Sunday, September 30, 2012

It's Not Too Early to Plan for the Holidays!

Even though Thanksgiving and the holiday season seem a long ways off, you could make things a lot easier for yourself and your kids if you start thinking and planning for the end of the year now.  If there's any travel involved, you need to be getting tickets or arranging time off or taking care of various other details.  You will need to coordinate with your ex and it should be easier to do it now without the time pressure of being nearer to the holidays. It's also easier if your ex hasn't put his/her plans in stone yet.  You  would also have time to get reduced fares and to grab the time off before others at work claim it.

Here are some things to think about:

1.  Look at the schedule. Make sure you even need to have a discussion, before you get started.   In Texas, we have a standard possession schedule that covers the holidays.  Start off by looking at the specific language of your court order.  You and your ex can agree to change the schedule, but neither can force the other to do so.  It's better to find out now if you or your ex needs a change.  There's still time to get things done.

2.  Talk or email or text (politely) with your ex.  Don't demand or threaten.  If you don't need a favor now, you will need one later.  Don't burn your bridges by being unreasonable.

3.  Be clear and specific with what you need.  Beating around the bush wastes everyone's time.  What you want to do may not be too difficult, especially if your ex needs you to change something.  Spell out exactly what change you need.  Be clear so you can have a clear discussion and understanding.

4.  Listen to the other side.  Your ex may not be able to agree or may not be able to do all that you request.  If that is the response, you might discuss other options.  Always have a Plan B.  Your ex may have good reasons for not agreeing to what you request, but maybe you can still come to some agreement.

5.  Follow the Golden Rule.  Be willing to compromise.  You may need a big favor next year.  Until the last child is out and married, and maybe even after that, you need to keep a decent relationship with your ex.  You will be dealing with your kids for a long time, so don't be enemies with your ex.

So, be nice, be prepared and start early!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Changes Are Here!

After over five years with the same format and colors, we are trying a little different arrangement and different colors on the blog.  We may make a few other changes in the near future.

Please let us know what you think about the changes.  Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 21, 2012

How to Tell Your Kids About the Divorce

One of the hardest things parents going through a divorce have to face is telling their children about the divorce.  There are no easy answers and no single answer on how to do it.  The parents need to plan how and when to talk with the kids about the divorce.

Here are 7 tips about how to tell your children about an impending divorce:

1.  Right mood.  Timing is important.  Make sure both parents and the children are not tired, hungry, busy, upset or preoccupied. 

2.  Right time.  The conversation should be before someone moves out.  It shouldn't be too long before the move-out and not too close to the time, either.  A discussion at the start of a weekend, when both parents will be around for the weekend, can be a good time.  That allows the children to process the information and be able to talk with each parent, if they want to.

3.  Right people.  Both parents should be there and involved in the discussion.  "We"  should be used, rather than creating a blame situation, as appealing as that might seem to the "leavee".

4.  Right reasons.  Blame should not be discussed.  It's better to say something like, "We aren't getting along and we can't fix it."  That's a true statement and it doesn't attach blame.  There's no need to be too specific.

5.  Right response.  Listen to the children and respond to their questions.  Use age appropriate words and statements.  Answer their questions truthfully, but without assigning blame or giving a lot of details.

6.  Right (amount of) information.  Don't explain too much or give many details about what's wrong.  But, don't leave any hope of reconciliation.  If it is a surprise to the kids, they will need time to work through the idea of divorce.

7.  Right planning.  Be able to explain how it will affect the children.  That will probably be their biggest concern.  Will they have to move?  Where will they go to school?  Will there be enough money? Etc.  Don't over-promise and don't discuss issues that are undecided.  It's OK to not have everything figured out.

Most kids probably have friends whose parents have divorced.  Your kids have likely discussed divorce with other children at different times and may have thought about how it might affect their lives.  Don't be surprised if you get some strange, specific questions, or no questions at the start.  The discussion will probably extend over some time, so just keep these suggestions in mind.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Don't Listen to Bad Advice!

At the intersection of someone looking for support and someone wanting to be helpful, bad advice often rears its ugly head.  People going through a divorce are naturally anxious and vulnerable.  They worry about what is happening, what could happen and what didn't happen.  Many people worry a lot.

At the same time, other people are natural caregivers and supporters.  They want to give emotional support to their friend who is obviously struggling in a difficult situation.  They have good motives, but end up being unhelpful in most cases.

I have witnessed many times the combination of a needy person going through a divorce and a friend who wants to help who gives advice. The result is usually confusion and actions conflicting with what the attorney would recommend.

Here are the common actors in that situation; Don't Listen to These People!

Law-related:  Current or former court personnel, legal assistants, legal secretaries, law students, lawyers who don't practice family law, therapists and other professionals who sometimes work in the legal arena.  Sometimes such people who operate or worked on the fringe of the legal system may carry an impression of being knowledgeable, but they're not!  These not only are not your attorney currently representing you, but each one is not really qualified or appropriate for giving legal advice in a case they are not involved in.  What may (or may not) have been true or worked in another case may be ineffective or inappropriate in your case.  Their experience makes them seem qualified to help, but they're not.

Close by-standers:  Relatives, neighbors and friends.  The intention is usually good, but their experience or what they heard 2nd, 3rd or 4th-hand doesn't really work for you.

Non-law-related professionals:  Police officers are a prime source of unintentional misinformation.  Other professionals generally don't have good information for you either. 

What all of these have in common is that they are not the lawyer representing you in your family law matter.

Some common, problematic advice can include such topics as:
  • A suggestion to take an action without discussing with your attorney.
  • Telling you that you shouldn't, or don't need to, comply with a court order.
  • Directing you on what to say or write to someone.
  • Suggesting what you can do with some asset.
  • Advising whether or not you should go to court.
The Best Advice:  Please just get legal advice from your attorney handling your family law case.