Divorced with Kids: Tips for Back to School

Resolve to make each school year better than the last.

Resolve to make each school year better than the last.

It is that time of year again: teachers are decorating their classrooms, parents are shopping for school supplies, and students are enjoying the last few days of summer vacation.  The new school year is about to start.  What are you going to do to make this a great year?

Back-to-school season is even more stressful when your child shares two homes.  Your child’s education is tough enough already–meeting teachers, tracking homework, signing and filling out permission forms, keeping track of extracurricular activities–without having to deal with the extra chores involved in split custody.  Here are a few tips to get your child’s school year off to a good start–

1.  Keep a positive attitude. Your child may be reluctant for the summer to end and for the back-and-forth of regular visitation to resume.  When you keep a positive attitude, it makes it easier for your child to make the adjustment.  Your child will feed off of your emotions.  Don’t let them sense that you are uneasy about your ex-spouse’s visits.  Instead, help your child to look forward to spending time with their other parent.

2.  Don’t let your child hear you talk bad about the other parent. I get it: you and your ex-spouse don’t get along.  There are hard feelings and bitterness.  It is so easy to make snide comments about the other parent.  But don’t.  At least not within the hearing of your child.  Bite your tongue.  If you put the other parent down in front of your child, your child will resent you instead of the other parent.

3.  Don’t make your child be the messenger. If you have information that the other parent needs to know, don’t make your child deliver the message.  Visitation exchanges are hard enough without putting pressure on your child to remember and convey information to their other parent.  It doesn’t matter if the information is trivial or important:  if the other parent needs to know, then you need to communicate directly with the other parent.  If you aren’t on speaking terms, then send an email.  Or write a note, put it in an envelope, and hand it to the other parent during the visitation exchange.

4.  Be involved. Get a copy of your child’s school and extracurricular activity calendar.  Attend programs, open houses, games, and concerts.  Go meet your child’s teacher.  Sign up for the school’s internet portal and check your child’s attendance, grades, and homework.  Help with fundraising activities.  Go to school and eat lunch with your child.  These are great ways to show your child you care, even though the two of you may not be able to live in the same house all the time.

5.  Make an effort to get along with the other parent. Let bygones be bygones.  Bury the hatchet.  Turn over a new leaf.  Be respectful and courteous of the other parent.  When your ex-spouse has a scheduling conflict, needs to change weekends or exchange times, be gracious!  This is not for the other parent’s benefit, but your own and your child’s.  When you can communicate and accommodate with the parent, your stress levels will go down, and your child will feel more comfortable in an unnatural situation.  Do it for you!

This year does not have to be just like last year.  Your child is a year older, and has matured more than you realize.  Make his or her year better by following these tips for a great school year.  You won’t regret it.

Develop a Divorce Plan to Keep the Goal in Mind

Divorce is a difficult journey. Have a plan for life after divorce.

Divorce is a difficult journey. Have a plan for life after divorce.

Divorce is a difficult journey–don’t let anyone tell you differently.  It doesn’t matter whether the divorce is “uncontested” or “simple;”  it doesn’t matter how good your lawyer is; it doesn’t matter how free from blame from the breakup of the marriage you perceive yourself to be–divorce is always going to be difficult.  Whether you were the spouse who sought the divorce or not.

Sometimes along the journey of divorce, we get caught up in various battles of the day and we lose focus on the ultimate goal. Sometimes it seems the most important thing is the process of ending the marriage:  filing for divorce, gathering documents, mediation, preparing for hearings and trial, and getting it over with!  At other times, the most important thing is getting out of the painful relationship and away from your spouse as quickly as possible.  Others may seek revenge by using the system to punish their spouse for hurtful or abusive behaviors.  The most important thing to focus on, however, is the ultimate goal, the finish line:  life after divorce.

Whether you wanted the divorce or not, whether you feel you have been wronged by your spouse or not, no matter how complex the process may seem, your main focus needs to be your life after divorce.

1.  Make a plan.  Early on in the divorce process–even before separation, if possible–you need to develop a plan of how you are going to live after divorce.  Visualize yourself as single again.

Where will you live? Can you afford to live in the same home you share with your spouse?  If you need to move, what kind of home do you need?  A house?  An apartment?  Will you need to rent for a while or will you be able to buy a home right away?

How will you support yourself financially?  If you are not employed, what kind of job will you seek?  How much income will you need?  Will your spouse be required to pay you child support or alimony to offset your expenses, or will you be required to pay your spouse?  Will your current income, plus or minus child support or alimony, be enough to support you in the lifestyle to which you have become accustomed?

If you have children, how will they been cared for?  Do you foresee the children living with you most of the time, living with the other parent, or do you anticipate sharing custody and parenting time?  If you work, how will the children get to and from school?  Will your work allow you time off to take the children to the doctor?  Will the children need a babysitter?  Are there any family members or friends nearby who would be willing and able to watch the children?  Keep in mind that being a single parenting is usually more challenging than being a married parent.

2.  Be realistic.  Life after divorce–no matter how attractive it seems when you are stuck in an unhappy marriage–will not be a cake walk.  Remove your rose-colored glasses.  Be realistic about your situation, your capabilities and limitations.  Discuss your plans with friends, relatives, and your lawyer.  Seek honest feedback from those you trust.  Do your friends think your goals and plans are achievable and realistic?

Your plan will be dependent on the law as applied to the facts of your case.  In order to formulate a plan, you will need to know how the courts would likely rule on the facts of your case.  Thus, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced attorney early on.

3.  Be flexible.  No matter how good your plan is, it must be flexible.  You must be able to adapt to unforeseeable situations.  If your plan includes keeping the house and having full custody of the children, how will you adapt if the judge awards the home to your spouse, or if you have to share custody?  What if your spouse’s child support is higher than you anticipated?  What if you lose your job? What if it turns out your expenses are more than you anticipated?

If you are inflexible, then you will perceive any setback–whether great or small–as a major defeat.  If your plan is rigid, you will never be happy with the result of the divorce, even if you are awarded 95% of what you set out to achieve.

Remember the goal: a happy life after divorce.  Make a plan for the future:  be as detailed as possible.  Make sure your vision of the future is realistic and achievable.  Always be flexible because your plans will need to change as your situation changes.

If you need help formulating your plan for life after divorce, call me.  Set up your free thirty-minute consultation today.