Category Archives: Custody

Why Divorce Mediation Is The Best Way To Handle Child Custody

why divorce mediation is the best way to handle child custody

When parents decide to end their marriage, the divorce can have a number of psychological effects on the children involved. These include stress, anger, fear, and guilt.

Many of these feelings are exacerbated by the resulting custody battle. That’s why it’s up to the parent to make the process as pain-free for the kids as possible.

One way to do this is to opt for divorce mediation instead of a traditional divorce. This involves coming to an agreement on your terms outside the courtroom. A mediation attorney will guide you and your spouse to amicable solutions.

Divorce Mediation And Child Custody

This approach is much easier for your children when it comes to establishing custody. Let’s look at how everyone benefits.

Keep your children’s best interests in mind

The most important aspect of any child custody case is that the child’s best interests take precedence over anything else. You can achieve this much easier through divorce mediation.

By working together, you’ll be able to form a healthy visitation schedule. This means your children and you will have ample time together. You can also form a schedule that will provide the least amount of inconvenience for all parties.

With the help of a mediator, you can form a parenting plan that benefits your children’s development and emotional well-being. You’ll also be able to establish who’s responsible for financial necessities related to the children.

This is a much healthier situation than battling for custody terms in the courtroom. In these cases, parents often forget how their decisions will impact the children. In addition, the final decision is often made by the judge rather than the parents.

Protect your children from negative emotions

Divorce mediation is all about cooperation. The goal is to come to a common ground and work through your differences amicably. This makes for a much more civilized atmosphere.

On the other hand, traditional divorces are often fueled by anger. This can create a very negative environment at home. Your children will inevitably feel these negative emotions.

In addition, children can get dragged into the proceedings during a traditional divorce. This could mean appearing in court and testifying in front of a judge.

Mediation is a much quieter approach. You and your spouse can work out the custody terms with the guidance of a mediator. They’ll help keep you on track and can step in if tensions arise.

A cost-effective solution

During mediation, you and your spouse only need to hire one attorney to help you through the process. In addition, you’re not spending time fighting for terms in the courtroom. This is a money-saver for both parties.

Traditional divorce proceedings have the potential to carry on and on. This is especially true if each party continues fighting for the terms they want. In this case, both parties must continue to pay their attorneys.

However, if you opt for mediation, you can split the cost of hiring a single attorney. Furthermore, you’ll likely come to a solution much quicker than if you battle for custody rights in front of a judge.

Keep in mind that you’ll soon be financially independent. Doesn’t it make more sense to save money for you and your child’s future?

Mediation is less stressful

Regardless of the way you approach your divorce, this is a stressful time. However, engaging in mediation can make the transition much easier.

Stress can affect the way you interact with your child. This could lead to tension and problems at home.

A mediator’s job is to walk you through the process and allow you and your spouse to see the big picture. They’ll help you resolve conflicts and avoid negative emotional reactions.

Mediation will also help you come to a custody arrangement that’s less stressful for your children. This is critical during this trying time.

Remember, this is a passing phase in you and your child’s life. Instead of fighting, do your best to set a foundation for a hopeful future.

Avoid parental alienation

During traditional divorces, it’s common for parents to slander each other in front of the children. They may blame certain things on their ex-spouse or say things that could cause the children to see that parent in a different light.

This is called parental alienation. Sometimes a parent doesn’t realize they’re doing it and sometimes it’s intentional. Regardless, it has a negative impact on the child-parent relationship.

When two parents choose to mediate through their divorce, they’re less likely to engage in parental alienation. Working through their differences together instead of fighting will ease any resentment they feel towards each other.

A mediator can also help them understand how much of an impact the divorce has on their children. There’s a much better chance a couple will keep this in mind when parenting individually.

Set the stage for a healthy future

Regardless of the way you choose to settle your divorce, one thing is certain – this is the beginning of a new life for you and your children. Mediation is a great way to start that new life.

When you work with your spouse on a healthy custody plan that benefits everyone, you’re setting the stage for future cooperation. You’ll come away from your divorce knowing you can communicate effectively in order to solve problems.

Co-parenting isn’t always easy. You’re bound come to some hurdles along the way. However, forming a solid understanding of each other will help you and your children move on from the divorce and work toward a healthy future.

Mediation will also show you that fighting only causes additional problems and creates stress for you and your children.

Consider Divorce Mediation When Developing A Custody Plan

Your children’s future is the most important aspect of your separation. Unfortunately, traditional divorce proceedings don’t always allow patents to operate with the best interests of the children in mind.

Instead, consider divorce mediation and come to an amicable agreement that benefits your children.

If you and your spouse have decided to separate and need help to come to a custody agreement, we can help. Contact us for family law representation today.

Tips For Co-Parenting After Divorce

tips for co-parenting after divorce

Last year, the divorce rate was at it’s highest this decade.

It’s a sad reality, but not all marriages manage to go the distance, and if there are children involved it can be all the more stressful, complicated and heartbreaking.

But it doesn’t have to be difficult to start co-parenting after divorce if you and your estranged spouse work on things calmly, sensibly and with the children at the forefront of the situation.

Here are some tips on how to do just that – and take care of yourself on the way…

Using Divorce As A Way to Thrive

Children are more than likely to be devastated and affected in the aftermath of a parental split, but it’s possible to co-parent in a way that teaches your child how to benefit being a product of divorce.

If you are able to provide routine, stability, a sense of security, and show them attentiveness throughout, this will shape them into more secure human beings.

How does this make them thrive? It’s teaching them a structure in the face of a trying circumstance and a ‘broken home’. In essence, co-parenting after divorce with fairness and a ‘game plan’ will provide your child with a thicker skin of sorts.

Communicate With Your Child Positively

If your child or children are having problems adjusting, simply talk to them and be that voice of reassurance.

If they become upset at the prospect of having to spend time with your ex away from you, tell them how much mommy/daddy is looking forward to seeing them and how they’ve got fun things planned for their time together.

If their upset is deeper than that, ask them what they want and what you or your ex can do about it.

Once you’ve got to the crux of the matter, communicate with your ex to resolve the situation – if it’s something you can both work on to resolve, do it. It’s to help your child after all.

Work With Your Ex

It’s likely that things aren’t rosy between you and your ex, but that’s for you two to iron out privately.

Put your children first and think about your ex as someone you have to get on with for the sake of those around you.

Treat them as an in-law you’re not keen on, or a family member you don’t care for. Or even a friend’s other half you must be cordial to. Or even as a colleague.

If there’s a big decision to be decided on, don’t text or email, where things can come across passive-aggressively. Meet in person – you’re going to have to cross paths whatever the situation. If you, for example, need to talk about an issue your child has at school, arrange to set time to talk about it when you or your ex drops your child off at your house.

Leave Competitive Parenting At The Door

It’s not a contest over who can clock up the most hours with your child.

Try not to get petty – avoid “well you had him the whole of last Saturday and you only want me to spend half of this Saturday with him” type conversations. It’s childish in itself.

Be fair with timings and don’t get possessive or greedy, and make sure the time you do spend with your child is quality time. This way, it doesn’t actually matter who saw them most that day/week/month.

If you can stomach still spending family time together – one meal a week, for example – then that might be nice for the child too.

Have Boundaries

If your child is off at an event with your ex (and a new partner potentially) leave them to it.

If they’re old enough to have a phone, don’t hammer them with texts or calls asking how they are or if they’re having fun. At a push, one little message might be okay but don’t behave like you’re checking up or spying on them.

Think about it – even if they’re enjoying their time with their mom/dad, if they feel like you’re a nag then they will be reluctant to come home knowing you were obsessing over it.

Double Up At Important Occasions

If you have the kind of relationship for this, then don’t segregate the time you spend with your child and your ex when it comes to special events.

School plays, graduations, birthday parties, parents’ evenings, swim meets – anything that is solely about that child should be an event you can both be at and celebrate together.

If you can go as a unit – even if there are new partners involved – then do it.

How Are You Feeling?

Divorce and spending time away from your child can be a lonely state of affairs.

So – use the time you have on your own to look after yourself – rest, read, tidy the house, exercise, watch that Netflix show you’ve been meaning to get into. Suddenly you have this extra time on your hands to do these things.

If you’re worried about loneliness, get out there and spend time with friends, family – or get back on to the dating scene.

By doing this, you’re not dwelling or festering and you’re taking steps to get yourself back on track which will make you happier, and in turn a better parent.

Co-parenting after divorce can also lead you to bitterness – but learn to tame this.

And disparaging your ex in front of your child isn’t a good idea either. You’re undermining their father or mother and this could get back to them via the child – leading to them undermining you.

Stay Positive When Co-parenting After Divorce

If the divorce process, the relationship with your ex or your child is finding things difficult, try to remain a beacon of calm amongst it all.

Don’t dismiss the idea of talking things through with your own parents, a counselor, or a trusted friend.

Filing for a divorce is a big change, and it’s okay to feel like a different person through the process.

Embrace the change and ride the wave of this new lifestyle – this will only benefit your children and teach them to do the same as their own lives are changed.

Life After Divorce

Along with the issue of marital status, the Court in a dissolution of marriage action can decide issues of child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support and paternity actions.

This can be a daunting time for anyone going through a split, and can add extra stress while co-parenting after divorce.

For friendly, professional advice, contact Gerard A Falzone for further information on how to get through your divorce in the most reasonable and productive way possible.

Joint Custody: How To Talk With Your Kids About Divorce

joint custody how to talk with your kids about divorce

There’s an oft-cited claim that half of all marriages end in divorce.

That’s not strictly true. The divorce rate peaked at over 45% in the 1980s but has been falling ever since.

No matter what the statistics say, divorce is still difficult for the whole family. It’s especially hard for the children. You know what life was like before your partner and can probably imagine life without them.

Your children don’t have that benefit of experience. Even joint custody poses problems due to the change and upheaval it entails.

Financially planning for a divorce is one thing. Emotionally preparing your children is another. This guide will help you to plan how you will discuss the situation with your family.

Set Ground Rules with Your Partner Before the Conversation

Telling your children that you’re getting divorced is a difficult conversation. You don’t want to make things worse by the discussion turning into an argument.

Before you talk to them, set ground rules with your partner. Work out how you’re going to break the news and agree what you’ll say.

You need to avoid assigning blame and you don’t want the children to feel pressured into choosing sides. It’s best to block out time for the conversation so it doesn’t feel rushed.

Have a plan for care arrangements in place before you have the discussion. That will help you answer the question ‘What will happen to me/us?’ It’ll show your children that you’re still putting their needs first.

Don’t Rush the Conversation or Pretend Everything Is Fine

The children need time to process the news and ask questions. Let them express themselves, even if they get angry or upset with you.

It’s best if you can have the discussion together. This will reinforce for the children that you’re still capable of a ‘united front’. It’ll show them you can still talk to one another and you’re both there for them.

Try reading our guide to an amicable divorce if you want to relieve some of the stress.

If being in the same room as your partner is too difficult, ask a neutral third party to be present. Or have two conversations and agree on a set script.

Planning on joint custody means putting in a joint effort.

Put Yourself in Your Children’s Shoes

You’re an adult so you process information in a different way to your children. You know what divorce means and how it can affect your life.

But they don’t. They may be scared they won’t see one of you again, even if you’re working on joint custody. They may even blame themselves for the split. Work out how you’ll reassure them that it’s not their fault.

Try to use their language to help them see that both of you still love them, even if you can’t work things out with each other.

Keeping things simple and factual helps you to avoid toxic conversations or passive aggression. Children will pick up on these cues.

At worst, if they think you’re angry or upset, then they should be angry or upset. A calm and straightforward approach is best.

Establish a Support System

Maintaining a routine is a good way to help them process the news. If they see that core parts of their life won’t change, they’ll be better equipped to deal with the upheaval.

Take it in turns to take them to school, keep up with their after-school activities, and so on.

Inform the teachers at their school that you’ll be sharing joint custody. It’ll help staff monitor their behavior and notify you if they act out or become withdrawn.

It’s advisable to tell the teachers the day before you tell your children. That helps the teaching staff to prepare for potential problems.

If necessary, let the parents of their friends know. That’s important if you normally pick them up from play dates, and your partner will now be sharing the responsibility.

Wherever Possible, Minimize the Amount of Change in the Their Lives

Once you establish separate households, continue following their routine. It can be tempting to allow your children more free rein so they see you as ‘the fun parent’.

Don’t fall for it. You and your partner need to maintain consistency. If you continue to set the same rules, it’ll reinforce for your child that not much has changed.

This will help your child feel more secure. The children also need to feel they’re still allowed to love both of you without being disloyal to one parent.

Stress the Positives of Joint Custody

Divorce doesn’t fall out of thin air. Your children will have noticed the tension between you. They may have heard you fighting.

Your discussion is the perfect place to reassure them that divorce actually means less fighting. If you’re lucky, you and your partner can still work as friends, if not as a couple.

Divorce may be the end of you as a couple but your children need to see it’s just the next chapter in your life as a family. Joint custody means you’ll still be a family – just in a different way.

Studies show that children in a joint custody arrangement fare better than those in other arrangements. Your children will benefit from your shared decision-making and responsibilities – just as if you were still together.

If necessary, let them talk to their friends if they come from a divorced family. Their friends will be able to come up with positives that your children will understand.

Allow the Children to Be Involved in Decisions

One of you will leave the family home. If you haven’t already done so, then you can ask your children if they’d like to help you choose a new home.

After all, they’ll be spending half of their time there too. It’ll help them to feel like they’re still part of the family. They’ll also feel like you still respect their input.

If they’re not interested, don’t force the issue. But try to choose somewhere that will be a safe place for them too.

Make the Divorce As Smooth As Possible

We’ve discussed how you can be there for your child. But you need someone to be there for you too.

Being prepared and armed with solid advice is the best way to answer their questions and feel secure in yourself.

Contact us if you need divorce advice. We want to make the painful process as smooth as possible.

Pets In Divorce Settlements

pets in divorce settlementsDivorce is a difficult time for everyone involved. When it comes to splitting up a household, it can be difficult to decide who keeps what. Even harder is the decision on who gets custody of the kids. Recently, family courts are getting more divorce cases where there’s a question of who gets the pets in divorce settlements. This is making it necessary to take a harder look at the role pets play in a family and how the pet’s best interest can be served during this difficult time.

Pets In Divorce Settlements: Pets As Property

Traditionally, the court system has looked at pets as property. When the question of who gets the family pet comes up, the court will put a dollar value on the pet. This often results in one person getting awarded the family pet and the other partner getting something of equal monetary value.

The “value” of the pet is determined by:

  • Who can prove they paid vet bills.
  • Which name is on the license.
  • Who takes care of the pet most often.

As the world becomes more aware of the importance of animals, some courts are starting to change their views somewhat, but there are some things that a couple can do to help make the process easier fro everyone.

Changing Views

As more courts start considering pets as family members, some of the same things that determine child custody are being used to determine pet custody. The judge may take into consideration such factors as who brought the pet into the family, who is able to give it more time and attention and who the pet is most attached to. In essence, he will try to determine the best interest of the pet, but this is also a situation that may not be easy to determine.

Legal Agreements

Couples who are considering a divorce often take the time to sit down with a lawyer and discuss things. If an agreement can be reached between the two people involved, custody issues may be resolved without the case having to go to court.

Let’s look at what can be included in a divorce agreement:

  • Basic custody of pets – Will it be best for your pet to have the consistency of staying in one home and having visitation from the non-custodial person? Would shared custody be better? Set forth who gets what time with the pet. Having it in writing will make it more enforceable if there ends up being conflict.
  • Finances – How will vet bills be paid? Will one partner have sole responsibility or will you share the cost? Is there a way you can arrange some kind of pet fund that will make it easier to pay vet bills if the other partner is unavailable?
  • Attachment – Did one partner bring the pet into the marriage, to begin with? Is there one partner who benefits psychologically from having the pet around? Does the pet prefer one partner over the other? All these answers can determine who has the greatest psychological investment and this is something that needs to be considered in who gets the pets in divorce settlements.

Any custody arrangement works best when two partners can come to an agreement that is best for the children. This holds true for pets as well. Until such a time when the courts fully embrace the concept of pets as part of a family, sitting with a lawyer to discuss custody arrangements for your family pet is the next best thing.

How is Child Visitation Determined in California?

how-is-child-visitation-determined-in-californiaWhen a judge ultimately is deciding the outcome of a custody case in the State of California, he or she must decide what is in the best interest of the child or children that are involved. This decision determines how much time each parent will receive throughout the year with the children. When the process begins both parents that are involved will have a fair chance at custody and primary visitation despite whether it is the male or female that wants primary custody. As the process goes on the judge will get a better understanding of the familial situation and understand more of what would be best for the children involved.

Policies.  The State of California follows two very distinct policies when determining visitation. The first policy focuses on the health and welfare of all of the children involved in the visitation agreement. This must be the primary concern of the judicial system. Also, the second policy takes a deep look at the parents involved and determines whether or not the children benefit from having continuous contact with both of the parents. The information regarding both of these policies is the main information that is used to determine child visitation in California.

Safety.  During California court proceedings, a child’s safety is a primary concern when determining child visitation. It is an easy decision to make if there is a situation where one of the parents is living a very unsafe lifestyle that maybe focuses around excessive alcohol consumption or drug use. This may also apply to a parent that has a past that includes legal action for rape or abuse. A judge is not going to place primary custody or visitation with a parent that is not going to create a safe environment for their child. There is also a California law that prohibits a judge from giving child visitation to a person who has been convicted of murder or child abuse on both a physical or sexual level.

Supervision.  If a parent is questionable regarding their behavior or how they may act around their child then a judge may order child visitation to occur with a third party present so the visits are supervised. This prevents anything bad from happening to the child during the visit but yet it still allows the child to maintain some sort of relationship with their parent. When they are older and more mature they can then make decisions themselves regarding their visits.

Recommendations.  Each child visitation case is very different from the next. There may be some confusion as to whether or not a parent is fit to have visitation with their child so sometimes the court will ask for written recommendations and letters from family members, rehabilitation staff, attorneys and more. The information provided by multiple sources will help a judge make their final decision.

Child Opinion.  Depending on the age of the child the court may ask the child what their opinion is regarding the visitation agreement. An older child may state that they do not feel it is healthy for them to have a relationship with a certain parent or they may ask to stay in a certain living situation with the parent they are already staying with. The judge typically will take this information and preference into consideration.

Ultimately the best child visitation agreement is one where both of the parents involved can work together to co-parent their children. While not every marriage or relationship works out in the end there are still impressionable children involved that deserve the very best that their parents can offer them.