from judge to judge. Generally, those factors include, but are not limited to:

The relationship of the child with both parents, siblings, and others who may have a significant effect on the child

The child’s preferences, as well as that of the parents

The overall physical and mental health of the child, parents, and other parties involved

Considering how stressful a child custody case can get, it is often better for all parties to resolve custody issues out-of-court. Such a settlement is possible if both parents come to an agreement that is in the best interest of the child.

Child Support

Divorce, paternity, and legitimation cases often give rise to child support issues. Child support revolves around the policy that both parents have an obligation to support their children.

In most cases, the mother is the custodial parent, while the non-custodial father is the one who pays child support. It’s not unheard of, however, for the roles to be reversed.

The guidelines that govern how much child support the non-custodial parent must pay may vary from state to state. Generally, the parent paying child support must continue to do so until:

The child is no longer a minor, except in cases when the child has special needs

Termination of parental rights through adoption or other legal processes

The child is emancipated or declared an adult by the court after becoming self-supporting

The child goes on active military service

Property division

Each party to a divorce owns 50% of community property, referring to all real and personal property acquired during the marriage. The law dictates that everything classified as community property must be divided equally between the two parties following their divorce.

Property division always begins by identifying all of the property that either party currently owns. To accomplish this, each person must disclose all property acquired before and during the marriage. Property owned before the marriage will be considered as separate property, and will not be subject to property division.

Family law matters can get very complex. Only a qualified and experienced family law attorney can guide you through its intricacies. So don’t hesitate to hire one should you find yourself dealing with divorce and legal matters that come with it.

 

Halloween: 5 Funny Things to Do With Your Kids

Child holding a pumpkin

Navigating Halloween and joint custody might not be a treat, but it’s not a terror either. This is a joyful holiday for most kids, so getting them to participate in multiple celebrations with each parent is not typically a hard sell. Though tagging along for trick-or-treating might not be possible this Halloween, you and your little characters can make it a special one.

Be Secret (Spooky!) Santas

Few things are more exciting to kids than being part of planning a special surprise. Ask them to help you spread some Halloween joy to other families on your block or in your building. Create small gift bags filled with candy or little Halloween toys. Have kids create notes that explain the gifts are an anonymous treat from a neighbor (or sign your names, if you prefer). Alternately, find templates by searching online for “you’ve been boo’d” notes.

In the days before Halloween, explain that it’s time to be secret agents. Your mission is to deliver the bags to all your chosen recipients without anyone seeing you!

Start a New Tradition

Like with all holidays, one of the keys to managing Halloween and joint custody is to create new traditions. You may not be with the kids for trick-or-treating each year, but you can always do your special tradition together.

Maybe on the Saturday morning before Halloween, you’ll all dress head-to-toe in costumes and go out to breakfast. Maybe you’ll have a full-day Halloween movie marathon each year, complete with themed snacks. Maybe you’ll spend November 1st trying different food combinations with all their new treats.

Role Play with Costumes

If your child picked their own costume, it’s probably a very beloved character. Celebrate that enthusiasm by encouraging your child to “be” their character for a full day. A kid who’s dressing up as a princess, for example, could wear her costume all day and get the full royal treatment from her butler or lady-in-waiting (that’s you).

Be careful not to damage the costume before Halloween night! If possible, have your child rewear last year’s costume for this activity, or save it for the days after Halloween.

Have a Costume Dress-Up Challenge

Dressing up is an eternally popular activity for some younger kids. In the spirit of Halloween, announce a family costume challenge. Each one of you gets to take a turn as the decider, who names a person or thing. Then everyone else gets 10 minutes to go put together a costume to match. If the decider picked “robot,” for example, you might put on gray clothing and use tinfoil to quickly make some accessories. If multiple people are playing, the decider can pick a winner for each round.

Make a Halloween Heirloom

This is a special holiday for your kids, and your co-parent is probably also wishing for more time with them. Take a generous approach to Halloween and joint custody by teaming up with the kids to do something for their other parent.

Try a sweet and silly prank like sticking plastic flamingos in the co-parent’s yard. Buy wooden signs in pumpkin shapes and have kids paint one for you and one for your ex. Even better? Use an online photo book platform to create a book together about all the costumes your family members have worn over the years. Make a copy for you and one for your ex.

More Tips for Halloween and Joint Custody

If the custody schedule means you’ll miss spending the 31st with your kids, be sure to check with the school and any organizations that your child belongs to. It’s common for elementary schools, scouting groups, dance schools and so on to organize their own Halloween parades. These activities allow all family members to see the kids dressed up, perfect for parents with limited custody.

Getting Along with Everyone in a Blended Family

Getting Along with Everyone in a Blended Family

Anyone can start a blended family. Actually getting everyone to blend is a bigger challenge.

When you become the spouse or partner of a parent, it’s entirely normal to feel a mix of emotions. You might be excited to have these kids in your life, and anxious about how to not step on the toes of their other parent. Maybe you’re worried about how to discipline the kids, or nervous they won’t get along with your family. Your top priority, though, is probably to form a loving and respectful relationship with the new kids in your life.

As one of the adults at the head of a new blended family, it’s up to you to nurture the relationships you have with your partner’s kids. A few simple strategies, and a lot of patience, will help you get there.

Set Clear Boundaries and Expectations

Kids need consistency and boundaries to feel safe and secure. Establishing boundaries will also protect you from having to make up rules and punishments on the fly, which creates tension.

First, talk to the other parent about the kind of household you want to create. Make a list of house rules that are important to both of you, and talk about what the consequences will be when someone breaks a rule. Next, bring the family together to talk about the rules. Give everyone a chance to talk. Ask kids to share the things they feel they need from you to feel safe and comfortable. Ideally, you’ll schedule regular family get-togethers so everyone has a chance to air any grievances rather than letting them fester.

Find Individual Bonding Experiences

To bring your entire blended family together, focus on strengthening the individual relationships between all of you. Find common activities or interests that you can share with each child. If one kid loves sports, buy season tickets for a local baseball or basketball team. If another is into reading, make a point to schedule weekly library trips for the two of you.

If you have kids of your own, encourage them to form individual relationships with their new step-siblings. Even if it’s just asking a pair of them to join you for a grocery-shopping trip, give them plenty of chances to spend one-on-one time together.

Find Time for Fun

Blending two households and establishing new dynamics is stressful! But if months go by and the kids don’t see you do anything but worry and talk about rules, they’re not going to be inclined to bond with you.

Find unexpected ways to inject some fun and laughter into your shared life. Announce a surprise beach trip one day, or decide that the first Saturday of every month will be a family fun day. Play silly board games and ask kids to show you their favorite funny movies.

Give Kids Some Space

Kids had a whole life with their parent before you arrived on the scene. Part of forming a bonded blended family is showing each other respect for your individual pasts. So be careful to allow plenty of space and time for kids and your partner to have together. Encourage them to have meals alone and to take trips by themselves, to show the kids that you’re not trying to wedge yourself into their relationship.

It’s also important to not expect too much, too soon. Hopefully the kids will grow to love and trust you, and each other, but you can’t rush those things. It might take years to establish a really close and loving relationship. That’s worth the wait.

Dating After Divorce: When To Tell The Kids

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I have been divorced for about three years. I have two teenagers, 13 (a son) and 15 (a daughter). They both live with me, although their father lives in the next town and my son often stays with him. I have just started to date someone. When should I tell my kids that I am dating and when should I introduce them to this new person in my life?

Answer:It’s advisable to tell them you’re dating as you begin to do so. Teens don’t want to feel out of the loop, and letting them know you will begin dating will assist them to manage the changes in their emotional lives. It’s important to send some key messages in that conversation: I’m taking this dating thing slow, I’ll typically date in a way that will not take away from our time together as a family, you’ll be the first to know if I ever develop any genuine feelings for anyone.

How much you want to discuss your date with your children depends on your relationship with them. Be cautious not to be overly excited about dating because your teens are about to get to that stage themselves and you want to preserve the excitement and healthy conversations about dating for them. However, you may have a child who wants to hear some simple things about how the date went and it’s okay to share that information, but beware that you’re not using your children as your best friend.

Introductions should be reserved for when you feel the relationship has potential. Be forwarned that children can develop close attachments quickly so you don’t want your children to develop a meaningful relationship with your man until you know he’s the one and sticking around. When you find someone you like, have a light introduction, perhaps quick dinner and a movie/sporting event just to make sure you feel they interact well and to help your kids feel like they are in the loop. After that, you can continue to have some limited, pleasant times together but they should be far and few between so that your kids aren’t forming any attachments. Once you feel that engagement or some form of long term committment is upon you, that’s when you begin to develop this new enmeshed family concept. That will take a lot of time and love. Be sure to have many open conversations along the way about what family means to you and your kids and how your family system might change with another man in your life but it’ll never change the special, deep relationship you have with your kids.

by M. Gary Neuman

Why do you feel depressed after a separation?

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You are divorced and you feel sad, frighten and lost?

Divorce and depression unfortunately are going hand to hand.

With an increasing number of couples getting divorced each year, depression is becoming more and more common and is considered as one of the most traumatic and stressful experience in a person’s life, and for some men and women, none is more stressful than a divorce.

At the end of your relationship, you are faced with difficult changes in your life, and it is normal to feel sad and even miserable.

You may feel as if you’ll never love anyone the way that you loved your husband and wife…

The sense of loss can be comparable to the pain of losing a loved one. In fact, it is the death of your marriage.

But sometimes these feelings can progress to something more serious: depression.

The effects of depression after a divorce are very varied.

You can be so destabilizing that you feels with no energy and no desire to do anything…

Hopelessness, anxiety and inappropriate guilt can lead to a loss of interest in formerly interesting things.
Changes in sleep patterns with tiredness, loss or increase of appetite, weight loss or gain, irritable, crying, lack of energy and sometimes thoughts of death are the main characteristics of depression after being divorced.

Divorce can be tough, but there are things you can do to help yourself start to feel better!

Transformations will not happen overnight, so be patient with yourself and above all realize that it is possible to move on with your life!!

Whether you are feeling low or have been diagnosed with symptoms of depression, these tips can help you!

Read more on Psychcentral.com

A happy Christmas with separated parents

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Christmas is a special time for children and therefore for their parents too. This holiday, which traditionally involves the family unit, can be difficult for separated parents, especially when their children are not with them for Christmas. We have compiled a list of frequently asked questions by co-parents during the run-up to December 24 and solutions to some of them in order to revive the magic of Christmas for them in their own way.

Who will have custody of the children this year?

Divorced parents are often very fussy about compliance with childcare during the holiday season. To avoid a family crisis that would disturb children, it is better to update your  custody calendar  several months in advance.  Sandrine says: ”  My children will spend Christmas Eve and Christmas day with me and my family this year.   It alternates every year with my ex-husband and I think it is very suitable for everyone because nobody feels cheated “. In all cases, do not ask children to choose which parent they want to spend Christmas with as this would undermine their sense of loyalty towards the excluded parent.

What gift will I give to my daughter or my son?

After a separation, you may feel guilty towards your children, or jealous towards the former spouse. Subsequently in some families, there is a competition for who can give the most expensive gift for Christmas.  The relationship with the co-parent is not a competition  and the child can quickly understand the mechanism and  take advantage of this weakness  to get what he or she wants. David explains: “My ex-wife does not have the same financial means as me, which creates some tension with the approach of Christmas or birthdays.  After a few unfortunate episodes, we made an effort to consult each other before the holidays to prevent our daughter from being a witness to our differences.  Sometimes we offer a bigger, common gift.”

Should I invite my ex to the party for the benefit of my children?

Why not, if you still share some affection . But it should not raise false hopes.  A child can lose his bearings when his separated parents meet and give the impression of a family unit. Be careful too about the organizational nightmare that this can create with in step families: what about new family members and their children?

This is my first Christmas divorced with kids

Unconsciously or not, many separated parents are hit by nostalgia which can invade Christmas. Jean-François has become habituated to inviting his two teenagers to a restaurant with his new girlfriend: ” I found myself alone, desperate to organize a perfect Eve.  It quickly turned into a culinary fiasco. Since then, I reserve a good restaurant, and on Christmas Eve we go out”. Martine has made a clean sweep of her former life: “It reminded me too much of old memories.  I decided to change all the dishes, table decoration and especially the menu. Finish the game, and flash garlands”. Separation, it changes people. It is normal for family traditions to evolve to better match the new life of each. And if you feel better as well,  the children will be the ones to benefit.

This is my first Christmas divorced without my children

Separated parents agree that this is a difficult moment to go through. “After a few years, one tends to become experienced” says Sandra, who found tricks to not spend Christmas alone. ”  I made new friends who are mostly like me.  We take the opportunity to meet on Christmas Eve and have a good time without getting depressed.  I know my children are with their father so I do not let myself worry about them “. You have to reassure yourself: there will be other Christmases you’ll spend with the children and we have the whole year to spend with them. This is the moment to take care of yourself.

And you? Does this time of year particularly affect you after your separation? What are your experiences or your new Christmas traditions? Share your experiences here

From ex-spouse to friend: Reinventing relationships after divorce

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Your marital relationship is over, but what about your relationship with your in-laws, their relationship with your children, or even your relationship with your ex-spouse’s new lover? What is healthy and appropriate? Since no one has written the new rules and codes of social conduct for relationships engendered by divorce, we asked some experts to share their insights with us.

Everyone knows at least one divorce horror story, but we seldom hear about people who have established friendly post-divorce associations with each other. “Did you hear that Hugh and Liz are getting along well these days?” just isn’t news. Armed with their version of divorce hell, the skeptics tell us it’s impossible for a divorced couple to make peace and become friends. They outtalk the quiet and peaceful believers — perhaps because people who are doing just fine don’t feel the need to vent. “If every divorce were a ‘War of the Roses’, there would be blood on the streets!” points out Barbara Quick, author of Still Friends: Living Happily Ever After…Even if your Marriage Falls Apart.

Luckily, it’s never too late to make peace. With determination and good intentions, you can overcome the anger, grief, and sadness of losing a marriage and eventually — believe it or not — achieve friendship. Whether or not you want to be “friends” with your ex is a decision in itself, but if you have children together, finding a way to be amicable with your co-parent makes life a lot easier. Your former in-laws don’t have to disappear with the marriage either, especially if you’ve always enjoyed a good relationship with them. Unfortunately there’s no rule book for cultivating civility with your ex-spouse, your former in-laws, or even your ex’s new spouse — so we asked several experts — including people who have managed to create friendly post-divorce relationships — for some guidance. Here’s what they had to say:

Ex-spouse, New Friend?

When the divorce process has pitted you and your spouse against each other, training you to view each other as enemies, any form of future alliance can seem impossible. But if you have children, your ex-spouse is still your co-parent. “It’s difficult for separated partners to remain productive co-parents when the legal process is making them enemies,” says Lillian Messinger, a Toronto marriage counselor who specializes in post-divorce relationships. It takes a lot of maturity to make amends with the person who has torn apart your life, or who has been a monster in court. But just as it takes two to determine the marriage dynamic, it takes two to make a good — or bad — divorce. Quick emphasizes that “every couple has their own relationship dance. All you have to do is change your part in the dance.” If you change your behavior, your relationship will change, too.

Mark and Sara (not their real names) were married for 12 years, and have now been divorced for three. “The first couple years of our marriage was pretty good, but it went downhill rapidly,” says Sara. “For the last six years, we communicated in snarls, or through our son, Peter. A friend encouraged us to try mediation, and during the process we started to really talk for the first time in years. The mediator encouraged us to remember what we used to like about each other as we established our co-parenting relationship, and how to listen and ‘mine for the gold’ in what we said to each other.” Both Sara and Mark report that their relationship is better post-divorce than it ever was when they were married. “We are much better as friends than as a couple,” says Mark. “Some of the things that really bug you in a spouse just don’t matter in a friend. For Peter’s sake, we were committed to working on our co-parenting relationship, and the happy side-effect is that we really like each other these days — which wasn’t the case during our marriage.”

However well or poorly you knew your former spouse, this will be an exercise in re-acquaintance. Forming a relationship with your ex is entirely separate from the process of ending a marriage; if you work through the process to achieve your “emotional divorce,” you can cultivate something entirely new. Your old relationship is over; take the steps to heal so that you can invest your energy elsewhere.

Grieving the death of a marriage is like mourning any other loss: it hurts a lot, and you get through it minute by minute. The trick is to stay on the path to recovery, not stopping at the first challenge. In her research for Still Friends, Quick found that a pattern emerged among those who had successfully recovered from divorce. The process that begins with anger and grieving eventually leads to healing, forgiveness, and insight. “Acknowledge the stage you’re at, and allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling. Most people get stuck in anger and grieving,” says Quick, adding that “Everyone has a unique healing process. Some people go through it on their hands and knees, spending months at every stage, others go through it at high speed.”

Healing and moving on can take years, but communication with your ex may have to continue both during and after your divorce. If you have children, you will have to discuss the details of their lives. Whether weekly or monthly, these chats are going to develop a personality. They might be draining, dreadful, stressful, infuriating, and frustrating — or they could be just fine.

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Joint Custody: How to Deal With Pocket Money

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It’s often said parenting doesn’t come with a manual. That’s especially true if you are co-parenting after separation or divorce. Joint custody means working out day-to-day issues surrounding your children, while they are living with two families.

One of those issues is pocket money. Even if kids don’t get a formal allowance, they usually get cash from their parents for small things. Former partners may face uncertainty as to how they should split this expense.

There are some general guidelines you might want to follow, but the key is to communicate. Knowing the other parent’s points of view can help you both to decide what’s fair and best for your kids.

Separation Agreements

Most of the big issues surrounding money are covered by a separation or divorce agreement and child support regulations. But pocket money isn’t really taken into account. In some jurisdictions, a child’s allowance is explicitly excluded from the special and extraordinary expenses portion of child support.

That usually means parents are on their own. No one wants to get lawyers involved for something as small as pocket money. It can not only cause stress on the child and put strain on the relationship, but cost more than it’s worth.

However, many co-parents try to make a fair division of costs for the children. One may incur the costs of health insurance, for example. It comes down to talking openly and calmly about what the children need and how best to provide it.

Handling Money

One potential cause for concern is how parents generally raise issues of money with children. Each parent may have a different point of view. This is often made more challenging if one parent is more affluent than the other.

When deciding on allocating pocket money, many co-parents discuss specific issues first. How much should the child receive? How often? Should the child earn the money through chores or by running errands?

Once parents are on the same page about the philosophy behind money, it’s easier to determine how it should be paid out. The next step is keeping up open communication about how things are going in both homes.

Special Circumstances

Parents may choose to settle up child care expenses on a regular basis. But life happens at an unpredictable pace. Often a child will go on a last-minute trip for which they need money. One parent may agree to fund a special occasion because they feel strongly about the opportunity.

These parents may disagree about certain costs, but choose to discuss such matters on an ongoing basis. That way, parents have the freedom to support their kids without burdening their co-parent. At the same time, they can show respect to one another by talking through any disagreements.

Talking to Your Kids

Some parents choose to include the children in conversations about money. Often, these talks can be a reminder that both parents are working together to make decisions. That way, the kids know that their parents are communicating about their pocket money, even if they don’t live together.

Technology to Help

Through the use of apps like 2houses, co-parents can handle all issues to do with joint custody. Specifically, they can log every time they give pocket money to their child so the other parent can stay informed about what’s going on. Based on the decisions made between parents, they can use the app to divide costs quickly and easily.

Unpaid Child Support: What You Can Do

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There are some coparenting situations where child support is a non-issue. If the parents have a true 50/50 custody time split and make roughly the same income, the courts may decide that there’s no need for a child support order. Similarily, some people choose to forego financial support as part of their divorce agreement. However, if you do count on child support as part of your monthly income, not receiving payments can create a real financial hardship.

Unless there’s a specific short-term issue that’s keeping your ex from making payments, you’ll likely need to get the professionals involve in collecting back support. Here’s what you need to know.

Get an Official Child Support Order

While this may seem obvious, it’s not unusual for coparents to have an informal child support arrangement. This is most common in situations where the divorce is in process, the parents were never married, or the divorce/dissolution was very amicable. While this situation works for some, it’s always best to have an official court order to fall back on, and if you’re dealing with unpaid child support, it’s a must before you can take any action for back payments.

Ensure the Child Support Order Is Accurate and Up to Date

Child support is handled on a state by state basis, and each state has its own guidelines for what factors go into the calculations and how child support is determined. In most cases, it will be dependent on the income (and possibly earning potential) or both parents and any other outstanding factors. These could be child care costs or something like above-average medical expenses for a child with a chronic condition. However, these factors may change as the child gets older or the parents get new jobs. If you or your coparent has experienced a significant change in financial circumstances, it’s important to have your child support order updated before seeking back payments — especially if the unpaid child support is due to a financial hardship.

Contact Your Local Child Support Enforcement Agency

The Child Support Enforcement Agency is responsible for ensuring that child support orders are executed. It should be your first contact if you stop receiving your payments. The case worker can let you know how long you have to go without a payment before enforcement action is taken (this is usually 1-3 months) and what the next steps are. Keep in mind, however, that the case worker will likely not be able to tell you why you’re not receiving payments or give you any personal information about your ex’s job or financial situation.

Keep Up Open and Positive Communication

It’s frustrating when you’re counting on money, and it doesn’t come in. But it’s important to keep the child support and the visitation and custody matters separate. If your ex stops paying support, that doesn’t mean you can withhold visitation or try other punitive measures to get them to pay. And really, this can just backfire even more and turn what was a peaceful coparenting arrangement into a war zone. Using the expense tracking and messaging tools on 2houses gives you an easy way to keep communication factual, professional and focused on the children.

Whether your ex just missed their first payment or you’re owed thousands in unpaid child support, it’s important to continue to abide by the current court order and go through the proper legal channels to seek back payments.

 

Managing Life as a Single Parent after Divorce

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When a divorced couple has children, life can get very complicated. Each parent is now on their own and suddenly realize all of the small things they did not notice when they had the other parent to back them up. Parents of babies and toddlers are tested by late nights and early mornings, with no one to alternate sleep, feedings, changing, and difficult nights with. Mothers and fathers of school aged children have to handle the morning routine: getting the kids to school, meeting with teachers, and driving the kids to after-school activities, all on their own. Managing life after divorce as a parent is not easy, but life will get back to normal much faster if steps are taken to deal with the challenges, instead of just hoping for a solution.

Struggles of Single Parents

Going through a divorce and living with divorce are very complicated life events which statistics show that many people in this country go through. Below are the two main challenges for single parents:

Childcare

This can be tricky one when the other parent doesn’t want to play nice. Developing a set schedule, if at all possible, for visitations will make it a little easier to figure out childcare. After visitation is established, each parent needs to find their own sitters or agree on one childcare or babysitter for both schedules. Both parents should have their own backup in case help bails at the last moment. This will keep the other parent from having to cancel their own plans to watch the children.

Read more…
By Andrew Miller for familyblawg.com