Back to School and Coparenting After COVID-19

Back to scholl and Covid 19

It’s safe to say that 2020 has been a landmark year so far, and it’s not over yet. From the first mentions of coronavirus at the beginning of the year to layoffs, stay-at-home orders and school closings, it seems like there’s nothing left untouched by the virus. Summer is offering some a brief respite, but parents across the country are starting to eye the impending 2020-2021 school year and wonder what it will look like.

When it comes to COVID-19 and co-parenting, the only thing we know for sure is that we don’t know exactly what’s coming or what will happen in the future. But considering the possibilities and putting into place some contingency plans for back to school can help parents feel more prepared and ease some of the fears and uncertainty children are experiencing.

What Are School Districts Doing?

While every part of the country is known for its own specific way of doing things, what school looks like this fall is going to depend heavily on where you’re located. Many of the shutdowns and orders were state-specific, but as the country continues to attempt to reopen and deal with the possible second wave of infections, many governors are making county-by-county decisions. In this case of school openings, in particular, many decisions are being left up to the individual districts. School districts are getting lists of recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the governor and then being told to implement them however works best for their students. This means that your children could be dealing with a remote learning situation, while three blocks away in another district, the children are going to school five days a week.

If you’re not sure what your district is planning yet, it could be because they don’t know yet either. Many districts are still formulating plans and trying to come up with multiple options so that they can change on the fly if there is a second wave or shutdowns need to happen again this fall. Make sure that you are subscribed to whatever method the school is using to communicate updates or changes, as this will likely happen as we move into flu season. Some districts have moved to social media while others are still using robocall lines, and if you’re not on the list, you won’t get the update.

Three Primary Possibilities

Most school districts across the country are creating multiple plans so that they can adjust if need be without the major disruption that happened this spring. Below are the three most common options being discussed.

Traditional Schooling — With Some Changes

This would be school as close to normal as we could get. Children would go to school for a full week and have in-person instruction as normal. However, the routines and environment surrounding that instruction is likely to look a little different. Many districts are considering requiring teachers and staff to wear masks, having fewer children in one room together and not bussing as many children in. Other requirements may include no shared supplies, not moving between classes for older students who tend to switch teachers for every grade and no recess time.

In this scenario, the change to the co-parenting or custody schedule is likely to be very small or not at all.

Remote Schooling

Remote schooling is the other end of the spectrum. This would be 100% online instruction similar to what many families dealt with schools shut down earlier this year. However, many districts are putting more time and effort into this option, so it would likely look different from the “crisis schooling,” with real lessons and virtual contact with teachers and less support and interaction needed from parents.

This option could cause serious disruption for co-parenting families where both parents are working and not able to be home with the children during school hours. While remote learning should require less from parents than crisis schooling, young children will still need to be kept on task and supervised during the day.

Hybrid Models

Many districts are considering a hybrid model, attempting to blend the desire for traditional school with the ability to switch to remote learning seamlessly if needed. Examples that have been tossed around by some districts include children going to school just two or three days a week and remote learning the other days, or elementary-aged children going to school as normal with middle and high school grades engaging in remote learning.

This option would also likely create difficulties for families operating out of two households and trying to follow a custody schedule because it doesn’t allow for the same option all week for the entire school year.

Co-Parenting Challenges for the Upcoming School Year

While it’s clear that there is still a great deal of uncertainty over what may happen with the upcoming school year, there are bound to be some co-parenting challenges. Depending on what your district opts for and your co-parenting relationship with the other parent, these could be major or minor. Below are a few common issues co-parenting families are facing with going back to school during the coronavirus.

1. Disagreements on What Option to Pick

This is perhaps the most serious issue: you can’t agree on which education option to pick for the fall. Some parents are adamant that children should go back to school as normally as possible, while others think it’s still too soon and the safe option is 100% remote learning. Still others are turning to online public schools and homeschooling as options that they hadn’t considered before. If both parents aren’t in agreement, it can cause serious issues.

In the case where one parent has sole decision-making ability, such as in sole legal custody situations, this might be solved by that parent just making an executive decision. However, if the parents have joint legal custody and can’t agree on what to do, the issue may have to go before the courts for the judge to make the final ruling.

2. Issues With Childcare

If your district is opting not to have school as “normal,” it’s likely to create a childcare issue. Even in two-parent households, many times, both parents are working out of the house and both incomes are necessary for financial purposes. And in the case of divorced parents, it’s common for the parent to be the only income in the family, which creates even more pressure.

For example, let’s say that the children are going to school two days a week, Tuesday and Wednesday, but are doing remote schooling the other three. However, both parents are working traditional Monday through Friday 9-5 jobs. What will they do with the children on the other three days? Many childcare centers have to reduce capacity with the new restrictions, and in-home sitters can be very expensive. Some parents may also face the issue of changing parenting time if one parent does have more freedom with work and can take the children when they aren’t in school. This could change a 50/50 custody split into an 80/20 split quickly, which can affect other issues such as child support.

3. Transporting School Items Back and Forth

A minor issue, but one that co-parents are likely to be dealing with on a near-constant basis, is the transportation of school items back and forth between both houses. You’re probably already used to making sure that homework gets taken care of and backpacks go with the kids, but remote learning situations may come with laptops, tablets or other expensive technology that your children, and therefore you, are now responsible for. Now, a tablet left at Mom’s becomes a “have to drive and go get it tonight or I can’t do school in the morning” problem instead of a “you can just pick it up next time” issue.

No matter what school ends up looking like in your area come August and September, the truth is that it will take some time to get the hang of things. Even if you think you’ve planned for every possible scenario, there are still likely to be some curveballs and surprises, and a sense of humour and remembering that everyone — teachers, kids and the other parent — are all trying their best can go a long way.

The 2houses co-parenting app can make it easier to navigate through the changing landscape of what back to school may look like by offering features such as a messaging center, an information bank and a calendar all in one user-friendly interface. Use the calendar to keep track of which days the children are remote or in-person learning, use the information bank to keep record of any required doctor’s visits or vaccinations and use the messaging center to keep the other parent up to date on schooling changes or any possible symptoms of COVID-19.

4 Reasons to Use a Co-Parenting App

2houses

While a divorce or separation is often the best choice for some families, it doesn’t mean that co-parenting comes without its challenges. Learning to coordinate, communicate and work together with the other parent comes with a learning curve. It’s easy to misread a text, lose track of an email or forget to pass along information on extracurricular activities — all of which can cause conflict in your co-parenting relationship. Whether you’re trying to find a way to keep track of papers, notices, expenses and who has what holiday or you just want to find a way to make communication more civil, a co-parenting app can help. 2houses was designed with divorced parents in mind and helps make dealing with two separate households a little less stressful.

4 Benefits of Using a Co-Parenting App

Co-parenting apps can’t magically make your relationship and interactions with the other parent perfect and conflict-free, but they can help streamline communication, help you keep track of paperwork and make it a little easier to deal with a tenuous situation. Below we’ve covered just a few of the main benefits you can get from using a co-parenting app.

1. It Helps Foster Communication

Communication is key to successful co-parenting. The more of an open exchange of dialogue involving concerns, upcoming events and just general updates on the children’s lives you can have, the better for your co-parenting relationship and for your children. However, this isn’t always as easy in practice as it is in theory.

Sometimes, it’s one parent who won’t cooperate. You send them texts and emails keeping them updated on school events and sports practices for the kids, but they claim they never received them. Or maybe you’re dealing with a situation where the other parent is actively trying to sabotage co-parenting by withholding information or sending angry and derogatory messages.

Other times, communication issues happen just because there is so much to keep track of. This can be especially true in situations where there are multiple children. Every child has their own homework that needs to be done, extracurricular schedules, playdates and meetups with friends, and sometimes things get lost in the shuffle and not communicated to both parents.

2houses can help with all of these issues by giving you a way to keep track of all communication in one easy-to-access place. So whether you need to confirm vacation plans, send along the snack requirements for your son’s soccer practice or ask the other parent for medical forms, everything can be communicated through the 2houses app. The messaging center offers secure messaging much like an email system with timestamps of when things were sent and read, and while you can archive conversations once they are not needed anymore, nothing can ever be deleted, so you can always go back and follow up with something if needed.

2. It Keeps Everything in One Place

One of the more common hazards of co-parenting and trying to manage children between two households is that there is a lot of paperwork. And when you consider that now some places such as schools and doctors’ offices are going digital and emailing records or allowing you access via apps, it can get even more challenging to know where to look for information that needs to be shared with the other parent. Just a few of the things that parents often need to share include:

  • Information on teacher names
  • Medical records
  • Expense records and reimbursement requests
  • Permissions slips
  • Insurance information
  • Clothing and shoe sizes
  • Christmas and birthday wishlists
  • Phone numbers and addresses for friends and family

If you have multiple children, the paperwork starts to grow exponentially. If you’ve ever tried to find a school lunch bill in a stack of papers or ended up having to ask the other parent for a medical bill again after misplacing it, you know how easy it is for things to get lost, misplaced or  just plain forgotten about. It can be very difficult for either parent to keep track of what’s been sent and what hasn’t or what information is being kept where. That’s where the co-parenting app comes in.

One of the main features of 2houses is the information bank. It lets you upload virtually everything you could ever need to provide the other parent with in one place. There are dedicated places for things like bank information and vaccination records, but there’s also document storage that lets you upload any paper directly to the app and share it with the other parent. You can also organize your documents after you’ve uploaded them however you need to, such as by child or by category. This ensures the other parent has everything they need, but it also makes it easier for you because it’s like an instant online filing system. Anytime you need insurance information or need to double check your child’s shoe size, it’s all already in the app.

3. It Lets Both Parents Stay Involved

It used to be that people believed that a two-parent household was the gold standard as far being the best for kids. But now, we’ve recognized that the best thing for children is to have two happy, healthy parents, and sometimes, that means those parents making the choice to no longer be romantically involved or live in the same house. The most important thing is that both parents stay active and involved in the children’s lives.

It’s obviously impossible to keep up the same level of involvement as if both parents were living in the same household with the child, but technology has advanced so much that it’s not as difficult as it once was. This is especially true in cases where the parents have joint physical custody and both parents are having frequent face-to-face contact with the children. Video calling and texting have allowed parents to stay more in touch with their children than in years past, but co-parenting apps like 2houses can also help.

While just being able to have all the notices and the schedule in one place can make it easier for both parents to attend functions and ensure they are actively participating in their children’s lives, two other important features of 2houses that help parents stay connected to their children are the journaling and photo album capabilities.

The in-app journal lets parents and children share everything from thoughts on the day to feelings about upcoming events or just recapping for memory keeping purposes. Children can have their own access that is controlled by the parent account so they can contact both parents and send messages without also having access to private communications between the parents.

For those times when one parent isn’t able to be there in person, the photo album allows either the children or the other parent to upload pictures so they can still “be there” virtually. Common applications for this are for birthdays, school functions, vacations and even just silly candids of the kids.

4. It’s Automatic Documentation

Even in the best of co-parenting situations, there are bound to be some conflicts. One of the best things about using a co-parenting app for all communication and file and paper transfers is that you have built-in documentation. If you run into a situation where you think one thing was said but the other parent believes it was something else, it’s easy to just go back to the messages and reread it word for word. These messages are also built into the system which means there’s no possibility of common situations like one person deleting texts or not having “received” an email. For example, if one parent sends the other parent a notice that the children have a school play on Friday night at 6 p.m. through the app, the other parent can’t claim they didn’t attend because they didn’t know about it.

If you’re ever in a situation where you end up needing to take an issue back before the courts, using the 2houses co-parenting app makes it much easier to keep your documentation straight and have everything you need to present your case. Consider an example of one parent who claims that the other parent is interfering with their parenting time and not letting the first parent see the children. If Parent Number 2 has the documented messages from the app that show that Parent Number 1 cancelled at the last minute or no-showed several times, this can help Parent Number 1 show that interference is not the issue with the parenting time.

Whether you are just starting on your co-parenting journey or you’re trying to make it even smoother, co-parenting apps can be an important piece of the puzzle. Learn more about the features 2houses has to offer and how it can help you make positive changes in communication between you and the other parent, help you organize your paperwork and keep everything handy for documentation purposes if needed.

60/40 Custody Schedules and What they Really Look Like

Custody Calendar template

More and more parents are choosing to have joint custody in the last few decades as opposed to the traditional every other weekend schedules of the past. While shared custody has shown to be helpful in ensuring the children have a good relationship with both parents, it can get confusing on how to split the time. The 60/40 custody schedule is a popular choice, and it can break down in a variety of ways. Here’s an overview of the 60/40 schedule, some practical examples and considerations for when you’re choosing what works best for your family.

What Does a 60/40 Schedule Actually Look Like?

When we talk about joint custody schedules in terms of numbers, we’re really talking about the percentage of time division between the two parents. In a 50/50 schedule, both parents are spending about half of the time in any given week with the child. In a 60/40 custody schedule, one parent is getting about 60% of the time while the other gets around 40%.

It’s important to remember that this doesn’t always work out exactly. For example, the breakdown, depending on which schedule you choose, may actually work out to something like 57/43, but for intents and purposes, it’s referred to as a 60/40 split. Another key principle here is that joint custody schedules take into consideration around-the-clock time, not just time actually spent with the children. So, even if you have the 60 side of the 60/40 split, if your days mostly fall during the week when you are working and the children are in school, you may end up with less face-to-face time than a parent who has the 40% on the weekends.

Common 60/40 Custody Splits

There are many ways to put a 60/40 custody schedule into place, and if both parents are in agreement, they can largely make whatever schedule they want. When you’re deciding on how to make a 60/40 custody schedule work, it’s important to keep in mind the ages of the children. Younger children often do better with shorter times away from the other parent while older children are better able to handle 4-5 day stretches away from the other parent. Here are just a few of the most common 60/40 custody schedules.

Long Weekends

This schedule splits the week into two main parts: the main week and a long weekend. Parent #1 has parenting time from Monday morning to Friday early afternoon, and Parent #2 gets the children from Friday early afternoon to Monday morning. It’s common in this case for Parent #2 to be the one dropping the children off at school on Monday morning and picking them up on Friday afternoon. The main advantage to this schedule is that the days are always the same; however, it also means that one parent gets every weekend. This can be an issue if Parent #1 is working during the week because they end up with very little downtime with the children.

4-3

In discussions of custody schedules, you will often see them laid out as numbers with dashes in between. This refers to how the days are separated between the parents. For example, in the 4-3 schedule, Parent #1 gets the children for four days and then Parent #2 gets them for three days. This continues to repeat.

The main difference between this and the long weekend schedule is that, depending on when you start the week, the entire weekend may not be spent with one parent. For example, Parent #1 could get Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and then the other parent would get Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. This schedule can be customized depending on when you want the three-day break with the other parent to be, which can be helpful for families with nontraditional work schedules.

2-2-5-5

A 2-2-5-5 schedule alternates with Parent #1 getting the children for two days, then they go back to Parent #2 for two days, then back to Parent #1 for five days and then back to Parent #2 for five days. A practical example of this schedule could be:

  • Parent #1: Monday, Tuesday
  • Parent #2: Wednesday, Thursday
  • Parent #1: Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday
  • Parent #2: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday
2-2-5-5 custody schedule template

This would then repeat. The biggest advantage of this type of schedule is that it alternates weekends so that each parent gets time away from work and school to be with the children. However, it can be complicated to keep track of.

2-2-3

The 2-2-3 schedule is often used for younger children because there are no long stretches away from either parent. An example of this schedule is:

  • Parent #1: Monday, Tuesday
  • Parent #2: Wednesday, Thursday
  • Parent #1: Friday, Saturday, Sunday
  • Parent #2: Monday, Tuesday
  • Parent #1: Wednesday, Thursday
  • Parent #2: Friday, Saturday, Sunday
2-2-3 custody schedule template

This schedule also allows for alternating weekends and can be simpler to keep track of than the 2-2-5-5 split. However, it does require a lot of shuffling between houses, which can be difficult for children who feel like they don’t really have one main home. There are often also reentry issues when the children switch between houses, especially if the rules between the two are very different. In this type of schedule, the children are almost always coming from or going to a house, so these issues may be worsened.

How 60/40 Custody Schedules Can Affect Other Issues

If you are still trying to decide how you are going to share custody, it’s important to keep in mind that your physical custody schedule is different from your legal custody. For example, it’s common for parents to have shared physical custody so they both get ample time with the children but for one parent to retain sole legal custody. This means that one parent still has the decision-making power for things like education, religious and medical decisions. Always make sure that you know exactly what your physical and legal custody division is.

If you do decide to go with a 60/40 custody schedule, it can affect the amount of child support you receive or have to pay. In a 50/50 shared custody split, it’s common for judges to not award child support to either party because they are sharing the time equally, and the assumption is that they are also sharing the cost of living for the children equally because of this. In a 60/40 custody schedule, the judge may award some child support to the parent with the 60%, particularly if there is a large income disparity between the two parties, but it’s likely to be much less than the custodial parent would get in a sole physical custody schedule with the noncustodial parent only getting the children every other weekend.

The last consideration for any type of shared custody schedule is that it requires a great deal of communication and coordination between the parents — particularly in the case of the 2-2-5-5 and 2-2-3 splits where the children are changing houses frequently. If you have a positive co-parenting relationship with the other parent and are able to keep the lines of communication open, this can work very well. However, these kinds of schedules can be difficult if for high-conflict situations. In these cases, it may be better to stick to the 4-3 split or a long weekend schedule so that the schedule stays the same from week to week.

60/40 Custody Schedules and 2houses

Co-parenting apps like 2houses can make it much easier to track and manage joint custody schedules. For example, the calendar app lets you put the custody schedule directly on to the calendar so that you can always see at a glance who the children will be with when. This is especially helpful in the case of more complicated 60/40 custody schedules like the 2-2-5-5 and 2-2-3 options. You can also add all important dates, extracurricular activities, doctors’ appointments or anything else that needs to be taken care of to the calendar so that both parents know exactly what needs to happen on their parenting time without the other parent having to tell them or remind them.

The message feature is also helpful for shared custody situations because it provides an easy way to coordinate with the other parent in a secure way. Children who are often changing houses might have medication that needs to go with them or may forget a sports uniform or report for school, and being able to take care of these things all within the same app is very helpful for efficient communication and automatic documentation purposes.

Find out more about how 2houses can help make your co-parenting journey less stressful and more productive by checking out our features rundown and then signing up for our free 14-day trial so you can see the benefits for yourself.

Tips, Tricks and Talking Points for Setting Up Joint Custody

Joint custody agreement

When it comes to custody situations, there are two main types of custody orders: sole custody and joint custody. Decades ago, sole custody was much more common than joint custody, with most children living with one parent and the other parent being awarded a standard schedule of one afternoon visit a week and every other weekend. However, in recent years, the courts have recognized how important it is for children to have ongoing, close relationships with both parents and have started to move toward more joint custody arrangements. In some states, such as Maine and North Dakota, joint custody is even considered the default standard, and sole custody is only awarded if there are exceptional circumstances that make joint custody not in the best interests of the children.

3 Reasons You May Want to Consider Joint Custody

Whether you are just considering filing for custody and wondering if you should consider a joint custody situation or are wanting to switch from sole custody to joint, there are many reasons why joint custody can be beneficial for both the parents and the children.

1. It Keeps Both Parents Involved

For those that are able to co-parent well, joint custody arrangements can be very helpful. It ensures that both parents can stay active in the children’s lives, which has been shown to be beneficial for the children especially. With a joint custody arrangement, it’s more likely that both parents will be seeing the child on a more frequent basis, and both parents will also have the opportunity to transport the child to extracurricular activities, host sleepovers and playdates and get to be involved in more of the day-to-day aspects of parenting.

2. It Lets You Share the Decision-Making Burden

Having joint legal custody also keeps both parents equally involved in the decision-making process for important issues such as medical care, education and religious upbringing. When all of the burden of making these types of decisions falls on one parent, such as when there is a sole legal custody arrangement, it can be stressful. Many parents find that having joint decision-making ability lets them work together to consider ideas, bounce different options off of each other and come to a decision that both are comfortable with.

3. It Can Give You a Built-In Support System

Joint custody schedules can also ease some of the burden of being a single parent. Being the only parent in the household means there is a lot of responsibility, with most single parents juggling working, taking care of the children and managing the household. If you have a joint custody schedule and a good co-parenting relationship, the other parent can step in and provide some relief if you get called in for an extra shift, need some time to deep clean without children underfoot or just need a night to relax after a stressful day.

Some joint custody schedules include a specific clause for this called the first right of refusal. This basically means that anytime one parent isn’t going to be with the children and would be having them stay with friends or family or hiring a babysitter, the other parent gets the first opportunity to take that time. Only if the other parent refuses, does the first parent then have someone else watch the kids.

Filing for Joint Custody

Filing for joint custody is something you can do yourself, or you can have a lawyer fill out the paperwork. Which way is best depends a great deal on your unique set of circumstances. For example, if you are doing an initial filing for joint custody and your divorce has been amicable and both you and the other parent are in agreement on the custody arrangement, filing with the courts yourself can save you money over getting an attorney.

However, in situations where you are asking for joint custody when a sole custody order is already in place or if the custody situation is already contentious, it may be best to have an attorney handle things so that you can be sure the paperwork is filled out appropriately and all of your specific needs have been addressed in the filing.

Exactly how to file for joint custody varies by state, and the process may also be different if you are trying to change an existing custody order instead of doing an original filing. Below, we’ve listed the general steps as well as special considerations to be aware of depending on your situation.

1. Find Out What Paperwork You Need

Every state has a specific form that must be filed for joint custody. If you already have a custody order in place, this may be called something like a Motion for Reallocation of Parenting Responsibilities. If it’s the first custody filing for the case, it may just be the Shared Parenting Agreement that you file along with your divorce paperwork. Make sure you have the correct paperwork for your situation.

2. Gather Your Documentation

If you are requesting a modification to an existing custody order, you will need to show the court cause as to why the change is needed. Keep in mind that courts always go by what they believe is in the best interests of the children, which means your documentation needs to reflect that. It can be difficult to change from sole custody to joint custody, as some states have laws that only allow for this change if certain circumstances, such as a job loss, addiction issue or abuse, are happening. A change in custody also often affects child support, so you may need to provide recent income documentation so the courts can decide if the child support order also needs to be adjusted.

3. File With the Courts

Once you have all of the correct paperwork and corresponding documentation, you’re ready to file. If you are filing yourself, you may have to pay a small filing fee when you file the papers with the clerk of courts. You may also need to pay for the other parent to be served the papers. If you are using an attorney, these fees are usually included in the retainer amount, and you will receive an itemized statement that shows what the cost was.

4. Attend the Hearing

While it may take a while to get it completed and ready to send in, filing the custody paperwork with the courts is really only the first step. Once the filing has been accepted, you will be given a hearing date. Both parents will need to attend the hearing, and the best-case scenario is that the final decision will be made that day and you will leave the courthouse with temporary paperwork that explains the updated custody arrangement while you wait for your official copy to arrive from the court.

However, custody decisions are notorious for being drawn out, especially in cases where the parents are not in agreement. If you want joint custody and the other parent doesn’t, your case may be sent on for further hearings where both sides will be able to present documentation and even have witnesses and experts provide testimony as to why the proposed joint custody arrangement is or isn’t in the best interests of the children. Even after the judge has made a decision, there is still the possibility of an appeal.

5. Keep Your Paperwork

Once the custody agreement has been finalized, make sure to keep your official copy from the courts where you can access it easily. You may need it as a reference for how to handle things like summer vacations, birthdays and other holidays as well as other special circumstances like the children participating in extracurricular activities on the other parent’s time.

Making Joint Custody Arrangements Work

When it comes to any situation that involves parents who are no longer in a relationship and their children, the focus is always on the best interests of the children. This is what the courts look at in making custody determinations, and it’s what both parties should keep in mind as they co-parent.

Frequent, open communication and a focus on the children is the best way to facilitate joint custody, and 2Houses can help. 2Houses makes it easy to keep dates and custody schedules straight with its joint calendar feature, and you can easily upload practice dates, birthday parties and parent-teacher conferences so both parents have access to the children’s schedules at all times. Keeping track of splitting payments for program fees, school supplies and medical care is easy with the financial tracker that shows who is responsible for which portion of what bill. And there’s a built-in messaging feature so you can keep all communication and information in one place and not have to worry about keeping records of texts or emails.

No matter what kind of custody schedule you end up with, keeping the lines of communication open and making the children the number one priority can help you better navigate co-parenting.

Co-Parenting With a Narcissist – Learn How to Deal

Co-parenting

Many people don’t hear the word narcissist to describe their partner until well after the relationship has ended, but once they start learning more about this type of personality disorder, a lot of what happened with the relationship, the breakup and the attempts at co-parenting after starts to make sense.

The Mayo Clinic defines a narcissist as someone who has “a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.” Learn more about this type of behavior and some tips on how to deal with a co-parent who is a narcissist.

4 Signs You May Be Co-Parenting With a Narcissist

How do you recognize a narcissist? The general traits are lack of empathy, a disregard for other people’s feelings and an extreme need for approval and attention from others. But what does this look like when it comes to the co-parenting relationship? Here are just a few of the common signs of a narcissist co-parent.

1. The Blame Is Always on You

Narcissists often live in a world where they can do nothing wrong and any issue is always the other person’s fault. In co-parenting situations, this can manifest in a variety of ways, but one of the most common is surrounding scheduling issues. For example, they cancelled a weekend with no notice, but they send you a message saying that you just make it too hard for them to see the kids. Or they miss a recital and blame you for not telling them about it even though the information was readily available to them.

2. They Lie

Narcissists are not known for their honesty, and they often lie with little regard to the consequences it has for other people. A narcissistic parent might say they are on their way to pick up the children only to inform you an hour later that they aren’t coming at all, or they might promise the kids a big birthday party only to go away on a solo trip that weekend.

3. They Seem to Enjoy the Conflict

Co-parenting has its conflicts no matter how good the overall relationship is, but narcissists often create conflict where there isn’t any and actually enjoy the attention and focus that comes from that conflict. For example, maybe the other parent has asked to switch you weekends and you’ve agreed. The narcissist parent may then try to create drama by saying something like, “I don’t know why you don’t want me to see the kids.” This creates confusion for the healthy parent because they have given the other parent what they want but is being accused of something that’s not happening. These tactics are often referred to as gaslighting.

4. They Use the Children Against You

One of the most common characteristics of a narcissistic parent is that they use the children as weapons against the other parent. They might insist on using the children to communicate messages that should be sent directly from parent to parent even after being asked not to, or they may threaten to treat the children badly or disappoint them as a way to punish the healthy parent for establishing boundaries.

For example, the narcissist is texting you several times a day, telling you what a bad parent you are or how you aren’t doing a good job. You decide to start ignoring the messages and not responding. The narcissist might escalate their behavior by refusing to come get the children for their weekend because you wouldn’t “communicate” even though answering those texts had nothing to do with the visit. In this case, the narcissist is trying to make you feel bad or guilty for not doing what they wanted you to do because now the children will be disappointed that they are missing their visit.

Another common tactic with this is to speak negatively about the healthy parent to the children. Narcissist parents might tell their children how sorry they are that the other parent isn’t a good parent or tell them that the other parent lies, does drugs or any manner of other things that aren’t true but are designed to make the child question the healthy parent.

Strategies for Parallel Parenting

We talk a lot about co-parenting at 2Houses, but there are times where it’s just not possible. A situation where one parent is a narcissist, or is exhibiting narcissistic behavior, is one of those times. Co-parenting requires both parents to be actively putting the children’s needs and interests above their own and to be mature enough to be able to have a cooperative, civil relationship with the other parent. With narcissists, this usually is not the case.

So, what can you do to improve the parenting situation when you are dealing with a narcissist? One of the best strategies to use is called parallel parenting. Basically, it’s taking an approach that — as much as possible — what happens at their house is their business and what happens at your house is yours. Here, we provide some tips for making parallel parenting work.

1. Practice Gray Rock

If you haven’t heard of gray rock before, it probably sounds a little weird. But it comes from the premise that narcissists need fuel from the other parent in the form of emotion. Narcissists actively try to get you emotional so that you will be upset, be angry or lash out. Now, think about a gray rock you might see in your yard or at the park. It’s not very interesting, right? All one color, nothing remarkable about it. This is your goal when dealing with narcissists — to become like a gray rock.

This isn’t as easy as it first seems because, again, a narcissist’s main goal is to get you upset, and they are usually very good at it. Couple that with the fact that this person has been in a very close relationship with you for probably a substantial amount of time, and they know just what to do to get that reaction from you.

When you’re trying to gray rock, focus on being as unemotional as possible and responding with facts. Try to stay out of arguments, responding only when there are direct questions relevant to the children that you must answer. The less you can communicate with a narcissist the better.

2. Set Yourself Up for as Little Contact as Possible

Even parallel parenting requires a certain amount of coordination with the other parent, but again, the less contact you have with the narcissist the better. This is where the 2Houses co-parenting app becomes a very useful tool. It allows you to put all of the information, such as important dates, sports schedules, reimbursement requests and even scheduling issues all on the app, removing the direct contact between you and the other parent.

By doing this, the other parent doesn’t need to ask you for things like Social Security numbers or insurance information — those things will already be in the information bank that they can access with you. If the other parent does send messages about this type of information, you can reply with a simple, “It’s in the information bank on the app” — a very gray rock response.

In extreme cases, you may also need to limit contact to only the app and refuse to communicate through phone calls, texts or emails. Some family court judges even mandate this type of in-app communication in high-conflict cases now because there is an instant and easily accessible record of when messages were sent, when they were read and what was in them.

3. Have a Conversation With Your Children

Whether you suspect the other parent is a narcissist or you know they have been diagnosed as such, it’s important not to tell your children this or otherwise speak negatively about the other parent. However, it is a good idea to explain to them matter of factly and without emotion how you are going to handle things.

For example, maybe your children complain at your house that they have a bedtime while at the other parent’s house, they are allowed to stay up as late as they want. You can just explain that “there are different rules for different houses” or simply state that you can’t do anything about what happens over there so you are just going to focus on how things are in your own home.

Children are quick to figure out many of the narcissist’s manipulation tactics including gaslighting, speaking negatively about the healthy parent, pitting siblings against each other or using the children as pawns to get to the other parent. The best thing you can do is model healthy behavior, refuse to engage with the narcissist and let your children know that you are there for whatever they need.

For more information on what makes 2Houses special and how it can help you co-parent with a narcissist, check out our features explanation and contact us today.

The Ultimate Roundup of Kid-Friendly Summer Vacation Ideas for Separated Parents

Vacation Ideas for Separated Parents

Over 2 million children in the US attend school all year round. If your kids aren’t part of this statistic, then school’s out soon, and you need some summer vacation ideas quick!

As you may already know, the novel coronavirus pandemic’s made the world come to a screeching halt. So normal summer vacations may be out of the question.

Plus, you’re either separated or divorced from your partner, which makes parenting during COVID even more difficult.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t still give your kids an amazing summer vacation. You just have to get creative!

To help you out, here are some great vacation ideas during COVID-19 for separated parents.

Forget About International Travel

International travel is already quite a headache to deal with in regular times, especially when you share your kids with your ex. Add in a serious virus and various travel bans, and you’re just asking for trouble. A trip halfway around the world to Japan can wait until next year or beyond.

While some airlines are opening flights back up, plus they’re offering dirt-cheap prices, it may be very tempting to whisk your kids off on a fun international adventure. However, you never know when a second wave might happen anywhere.

Not only can that put the brakes on your vacation plans, but it may even leave you stranded in a foreign country. That dirt-cheap vacation suddenly doesn’t look so good anymore.

Not to mention, everyone will most likely have to self-isolate for at least 2 weeks upon return. If you don’t get any more days with the children after you come home, then your ex probably won’t be very happy with that. So you might have to either risk making them angry or going through the hassle of arranging temporary custody plans for that time.

Take a Road Trip

If you’re going stir-crazy and are set on going on summer vacation with the kids, why not take a road trip? That way, you can control how far you go, depending on your custody plan and budget.

A road trip also ensures that you social distance better. You won’t have to pile into a metro, bus, or train; you’ll travel in the comfort of your own car. 

A road trip gives your family the ability to explore their local surroundings more. You never know; you may have been taking the local scene for granted this whole time!

Go RVing

RVing is a step above taking a road trip in your regular vehicle! This can be a unique experience for the kids, especially if they’ve never done this before.

Staying in an RV can be a special experience, plus it helps with social distancing even more. You can pull up into RV camping grounds every night and the children can get to know other kids (at a safe and appropriate distance, of course).

You’ll get to take in the natural landscapes and your children can get a newfound appreciation for what Mother Nature offers us. You can also really bond with them during this time, since you have to spend all day, every day with one another.

Go Camping

Camping is another way to safely go on summer vacation. This is a great alternative if you don’t want to (or have the budget to) rent out an RV.

Grab your camping gear and the kids, then head out to the nearest national park. You’ll be able to spend quality time with one another and truly disconnect, as many national parks don’t get reception.

Have your children put away their devices and get in touch with nature. Go hiking and swimming, and point out all the flora and fauna around you.

If you have some skills you’ve remembered from Boy Scouts, go ahead and teach your kids these skills too. It can be fun getting back to the basics!

Stay in a Large Resort

Maybe your family doesn’t really like getting down and dirty in nature. That’s ok! For you, there’s always the luxurious resort you can kick back and relax in.

Take a look around at your options and you just may be surprised at what the prices are like. What may have been out of reach in the past might be doable now, since the pandemic’s pushed prices for practically everything down.

Make sure you double-check if they’re following more stringent cleaning procedures. They should be thoroughly sanitizing not just the rooms, but all public areas.

Once you arrive at the resort, you can then make use of their amenities while keeping your distance from other vacationers. Even if the resort has round-the-clock cleaning done, don’t forget to bring your own hand sanitizer so you and the kids decrease your chances of getting sick.

Rent a Vacation House

For those of you who have a smaller budget, you might opt for a vacation house rather than a resort. Get yourself a change of scenery and take the children somewhere where the weather’s nice. You can even combine this with a road trip and have the final destination be the vacation house.

Book a spacious place with plenty of amenities so the kids don’t get bored while on vacation. It should be interesting enough that even though they’re still in a house, they’ll be pleased since it’s something new and exciting.

Renting and staying in a vacation house can be ideal if you don’t want the stress of planning out a vacation and need a break too. Everyone can have a laidback time in this home away from home.

Coordinate With the Other Parent

If you don’t want your kids to have short summer vacations, then you may want to consider coordinating with your ex in order to give your children 1 long vacation. While you may have some form of 50/50 custody agreement, it can work out to an almost uninterrupted vacation for the kids.

For example, if both of you have an interest in visiting a beach city for the summer, you can line up your schedules so you’ll be there one half of the week while they’ll be for the rest. If you want a longer duration, you might be able to compromise on a temporary schedule where each parent gets the kids for 1 or 2 weeks at a time.

Just as your vacation at the beach city is ending, the other parent will start their vacation. All you’ll have to do is hand off the children and they’ll get to continue having a fantastic time there.

Staycation Ideas

Maybe you just don’t feel comfortable taking the kids out for a trip right now. Or maybe you’re too busy and don’t have the budget to leave the city, much less the state or country.

In that case, there are still plenty of family summer vacations you can do at home. Keep reading for some creative staycation ideas you can enjoy with your family.

“Visit” Museums

With lockdowns and social distancing in place for most areas, lots of museums are closed. But if you want to teach your kids some culture and history, not all hope is lost.

Many museums are doing virtual tours. All you have to do is hop online, take a look at their social media accounts or websites, and you’ll be able to find out if they’re doing this or not.

From the comfort of your living room (and pajamas!), you and your children can look at amazing pieces of art and discuss them with one another.

“Visit” Trails

Technology’s great in that they can bring you practically everything in digital form. Not only can you “visit” museums, but you can also go on beautiful trails!

If you’re not feeling up to getting out into nature but still want to show your children the outside world, just queue up virtual walking trails for them on the computer. You’ll get to take in jaw-dropping sights from all around the world!

Don’t Forget About Chores

Who says summer vacation is all about fun and games? Also, who said chores can’t be fun?

Kids have a tendency to get bored, plus you probably want to teach them about responsibility. You can kill 2 birds with 1 stone by making chores more exciting.

Your entire family can have hours of fun doing projects together. Not only will this get them used to responsibility, but they’ll also associate good memories with chores. As a result, they’ll grow up less resistant to the idea of chores and will be more ready to tackle them as teenagers and adults.

Some Tips While You’re Out and About

While some places have fewer COVID-19 cases than others, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Here are some tips to help keep you and your little ones safe this summer.

Bring a COVID-19 Kit

Chances are, you already have a first aid kit you bring along when you’re with the kids. Pack another small bag to bring along that’ll keep the corona germs away.

In this kit, include hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, rubbing alcohol, bleach, disposable gloves, and disposable face masks, even if you have reusable ones. You should also put in a small spray bottle so you can mix cleaning solutions with bleach to spray and rub down surfaces.

Other handy things to put in your COVID-19 kit are soap and paper towels.

Get Your Vehicle Tuned up Before Leaving

All it takes is one minor issue with your vehicle to ruin plans for a whole day. Decrease the chances of this happening by having your car tuned up before you hit the road.

Make sure your wipers are new, all fluids are topped off, and that your tires are full and have decent treads. You can either do all this yourself or have a mechanic perform these services for you.

You’ll also want to double-check you still have a spare tire available.

Bring as Many Essentials as Possible

It may be a pain to do so, especially right before you’re supposed to go have fun with the kids. But with a little bit of preparation, you can decrease the number of trips you’ll need to make to the grocery store while on vacation. Not only will this give you more time to have fun, but this will also reduce your exposure to the virus.

Try filling your car’s trunk up to the brim with essentials, such as snacks, tissues, and drinks. If there’s space in your backseat, fill it up as well. Then, throughout your vacation, you can slowly use those things instead of making extra trips to the grocery store.

Research Healthcare in the Places You’re Going

You can take every precaution possible, but the reality is, nothing’s foolproof. Any one of you could contract the coronavirus, and not just that. You could get the common cold, flu, or even food poisoning or injuries from your trip’s activities.

Should anything happen, you want to be prepared so your family’s well taken care of.

Research the hospitals and walk-in clinics of your destination. Check your health insurance to get a grasp on what is and isn’t covered.

When you have all this knowledge, you’ll have better peace of mind. That way, you can focus more on having fun and making memories with the kids.

Try Out These Fantastic Summer Vacation Ideas

Now you have quite a few suggestions for summer vacation ideas, as well as some tips to make your trip safer and smoother. Once your kids are out of school, you’ll be able to keep them entertained with all of these fun summer activities.

Remember that it’s not where you go, but how you spend your time with one another. Even if you have a staycation, it can be one of the most fun and memorable times for your children. You just have to know how to dress it up and make it exciting!

Need a great way to organize your co-parenting schedule? Then sign up for 2houses today! Our calendar will help you and your ex sync your schedules effortlessly.

COVID and Coparenting: What You Need to Know

COVID and Coparenting

Since COVID-19’s arrival, it has changed nearly everything about daily life. From how we grocery shop and connect with friends and family to where we work and how our children learn, 2020 has brought many changes and challenges to deal with. You’ve already had to figure out how to juggle working from home and crisis schooling, and those who work in essential jobs have had the difficult challenge of trying to ensure the children are taken care of while working in the absence of school and daycares. For those who are coparenting, visitation schedules may have had to have been adjusted or, in the case of high-risk individuals or those who have tested positive for COVID-19, sometimes suspended altogether.

The good news is that many states across the country are starting to reopen for business and attempt to return to “normal” life, but that doesn’t mean everything will instantly revert back to the way it was. As we continue to see what COVID-19 will bring and how it will shape our society and culture moving forward into the rest of 2020 and beyond, here are some challenges that may be coming as summer begins and some tips on how to manage them.

1. Graduations and End-of-School Ceremonies

With many places still having bans on public gatherings or limitations on how many people can be together at once, schools have had to scramble to figure out a way to recognize the graduating class of 2020. Other end-of-school ceremonies have also been impacted, including Kindergarten and middle school graduations, school musicals and recognition ceremonies and banquets.

Some schools have attempted to pivot with these changes by offering virtual ceremonies via video-conferencing apps or drive-through graduations where only one family is allowed through at a time to see their child walk the stage and receive their diploma. While these solutions are creative and have given some much-needed recognition for the students, it hasn’t been without its challenges. In some cases, only one parent is allowed to attend the ceremony or there is a very tight cap on the number of people allowed, which can create issues for divorced and blended families.

If you’re dealing with graduation or end-of-year ceremony issues, being proactive and talking directly with teachers and administrators can be helpful. This is something no one has dealt before, and often, solutions are presented and put in place without actually checking if they are suitable or work for the people involved. Letting your administrator know that you still want your child to have the option of a graduation stage walk or that limiting the guests makes it impossible for both parents to witness can help them better understand the situation, and you may find that exceptions are able to be made. If nothing can be done, brainstorm other ways to make these events special such as drive-by recognitions, virtual parties or having an at-home ceremony in the backyard.

2. Changing Vacation Schedules

You might already have a system worked out for vacations with your coparent, but with COVID-19 cancelling travel plans across the country, your usual destination might not be open or you may have to change vacation weeks. Work schedules might have changed, meaning you can’t take as much vacation time in a row as usual, or you might even opt for a staycation to save money after having to deal with cutbacks in your budget due to time off or unemployment. The bottom line is that summer vacation is probably going to look a lot different for many people this year — and maybe even next — and that means that you’re going to have to work things out with your child’s other parent.

As with most issues involving coparenting, one of the best things you can do is keep the lines of communication open and moving freely. If you already know that you’d like to make some changes to the normal vacation procedures, start talking to the other parent as soon as possible. Most standard custody and visitation agreements have periods of notification set out in writing, which means that if you want to make a change or need to let the other parent know when you’re planning on taking your vacation time, you have to do it a certain number of days in advance. Otherwise, the other parent can say no, and the default schedule remains in place.


Remember to be civil and realize that everyone has had to make changes and adjustments during this time and that this trend will likely continue. Cooperating with each other and ensuring that everyone has the details of planned or possible vacation times easily accessible on a joint calendar or something similar can make the process as smooth as possible.

3. Uncertain Schooling for Fall

The 2019-2020 school year is just wrapping up in most parts of the country, but things are still uncertain when it comes to what schooling will look like in the fall. Some colleges have said that they will reopen on-campus classes for the 2020-2021 academic year, but most K-12 schools are still trying to figure out how to manage the large number of students in the building while complying with new rules for social distancing and cleaning. Some schools are tossing around the idea of a hybrid model that would have students going to in-person classes 2-3 days a week and doing remote learning on the other days. Other schools are considering longer class days or year-round schooling so that they can accommodate small class sizes.

There’s also the possibility that you might choose not to have your children return to public schools in the fall. Some parents have expressed how much happier they are connecting on a more frequent basis with their children, and those who are being allowed to continue to work at home might be exploring the ideas of homeschooling or enrolling children in an online school where they will have more control over what the school day looks like come fall.

If you have sole custody, what your child’s education looks like next year is probably up to you. In most cases, the sole custodian has full decision-making permissions when it comes to educational issues, but if you have shared parenting, this is something you will need to discuss with the other parent and come to an agreement on. And even if you are planning on having your child return to traditional public school, there may need to be some changes to what that looks like on the home front depending on how the district decides to move forward.

As you’re contemplating these decisions or waiting on word from your district, it may be helpful to start talking to the other parent about possible scenarios and solutions so you’re prepared to move forward when decisions are made. For example, if your school chooses to move to the hybrid model, maybe one of you has a more flexible job and can work from home on the days your child isn’t at school. No matter what you decide or how you choose to handle things, however, it will be important to stay flexible as changes are likely if not inevitable as the next school year progresses.

4. Anxieties, Fears and Burnout (on Both Sides)

The truth is that life changed significantly and quickly for most people at the beginning of 2020, and whether that meant increased work hours, job loss or just major adjustments with more people at home all day, the emotional and mental toll is real for both parents and children. Depending on the age of your children, you may be dealing with younger kids who have anxieties about getting sick, tweens who are trying to suddenly navigate a life without in-person friendships or high school graduates who are upset about not getting to have all their “lasts” and are worried about what this will all mean for college next year. And the mental health and burnout toll juggling all of this has had on parents — especially single parents — is immeasurable.

During this time, it’s important to remember that mental and emotional health is just as important as physical health. And while the demands of jobs and schooling may be significant, it’s important to place a priority on getting out in the fresh air, engaging in physical activity that brings you joy, such as hiking or dancing, and making time for just plain fun. Having a family meeting to create an open discussion about how everyone is feeling and what they need can give you a place to start, and asking children for suggestions on how to cope, such as family game nights or making a summer garden together, can help them feel like valued contributors who have a voice. It may also be helpful to look at telecommute counseling sessions for the whole family, including the coparent, if there are significant issues or you feel like the family could benefit from an objective outsider’s perspective.

No matter what the second half of the year and beyond brings, the key to successfully navigating coparenting during this time is open communication and the free exchange of information. One of the best ways to facilitate this is with a coparenting app like 2Houses. This app includes a joint calendar that makes keeping track of kids’ activities, parenting schedules and cancellations simple and easy, and you can message right within the app so all communication is in writing and in one place. There are also features that let you keep track of expenditures for reimbursement and an info bank so everything has access to important information like teachers’ numbers, medical information and anything else you need both parents to have access to. As we continue to see how the COVID-19 will coparenting moving forward, 2Houses makes it easy to keep everyone in the loop and cooperate when adjustments and changes need to be made.

What the Child Support Modification Process Actually Looks Like

child support modification

There are nearly 14 million single parents in America with custody of their children. Around half of those have some form of child support arrangement in place. 

Almost 90 percent of such agreements are court-ordered. Most were established at the time of separation. 

But what happens when your needs or life circumstances change? Requesting a child support modification is possible but it’s important to understand the process before you jump in.  

Keep reading to learn how it works and to get powerful co-parenting tips that can make the process easier for everyone.

Who Can Request a Child Support Modification?

Child support modifications can be requested by:

  • The custodial parent
  • The non-custodial parent
  • Other legal caregivers

In rare cases, a state or local child support agency may request a child support review. This typically happens when other legal proceedings bring inappropriate child support agreements to the agency’s attention. 

When Can You Ask for a Child Support Modification?

The child support review process is serious and always requires court involvement. For this reason, there are legal limits on when and how often parents can undergo it. 

Generally, parties can request modifications when the:

  • Child’s needs have changed
  • Custodial parent’s circumstances have changed
  • Non-custodial parent’s circumstances have changed
  • Child support agreement is more than three years old
  • Relevant child support laws have changed

For example, you might request a child support payment review if: 

  • You or your ex have changed jobs or experienced a significant change of income
  • You or your ex have remarried or had more children
  • Your custody arrangement has changed 
  • Your child’s health needs or access to health insurance has changed
  • You have suffered a health crisis or other emergency
  • The non-custodial parent becomes incarcerated, is deployed by the United States military, or becomes disabled  

Custodial Parents or Caregivers

It can be tempting for custodial parents to request child support reviews regularly in hopes of receiving more support. It is important to resist that temptation, however. 

This is because there are hard limits to how often you may request a child support modification. Child support laws vary by state, but almost all states limit parents to one or two reviews every 24 to 36 months.

If you ask for reviews over small changes in your ex’s income, you can quickly use up your allotted requests with very little to show for it. Once your requests are used up, you will not be able to petition for any other changes until the 24 or 36 month waiting period has elapsed.

If your circumstances, your child’s needs, or your ex’s income change during that time, you will be unable to request the additional support you might otherwise have been entitled to until the waiting period ends.

To avoid finding yourself in that unpleasant and stressful situation, only request reviews when they are truly warranted. A good rule of thumb is to wait until you expect to see a change of at least 20 percent or $100 a month to your support payments. 

Non-Custodial Parents

Non-custodial parents should be careful when requesting child support modifications, as well.

Generally, courts will only entertain requests from non-custodial parents to alter child support payments when they have experienced a sharp drop in their income or serious changes to their health. In every case, courts require that non-custodial parents be able to clearly document their change in circumstances and show that it is significant enough to warrant altering the agreement. 

It is also important to be aware of the specific laws in your state. For example, in many states choosing to quit your job does not merit a change to your child support payments.

You will still be expected to continue paying the same amount on time each month. Failure to do so can have grave consequences. You may wish to consider consulting a child support lawyer before making big changes to your employment or income. 

Losing Income

With all of that said, if your circumstances do dramatically and involuntarily change, it is important to act quickly. 

Your existing child support requirements do not change when your circumstances change, even if those changes are out of your control. Payments are not altered or suspended when you request a review. You remain responsible for your pre-existing level of support unless or until new terms are approved by the court. 

Child support cannot be retroactively altered or reduced, either. Even applying for bankruptcy will not eliminate back payments due.

Thus, if you lose your job or take a much lower-paying job, it is critical that you apply for a child support review immediately. In the meantime, keep making your payments to the best of your ability to demonstrate good faith. 

Temporary Modifications

Not all changes to child support payments need to be permanent. In many cases, courts will approve temporary child support modifications in response to short-term or emergency circumstances. 

Common examples include when: 

  • Your child experiences a costly medical emergency or requires surgery
  • The non-custodial parent has a medical emergency or significant temporary change to finances
  • Your child is temporarily entrusted to the non-custodial parent when the custodial parent is unable to take care of them

In most cases, temporary modifications last only as long as the emergency or special circumstances that prompted them. When the situation is resolved, both parties revert to the terms of their previous agreement.

Permanent Modifications 

Permanent modifications to child support are appropriate when circumstances permanently change for the child or one or both of the parents involved. This includes changes to:

  • Income
  • Health
  • Family composition 
  • Cost of living

Changes to relevant child support laws can also prompt permanent changes to your child support agreement. 

What Information Will You Need to Request a Child Support Review?

One of the steps most overlooked by parents investigating how to modify child support is gathering information. The court will not simply take anyone’s word for changes to their life, income, or needs. To request a child support payment review, you will need to be able to document your claims. 

Depending on your circumstances and the basis of your request, this can include providing proof of: 

  • Parental income
  • Parents’ benefits (including health insurance) 
  • Child care costs
  • Health records
  • Incarceration or deployment status 
  • Remarriage or the birth of a new child
  • Existing custody arrangements 

In the event that your income has dropped, you may also be required to provide evidence that you made or are making good-faith attempts to find new employment. Specifically, the court may look to see that you searching for work that pays the same amount as your previous position or more. If you are not, you may need to explain the discrepancy. 

Uncontested Changes

If you are fortunate, you and your ex have been able to forge a friendship in the wake of your divorce. If so, you may be able to amicably negotiate new child support terms between yourselves or with the help of a private mediator. 

These arrangements still need to be ratified by the court. Often, however, you can skip the formal hearing in favor of a faster, more informal “in-office negotiation” to get that approval. This is less costly and less stressful for everyone, making it a great option if your circumstances allow. 

How the Child Support Modification Process Works

Unfortunately, healthy and positive communication with your ex isn’t always possible. In that case, you’ll need to rely on your state’s formal child support review process for modifications. The exact process can vary slightly from state to state, so it vital that you consult your state’s laws or a legal professional to ensure you follow the steps correctly. 

In general, however, the process looks like this. 

1. Gather Information

Get certified copies of whatever records you need to prove changes to your costs, living situation, or health, where relevant. If you are applying for a modification because you believe that your ex’s income has changed, the court will require them to provide that information. 

You may also wish to consult a lawyer during this step. 

2. Apply to the Court

In most states, you submit your request for a child support review to the court that handled your initial child support order. If you are struggling with unpaid child support or require other assistance, it may be helpful to contact your state’s child support agency instead. They can assist you with the process. 

3. Attend the Hearing

The court will schedule a hearing to conduct your child support payment review. If you have secured legal counsel, your lawyer will attend with you. Bring copies of your documentation and be prepared to explain your situation and why you think changes are warranted. 

The judge assigned to your case will review the facts and determine what changes, if any, are appropriate. If they find that changes are warranted, they will modify your child support agreement and specify when the changes go into effect. Be sure to obtain a new copy of your agreement for your records. 

Automatic Adjustments 

In some states, such as California, child support agreements can contain automatic adjustment clauses. The cost of living adjustment is a prime example. Automatic adjustment clauses call for child support payments to automatically be modified at set intervals based on external factors. 

For example, each year your payments may be adjusted to compensate for increases in the cost of living in your area. You do not need to request these changes and they will not count against your allotted review requests. 

The court will keep track of when these are due, calculate the new rates, and notify both parties when the changes go into effect.  

How Long Does It Take?

There is no set time limit on the child support review process. Typically, when you file for a review the court is required to respond to or act on your filing within a certain amount of time. For example, they may have to notify your ex of the filing within 180 days. 

How long it takes to complete the process will depend on, among other things: 

  • The availability of court resources
  • Your ex’s cooperativeness
  • The complexity of your case

For example, if the court has difficulty locating your ex to serve them with papers or if they are incarcerated or deployed and difficult to get ahold of, going through the review may be a slow process. Similarly, if either party is alleging medical conditions the court may require second opinions, expert consultations, or other steps that delay reaching a decision. 

Simple cases in which both parties cooperate and have good documentation upfront will, of course, go the fastest. 

Hiring a Lawyer

You are not legally required to hire a lawyer to assist you during a child support review. It is legal in every state to initiate the process and represent yourself from start to finish. Unless you and your ex have a highly amicable divorce, however, it is always in your best interest to hire legal counsel.

In all cases, if your ex has a lawyer then you need one, too.  

Family law attorneys understand how to modify child support in your state. They have a deep understanding of the standards, loopholes, and other details that can make or break your case. Their assistance can make the difference between setting up child support arrangements that genuinely provide the best outcomes for your children and muddling through with agreements that serve no one.

If you cannot afford a lawyer, talk to your state’s child support agency. They can provide you with an attorney or assist you in finding qualified and affordable legal services. 

What Does Requesting a Child Support Payment Review Cost?

It is impossible to put a single number or range on the costs of a child support payment review and modification. Costs not only vary by state, but by the situation. 

Uncontested cases that merely need rubber-stamping by a judge are always the most affordable. Contentious and complicated cases are understandably more likely to be expensive. At the same time, free or low-cost legal services can enable qualifying applicants to deal with even the messiest of cases for little or no money at all. 

If cost is a concern, contact your local child support agency for help and guidance. 

Handling Divorce and Child Support Well

Handling child support modification cases is only one of the challenges involved in dealing with divorce in a healthy, positive way. Strong co-parenting skills can make this and other day-to-day concerns easier and less stressful to deal with. Check out 2houses’s great library of co-parenting tips and articles to get more information on building your best life after divorce.  

Under What Circumstances Am I Eligible for Child Support Payments?

Child support payments

Of the 13.6 million custodial single parents living in the US, about half of them had some type of legal or informal child support agreement in place in 2018.

If you’re a single parent, you should have a basic understanding of child support eligibility. Every parent in the US must contribute financially to the raising of his or her child—unless parental rights have been legally terminated. 

Child support eligibility and amount varies depending on your individual needs and circumstances. Keep reading for an overview of child support and the eligibility requirements that allow for child support payments.

What Is Child Support?

As a child matures, the parents have a financial responsibility to support them. It’s assumed that—if you are the custodial parent— you will fulfill your financial obligation. However, if your child doesn’t live with your ex, they may have to pay support to you.

Child support payments are ordered by a court and are required until your child reaches the age of 18, is active-duty military, or the court declares your child emancipated. The non-custodial parent may be required to make payments beyond childhood if your child has special needs. 

If you agree that the non-custodial parent no longer has to pay child support, the court may legally terminate their parental rights and any financial responsibility. They may also do this if someone else adopts your child.

Responsibility for Child Support Begins with Custody

While each state has different guidelines, the court typically determines the final amount of child support payments. The judge begins the discussion of child support with custody. 

The non-custodial parent is typically responsible for most of the child support if you have sole custody. If you’re a stay-at-home provider or work part-time to care for your child, you may not be able to financially support the child on their own. The child support payment amount will reflect this.

Joint Custody and Child Support

When parents share joint custody, calculating child support payments is more complicated. Determining child support payments in joint custody cases usually accounts for two factors.

The first factor is the percentage each parent contributed to the joint income during their marriage. The parent who contributed more to the joint income will pay more towards child support.

The second factor is the percentage of time each parent has physical custody of the child. The court will assume that whoever has the child more often will assume most of the financial responsibility. The parent that spends less time with your child will pay more because the other parent devotes more of their physical, financial, and emotional resources. 

It would be easier to determine child support payments if there was a clear-cut formula, but that’s not the case. The amount depends on individual factors that are unique to each custody situation and child. 

How Child Support Payment Amounts Are Determined

To determine amounts of child support, the court looks at the parents’ income and the time each parent has physical custody. 

The court may identify income in several ways, including:

  • Wages
  • Tips
  • Commissions
  • Social Security benefits
  • Self-employment earnings
  • Bonuses
  • Annuities
  • Interest
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Veteran’s benefits
  • Private or Government Retirement benefits
  • Pensions

Determining Child Support for Previously Unmarried Parents

Don’t make the mistake of thinking someone doesn’t owe child support because they were never married to the other parent. 

Unmarried parents are still responsible for child support, but determining the amount becomes more complicated. Whether the child ever lived with both of you, your resources, the non-custodial parent’s income, and the ability to make payments factor into determining the amount of child support. 

The time each of you actually spends with your child will also come into play. 

Just as is the case for divorced parents, children are entitled to support from parents who were never married. Stepparents, however, don’t need to legally financially support their stepchildren. They can adopt the children, but this would terminate the biological parent’s requirement to pay.

Additional Factors that Affect Child Support Requirements

Don’t go into child support proceedings blind. Know what to expect by acquainting yourself with the process in your state.

Once a judge sets custody and reviews the unique circumstances of your case, he or she will set the number and amount of support payments based on several factors, including:

  • Your child’s quality of life prior to the parents’ divorce 
  • The income of the parent who has to pay child support 
  • All expenses associated with providing for your child
  • The specific needs of your child
  • The income and other resources available to you

The more a parent earns, the more they will be expected to pay in child support. Courts are good at recognizing financial hardship, and they’re able to calculate what a non-custodial parent needs to live while supporting the child. 

Judges also look at what your family’s living conditions were prior to the split. If your child is used to a high standard of living, the non-custodial parent may have to pay enough to help your child maintain that quality of life. 

The court also takes into account the resources you, as the custodial parent, has access to. If you make a good income, the other parent may not have to pay as much. They’ll also look at your support system, including any family members that help financially. 

Adjusting Child Support Payments

Child support payment requirements are listed in court orders, so it takes legal action to amend them. However, any change in circumstances may mean your child support payments must be revised. 

If you decrease the time your child is physically in your custody, and they spend more time with the non-custodial parent, the court may lower your child support payments. A judge might also reduce child support payments if the parent paying support loses their job and is unemployed. They may do the same if the other parent is forced to take a job that pays less.

Judges are not as accommodating to parents who quit their job out of laziness, to pursue a hobby, or to go back to school. They do look at getting fired differently than voluntarily leaving a job—especially if it seems like the parent quit their job to avoid making child support payments. 

Temporary changes to child support payments are granted when emergency strikes, or if the non-custodial parent is facing short-term financial hardship. At the same time, you may receive extra child support if you suddenly experience financial difficulties. 

You must go to court to have child support amounts legally changed, even if you agree to changes to the payments. 

Consequences of Not Paying Child Support

Because the court sets the amount of child support payments, they can take action if the non-custodial parent refuses to pay. Consequences include:

  • Property seizure
  • Suspension of your driver’s license
  • Suspension of your business license
  • Tax refund interception
  • Arrest and time in jail
  • Wage garnishment

It’s vital that the non-custodial parent notifies the court if it’s suddenly difficult for them to pay support as ordered before the problem gets out of control. Most judges have no patients for missed child support payments, so they must be upfront and honest about any financial hardship. 

What Happens if Payments Stop?

If you’re receiving child support and the other parent stops paying, you must contact your state or district attorney. State agencies must help you collect any delinquent child support payments—this is according to federal law. 

See if your state has a Recovery Services office. They will help you track down the other parent and recover missed payments that are owed to you.

As you can see, it’s essential to keep records of the payments received, as well as copies of the court orders that establish the payments and schedule. You can easily get the help you need to collect delinquent payments with this information. 

Is Support Connected to Visitation?

In some cases, parents threaten to withhold payments amid visitation disagreements. 

If you don’t let the other parent see your child as ordered by the court, your ex cannot retaliate by withholding or threatening to withhold child support payments. This practice is illegal and is hurtful to your child. 

The court views visitation and child support as separate issues. Never withhold visitation because you’re expecting a payment that hasn’t arrived yet. If the non-custodial parent doesn’t get to exercise their visitation rights, they can take you and any evidence to the court to have the agreement enforced. 

Each of you should do your part in providing for your child and ensure visitation isn’t disrupted when there are disagreements over support.

Income Taxes and Child Support

Do you have to pay income taxes on child support from your ex on behalf of your children? No. And the parent who pays child support cannot deduct it from their income. 

Can I Claim My Child as a Dependent?

Whichever one of you claims your child as a dependent on your taxes is eligible to receive a significant tax deduction. 

In most cases, whoever has the child for most of the year claims him or her as a dependent. Both parents can’t claim the same dependent—only one of you can claim your child on a tax return. 

If you and your ex cannot agree, it’s best to get a knowledgeable tax attorney involved. You and the non-custodial parent might be on the same page about who claims your child as a dependent. Either way, it can help to have an experienced tax attorney work out the intimate details of the deduction.

Can the Dependent Tax Exemption Be Transferred?

For each individual claimed as a dependent, the IRS allows a taxpayer a single exemption. 

There are cases in which the non-custodial parent can receive an exemption for your child. If you complete and sign Form 8332, you can transfer the exemption to the other parent. The other parent should file the form with their tax return.

If you make a low-income and won’t benefit from the exemption, you might choose to transfer your exemption. 

If your ex has a higher adjusted gross income and can benefit from the deduction, they can do something in return for the deduction. You can even use this as a bargaining child in divorce settlement negotiations.

You can also arrange to allocate the dependents between the two of you if you have multiple children. The best thing to do is to check with your attorney and work out a situation that benefits everyone involved.  

It’s possible to agree in this situation, especially if the two of you find yourselves in different income tax brackets. 

Don’t Miss Out On Child Support Payments

Raising a child comes with a financial burden, especially when single. 

If you’re the custodial parent to your child, you must ensure you receive your legally granted child support from your ex. 

Make sure you understand your state’s laws associated with child support payments, and always keep records of any payments received. You never know when you might have to prove that the other parent is delinquent on payments. 

Have you been searching for resources on paying or receiving child support? What challenges have you faced? Do you have experiences to share? Share this article with your comments to help others as they search for answers. 

Top 10 Powerful Divorce Movies to Help Uncertain Kids

Divorce movies

Watching divorce movies together is an excellent way to broach a topic as potentially fraught as parental separation. Children understand the world from a simple but incredibly emotional perspective, and media can help them to make sense of what’s going on in their lives. The most important way you can help kids understand the separation process is through positive, healthy communication.

It’s useful for children to see characters speak openly about their feelings and effectively resolve challenging emotions in a film. In addition to setting a good example, it’s usually much easier to encourage a teenager or tween to be open about their feelings in an indirect way. You can ask them how they perceive what various people in the story are going for and get a solid understanding of how they feel from their insights. 

Subtle Ways Divorce Affects Children

Divorce affects each child differently, with some seeming to find it easy to adapt to the changes and others showing significant signs of stress. Bear in mind that the child who appears to be coping is still likely to be experiencing negative emotions. In most cases, these kids have learned to mask how they feel — either to protect themselves or other people. If you’re struggling to get your kid to express their feelings, watching divorce movies can be a smart way to find out where their head’s at. 

Age plays a crucial role in determining how the child is likely to respond, with teenagers often being the most varied and challenging in their responses. As an adult, it’s your responsibility to maintain a routine in the home and set healthy boundaries.

  • Infants: Young children often find it hard to understand the changes that occur after divorce. Parental separation when a child is this age can instill unhelpful beliefs that persist throughout their life. They might worry that they’re to blame for the situation. There’s also the potential fear that if parents can stop loving each other, they could stop loving them. Parents of divorced children must speak openly about these issues and provide endless reassurance, comfort, and love. 
  • Grade School Kids: Grade school children are also prone to blaming themselves for the situation. However, because they can communicate better than young children, it’s easier to comfort them. Never assume that your child is okay because they aren’t displaying signs of distress. It’s essential to teach them to open up about how they feel so they learn to cope with their feelings constructively.  
  • Teenagers: Expect them to let off steam — their hormones are running wild — and be there to comfort them when they need it. Teenagers can become angry, upset, vicious, and blame one or both parents for the situation. Accept that requests for hugs are likely to be met with squirms and frowns and celebrate positive events. Reassure them that just like all painful emotions, time will be the most effective healer and never deny their experiences.

Divorce brings about astronomical changes to daily life that can feel catastrophic — just remember, it’s not the end of the world. It’s an opportunity to make life even better for you and your child. By approaching the situation with a positive mindset, you’ll help your child to cope with divorce. 

How Can I Help My Children to Cope With Divorce?

The other most effective way to guide your child through this tough time is by finding out how they feel and talking to them about it. Teenagers, in particular, are notoriously difficult to pin down for an in-depth discussion about their internal worlds. They’ll roll their eyes and rarely show appreciation, but it’s still vital that you comfort them and reassure them!  

Never Unload Your Feelings Onto Them

Since it’s your responsibility to provide them stability, you must set healthy boundaries. Divorce is difficult for a child and they need you to be strong now more than ever.

Try always to put them first and never unload your emotions onto them. If you put the burden of your mental health onto your child, they’re likely to repress their feelings and prioritize how you feel instead. You must make it clear that they are the priority and focus your efforts on ensuring they’re meeting their obligations, and you’re meeting yours. Seek advice from family, friends, or a counselor, but never your children — even teenagers.  

Top 10 Divorce Movies for Children

This list of 10 movies gives parents of kids of all ages (and with all kinds of taste) a few ideas of titles that could help children understand divorce.  

1. Night at the Museum (2006)

In Night at the Museum (2006), Ben Stiller plays a divorced father called Larry, who needs to get a job to provide for his son and set a better example to him. The ordinary gig he takes as a security guard at a museum turns out to be extraordinary, as the exhibits come to life and night. All the messages, such as encouraging reading and visiting museums, are positive and constructive. 

Watching a film like this can children as young as seven about divorce by showing them their situation reflected on-screen. Kids don’t like to feel like they’re strange. So, knowing the separation isn’t a result of something being uniquely and individually wrong with them can be incredibly reassuring. 

2. Wilderness Love (2013)

This is a tremendous heartfelt rom-com that explores the theme of parental separation and its effect on children to watch with teenagers. In the story, Mom seems to have found love, but Dad is struggling, and the kids want to give him a helping hand. When the three children sense an opportunity to reunite their parents, they grab it. 

Wilderness Love (2013) gives adults the starting point for an in-depth discussion. You can use the film as a starting point to find out how your child feels about divorce and reconciliation. If they have any misconceptions, you can gently guide them towards the truth.  

3. The Break Up (2006)

The Break Up (2006) is a hilarious rom-com starring Jennifer Aniston. While children aren’t involved, the film explores the financial side of divorce and other films that might be useful for teenagers. This one isn’t for little kids, but it could get help older children develop their understanding of divorce.  

4. Stepmom (1998)

Teenage girls usually love watching rom-coms with their mothers — and so do a lot of teenage boys, secretly! Stepmom (1998) is an excellent weepy movie with Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon. It explores themes of death and divorce, but perhaps not in the most realistic way. That’s a great way to start a conversation with a teenager: ask them if they think the film is realistic and if they’ve seen any better examples on-screen. 

5. Boyhood (2014)

Boyhood (2014) is a thought-provoking drama that teens with discerning taste are likely to be impressed by. Themes are dealt with maturely and philosophically, posing questions about stepfamilies and overcoming hardships such as abuse and addiction. It’s moving and provides some challenging talking points — but difficult conversations are the most important ones to have.  

6. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

Children’s classic, Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), stars Robin Williams as the man who dresses as a woman so he can see his kids more frequently. It approaches the subject of divorce sensitively while also making light of it. Laughter is another great tool of communication you can impart to your children to help them cope.  

7. The Squid and the Whale (2005)

Indie kids out there of all ages will find The Squid and the Whale (2005) enchanting and deeply insightful. It shows a couple’s divorce from the perspective of the sons as they learn about when a relationship falls apart. It’s a hard-hitting film that could help a divorced parent to bond with their older teenage children.  

8. The Parent Trap (1999)

There’s an old version of this film and a slightly less old version! Modern kids are more likely to relate to the characters in The Parent Trap (1999). It’s a great film for kids of all ages to watch so they can see children of divorced parents depicted in the media. You can ask questions about the film or get them to do a video or written review of it. This way, you’ll get subtle signs about what they feel, even from the most emotionally reserved child.

9. What Maisie Knew (2013)

What Maisie Knew (2013) tells the tale of a family going through a bitter divorce, with a particular focus on how it’s affected the children. Whatever age they were when you went through the divorce, watch this with your child once they become a teenager. It’s emotionally challenging but can start deeply meaningful conversations. 

10. Matilda (1996)

A film like Matilda (1996) doesn’t depict a divorced family — it shows a different kind of dysfunctional family. This movie can help you to teach a child that sometimes children benefit from their parents being separated. It also shows them that parents being together doesn’t automatically bring happiness to a family.

Improve Your Family Life Today

Watching divorce movies with your kids can be a good starting point for engaging them in a discussion about how they feel. This is so important because communication is the most useful skill you can teach your child in a challenging emotional situation.

Download the 2houses app today to help you and your spouse get organized so you can both do the best for your children.