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5 Scenarios For A Parenting Plan Tune-up

The over-arching theme of co-parenting is that “things change” — kids get older, change schools, you and/or your co-parent remarry, you move to a new neighborhood and, all the while, your Parenting Plan is safely tucked away in a file cabinet, becoming an outdated old clunker of a plan. As we like to say in family law practice, the best Parenting Plans set out “fall back” positions, are filed with the Court, thrown in a drawer, and never see the light of day again … because you and your co-parent are  raising your kids and working together as family members should.  Even in the best co-parenting relationships, situations sometimes arise that will have you digging around looking for that dusty old legal document to figure out what to do next.  And then, when you find it, you may be surprised to find that it says something you didn’t expect or doesn’t say anything at all about your new situation. Here are a few common scenarios that we see and I have outlined them for you so you can think about whether or not your Parenting Plan may need a tune-up. Babies became teens:  If your Parenting Plan was written for wee ones and your babies are now in driver’s ed, it’s likely that your parenting arrangements, vacations, and holiday plans have all changed, too.  Maybe your Parenting Plan was concerned with day care, but now should be addressing curfews and college choices.  Definitely time for a tune-up! Blended families and Parenting Plans:  It’s a few years down the road and now you have yours, his, ours, and theirs.  How do you...

What’s Your Everest?

I was inspired to blog about this topic from — of all things — a Champion sportswear ad that posed the question and went on to say, “The summit awaits each of us — and the symbolism of Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, can help us achieve our own goals and dreams.”  I see their “Everest” on the faces of people who are struggling through a divorce, who have been climbing a long ascent with few resources and no summit in sight.  They are physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially exhausted and overwhelmed.  Just like a person climbing Everest, every step is a monumental effort, and they are constantly battling fatigue, depression, limited resources, isolation, and defeat.  Some people never make it to the “summit” of divorce — they never experience the relief of closure, resolution, and peaceful acceptance.  Recently, a friend told me about a couple who were about to appear for another (their 8th in 10 years) post-decree hearing in Court, this time regarding parenting time.  These two have not been able to attain their summit in the traditional divorce model.  Years (many years) after their divorce, they are still struggling to reach the “top” or at least the end of their climb, but — like many who attempt Everest — they ran out of tools long ago.  The only resource left to them was their “position,” which rarely serves the needs of the children or parents.  Here were two people that — individually — have so many strengths and talents.  But together, they are unable to climb that last mile to the summit of closure and resolution, so they just keep on trudging.  Their children...

Are You Insane?

Albert Einstein (a fairly smart fellow) said that the definition of insanity was “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  In that respect, it’s fairly simple to self-diagnose!  If you’ve been doing the same things over and over and still expect to see different results, you might be insane … or, you might be giving a conditioned response. Insanity needs attention from someone trained in psychiatry.  (Not my gig.) Conditioned responses need attention from you, because the only cure for the conditioned response is awareness and a willingness to change.  So what does this have to do with family law?  As it turns out, quite a lot.  You see, if you are repeatedly responding in an unhealthy way to conflicts or issues with your co-parent, expecting THEM to change, you’re probably going to be disappointed (at the very least). Here’s an example of conditioned responses (CR): You:  I’ll be there at 6 to pick up Andrew and Emily. Them (Pushing Your Button):  I told you that I needed to leave at 6.  Be here at 5:30 or not at all. You (CR):  You didn’t tell me that.  Besides, the orders say 6 and that’s when I’ll be there. Them (CR):  You heard me.  5:30 or don’t bother. You (CR):  I have to work for a living, so I’ll be there at 6. Them (CR):  Don’t bother because we won’t be here. You (CR):  Fine. I just won’t bother following court orders, but I’ll be calling my lawyer in the morning. Them (CR):  Fine.  Go ahead. But you still won’t see the kids tonight. You (CR):  Screw you!...

Are You Above Average?

Are you Above Average?  You might think so, but you’re probably not when it comes to divorce. Becoming Above Average is not nearly as hard as it sounds.  When it comes to family law matters, you don’t have to have a low percent of body fat, high IQ, big bank account or a lot of letters behind your name to be Above Average.  All you need is a little bit of knowledge and the will to use it.  In this blog series, I’ve introduced you to Tim and Kathy, a fictional couple who represent the Average Divorce.  They spent more than half their net worth and two and a half years of their lives litigating their divorce.  They depleted their savings, their available credit, and their health.  Their kids went through a traumatic custody evaluation and the family business is facing bankruptcy.  They are the poster couple for the Average Divorce.  If you don’t believe me, just ask around! So how do you avoid falling into the Average Divorce trap?  How do you become Above Average?  Here are a few ideas: Know Yourself:  Investing in some therapy will help you know yourself better, learn what your weaknesses are, and understand how to  communicate with your spouse around issues of co-parenting and finances. Know Your Money:  Engaging an independent divorce financial planner can save you and your spouse hundreds (even thousands) of dollars in legal fees, lost opportunity, and taxes. Know Your Kids:  Hiring a child specialist to help you understand your children’s developmental needs is less expensive and invasive than a custody evaluation, but can provide valuable insight into what’s best for the...

Create a new tradition!

Create a New Tradition for Your New Family Dynamic This may be your first holiday season wearing your New Family suit, and it might  not feel as comfortable as you would like, so here are some ideas to help you find the joy in the season: New Family. You, your children, your coparent, and extended family on both sides are now part of a New Family. Treat each other with the care and compassion that you would treat your own family members (would you be snippy or sarcastic to your favorite aunt or beloved sibling?). Try to remember to approach all of your interactions while silently saying the words Compassion, Gratitude, and Harmony. It will help you focus on what’s important. Kids first. If you and your co-parent (notice, we don’t use the word “ex”) are focused on what will make the holidays best for the children, you will almost certainly do the right thing. That doesn’t mean competing to see who can out-spend or one-up the other. In fact, the best way to show your love may be to discuss and agree with your co-parent on what gifts the children will receive and then present them from both of you. You can also agree to alternate favorite activities, or attend together. For example, if a “sparkle tour” is a favorite Christmas Eve activity, rent a van and take along another family. It creates a sense of adventure for the children and gives you, as co-parents, a buffer zone of other people to interact with just in case things are tense. New Traditions. Memories of Christmas (or Thanksgiving, Hanukkah,...