6 Tips for Navigating Shared Custody

shared custody - 2houses

Picture this: The dust has settled, the property is divided, the visitation schedule is in place and the divorce is final. However, there is something wrong with this picture — you are not waking up in your home with your own children every morning.

We interviewed dozens of women for our book, Love for Grown-Ups: The Garter Brides Guide to Marrying for Life When You’ve Already Got a Life, and they were generous and honest in talking about the challenge of shared child custody. Many of them and their exes were able to make it work for their children. Here are some practical suggestions that will help:

Make the phone call or skype visit count. Call or skype on predictable days and time. For instance, if you call them on Tuesday, then call them every Tuesday. Don’t call or Skype your 2 ½ year old after 6 p.m. at night — they are cranky, tired and unresponsive. (You might be, too!) And, for that matter, don’t call your 15-year-old before 6 p.m. at night — they are not even home yet or with their friends. Be OK with a 4-minute conversation — for the average teenager, that is plenty. In other words, make it mutually convenient.

Use the mall or eCards. There are cards and eCard sites specifically designed for this situation. Sending something like “I love you,” “How’s it going?” or “Thinking of You” is a great way to let your children know they are always on your mind. Don’t laugh, but balloons or flowers are a nice thing now and then, even for your son!

Get a photo opportunity. Your child will feel comfortable if you make the other parent “welcome” in your home. Allow your child to place a picture of the other parent in their room. Make an album of pictures and souvenirs of times you and your child have spent together. For instance, the tickets from a Universal theme park or a movie that you both loved seeing together.

Your child has enough “baggage.” Your child should not have to bring pajamas, a toothbrush or a change of clothes when they come to your home. It should all be there. Bear in mind, a favorite stuffed animal or blanket is an exception and should go back and forth.

Is there a specific TV show they always watch? Or maybe a board game they like to play? Try to make these things a part of their stay with you. Activities like this can become mini-traditions — things they can expect to do when they’re with you and can look forward to.

They should know ‘The Deal’ at your home. If you have certain house rules, they should be laid out from the very beginning. Kids like structure and want to know what to expect. Think about this carefully, you don’t want to do much, if any, changing of ‘the rules’ on them. Obviously, the expectations will change as your children change developmentally — that’s normal. Consistency is key.

Remember: No matter what, your home is their home, too.

How do you handle your child’s shared custody arrangement? Do you have any special ideas?

by Ann Blumenthal Jacobs, Patricia Lampl and Tish Rabe.

Divorce Attorney Tips On Surviving Holidays

tips on surviving holidays divorce - 2houses
Stacy Phillips, Los Angeles celebrity divorce attorney and author of Divorce: It’s All About Control – How To Win the Emotional, Psychological and Legal Wars, (www.controlyourdivorce.com) is concerned about those divorced couples with children who may be tempted to play “divorce war games” with one another over the holidays—using the kids as collateral damage. She offers them the following ten tips:

1. Try therapy. If you are stressing over the emotional duress of the holiday season head to your therapist for some “centering.”2. Forgo the “one-upsmanship” game: Don’t try to “out-do” the other parent with gifts because it makes the kids feel torn.

3. Be flexible. Give in a little with the visitation schedule.

4. Include others. Be the bigger person and include your ex-spouse’s new significant other in the festivities, even if you do not like him/her.

5. Be charitable to those less fortunate: Ask your children to join you in a kind act for the needy. It will divert your focus away from your own hurt or pain.

6. Spend more time with friends and family. See what you and your children can do to make their holidays more cheery.

7. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Enough said! 

8. Show the children what the holidays really mean. They are all about giving.

9. Dwell on the overall theme: No matter what your spiritual beliefs may be, harmony is the ultimate goal. It starts with you.

10. Make plans for the New Year: Dwell on what good will come after the holidays and let the children help you schedule some fun events that you can do together.

source: Divorce360

The 6-Step Formula for Positive Parenting Before & After Divorce

6-step formula for positive parenting - 2houses

Parenting before after divorce can be complex, frustrating and confusing. However, every day parents around the world are coping with the challenges and raising happy, well-adjusted children. There are many factors that influence your effectiveness as a parent. Here is a six-step formula for pre- and post-divorce parenting success.

Step 1: Monitor Your Perceptions

The world is what we perceive it to be. If you perceive yourself to be a victim in your divorce, you will focus on evidence to prove that to be true.

If you instead take your divorce as a life experience to learn from, you will derive many benefits and value from the divorce, no matter how much pain is also involved. You will also accept responsibility for the part you played in the process and be more willing to contemplate new ways to live your life in the future that will bring more positive results.

Sadly, it’s through challenging experiences that we grow and learn the most from life. Are you uncovering meaningful lessons for you?

Step 2: Practice Respectful Parenting

Getting past your divorce is a small piece of the child-centered divorce puzzle if you are a parent. Working through the challenges of creating successful communication with your ex is a goal that must be worked on continuously. Keep your children in mind before making any decisions related to their well-being and you will stay on course.

Because you and your former spouse will be parenting your children for many years and decades to come, it makes sense to start off on the best possible course. The first step is to develop a respectful relationship with your ex. Remember that he or she is your child’s other parent whom they love. Treat your former spouse with that level of awareness and dignity in all your communication and they are more likely to return the same level of respect to you. Changes may not happen overnight. But with patience and persistence things can and will improve.

Step 3: Learn To Let Go

If you truly want to move on from your divorce, you must learn to let go of negative emotions that hold you hostage. These include anger, resentment, blame, jealousy, hatred and anxiety. Of course, there is a time and place for experiencing those emotions. Feel them; mourn the dream that turned sour. Then make a decision to let them go. Do this for your benefit — not on behalf of your former spouse.

Negative emotions can hold you in limbo and suck the life out of you. You get stuck in a place that’s painful to experience and it makes you unpleasant to be around. For the sake of your children — if not for yourself — decide to let it all go. Determine to move on. It’s not always easy to do, but the contrast of living in your pain is not an easy place to be either. Which state would you prefer?

Step 4: Try To Forgive

The big step after letting go of your negative emotions is learning to forgive. This starts with you. Forgive any mistakes you made related to your marriage or divorce. Forgive your poor choices, immaturity or naivety. Acknowledge yourself as someone who is open to personal growth, change and transformation. Feel your worth and start doing things that express self-love.

Next, take the big step to forgive your ex. This does not mean condoning their actions or hurtful behavior. It means you are determined not to let it affect you any longer.

You are cutting the emotional cords that bind you and keep you from enjoying the new possibilities in your life. Behind forgiveness is freedom. Don’t you want to be free of the pain, hurt, insecurity and rage that previously had power over you? Release your past — and be free!

Step 5: Handle Your Conflicts

Disagreements are inevitable between divorced parents from time to time. Develop good communication skills and you will minimize the damage that results.

When a conflict with your ex arises, be a good listener. Most disagreements come about from misunderstanding. Clarify what you heard to make sure that was the intention. Often one of you made an assumption that was erroneous and feelings got hurt.

It’s a good idea to get into the habit of paraphrasing what you think they said and ask for clarity. Apologize if you made an error or omission. Be understanding if your ex made the error. Try not to put them on the defensive or jump to negative conclusions.

Find a middle ground that you both can live with. Trade off getting to “win” the discussion or issue at hand. Agree to disagree if necessary. Learn to move on.

Step 6: Make Time For You

One of the healthiest things you can do in creating a positive attitude is making time for you! This is a gift that pays off on many levels in your life. Think about reinventing yourself in new ways that excite you. Take a yoga class. Pursue a new hobby. Volunteer at a shelter. Start a craft or business. Make time for strolls in nature, exercise and watching your diet. Treat yourself to a message. Indulge when you can.

When you nurture yourself, you can then give your children your total attention when you are with them. During and after divorce your kids need you more than ever. You can’t be there for them if you’re not there for yourself to renew your spirits.

Do the best you can. Take it day by day. If you need help, reach out for it without embarrassment or shame. You’re not alone. And the help you need is out there for you!

by Rosalind Sedacca, founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network

Flawed Parents, Lacking Parenting Skills, Share “Parallel Custody”

parenting skills - 2houses

When parents fight for custody of children, both parents attempt to highlight their own parenting skills and to diminish the other’s abilities.  The cases are difficult and gut wrenching because often there are two loving, caring and fit parents, who only want the best for their children.

What happens, when after trial, the court finds that both parents are so flawed and lacking in parenting skills that neither should have sole custody of the child?

In M.R v. A.D., a Manhattan judge, after splitting physical custody of a child, opined that “neither of these parents has the skills or qualities to be [the child’s] sole custodian.   Instead, the court identified each parent’s parenting strengths to define particular “spheres in which each party with be the final decision maker.”    

The mother, characterized as warm and loving, but chaotic, unpredictable and unable to establish firm or consistent boundaries was granted decision making over summer camp, extracurricular activities, and religion. The father, described as gruff, not particularly warm or affectionate, but capable of setting firm standards for the child’s behavior, was granted decision-making over issues relating to the child’s education and health.

In reaching this Solomon-like decision, the court recognized that because of the acrimony between the parties, joint custody was not an option; the parties could not communicate effectively with each other to make joint decisions.  After assessing the parties’ individual parenting strengths and weaknesses, the court fashioned a custodial arrangement that allows each parent to make decisions on different aspects of the child’s life.

The decision, which gives each parent parallel custody, is a novel method of resolving a custody dispute.   Rather than “winner-take-all,” this win-win approach assures each parent’s continued involvement in the child’s life, with decisions being made by the parent best suited for doing so.

by  Daniel Clement (source: divorce.clementlaw.com)

Is Alimony Still Necessary?

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At a recent workshop I presented on Financial Equality in Marriage, a question about alimony came up. It began an energetic discussion between the various age groups attending. Women and men in their twenties and thirties felt that alimony was a thing of the past, an antiquated legality that no longer made sense. Those older, and some in second marriages, disagreed. They felt that alimony did still have its place in divorce proceedings and was created to aid ex-spouses, mostly women, who had no personal income or a very low income. Finally someone asked me, “What’s your take on alimony? I just made a bet with my husband on your answer.”

Oh the pressure! Here’s hoping my answer wins you the bet!

Alimony and child support is a two-way street but with a lot of twists and turns along the way. It is an imperfect system but it is the only one we have in place right now. As with any law, there is always room for improvement and revision and many family court justices are helping to make some necessary changes by reinterpreting the basic laws regarding alimony as a “male only” burden. In the past, it was assumed that when there was a separation or divorce, the man would support his former wife by paying alimony. If children were involved, he was also obligated to pay child support, which was a separate issue.

The paying of alimony can be traced as far back as the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi. The term alimony comes from the Latin word alimōnia which meant nourishment and sustenance. It was created to assure the wife’s (or “discarded” wife), lodging, food, clothing, and other necessities after divorce.

Alimony has an interesting history, one that was basically a somewhat derogatory assistance for women who were seen as the “weaker sex.” The law in the United States is based on the laws found in Ecclesiastical Courts in England. Since the husband was the sole owner of all marital property, and the wife depended upon him to provide for her sustenance, the English Ecclesiastical courts consistently ruled that the husband had the duty to provide for the wife after divorce as well. Otherwise she would become, “a burden of the people.” Heaven forbid there should be any burdensome women around!

While a woman is no longer considered to be a lesser partner in a marriage, and marital property after divorce is divided equally, there is still a strong feeling that a man owes an obligation to his former wife in a financial sense. This is being debated in family courts. There are people who try to cheat the system and that makes it bad for everyone involved.

Today, with women as well as men working outside the home, the idea that anyone with a well-paying job needs to receive extra income simply because they were once married is antiquated and ludicrous. If both partners are able to support themselves, additional money from a former spouse, barring child support, is unnecessary and punishing. However, there are exceptions as to when paying alimony to a former spouse is necessary.

No one should have to come out of the marriage losing financially. If one partner is more financially secure than the other, a form of alimony should be paid on a sliding scale. This goes for women paying alimony as well as men.

If a child is under school-age, and the mother or the father needs to be a stay-at-home parent, alimony is a fair accommodation until that parent is able to begin working outside the home. 
The support of a child should be the responsibility of both parents. If one makes considerably more than the other, the division of support should show it. Instead of a 50/50 support contract it may well be 75/50 or whatever is fair. A woman making three times more a year than her ex-husband is capable of giving more money to support the child. Fair is fair.

Alimony should be an equal opportunity responsibility. While the majority of alimony recipients are still women who are stay-at-home mothers and men are the ones who pay it, the system is changing and rightly so. Gone are the days when a healthy woman, capable of working, was supported for life simply because of the Mrs. in front of her name. And the same goes for any healthy man.

In the purest sense of the law, alimony was always meant to help and protect a former spouse who was incapable of taking care of herself/himself financially. Child support is a necessary obligation of parenting. Neither was meant to be abused or used as a form of punishment during divorce proceedings. The relationship reality here is that alimony, in spite of everything else that may be negative about divorce, should be the one part that is fair and just to both parties. No one should be the winner or the loser.

Kristen Houghton