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.

Mediation Tip #1: What is Mediation?

MediationBefore your family law case goes to trial, the judge will probably require you to mediate. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution–”alternative” meaning that it is an attempt to resolve the dispute without having to resort to trial.  In mediation, the parties meet with a neutral third-party, usually but not always an attorney, who is trained to help parties resolve their differences. The mediator will meet with each side–usually in separate rooms–and will go back and forth between the parties to gather information and convey offers and counter-offers.  Mediators are useful because they help the parties find common ground.  They will also provide valuable feedback about the strengths and weaknesses of your case.  Hence, even if you don’t settle the case, you will have gained insight into your case that will help you prepare for trial.

The mediation process is entirely voluntary:  no one will force you to settle the case if you don’t agree to the settlement, and no one is going to decide the case for you.  If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, they simply walk away and prepare for trial.  However, if the parties are able to resolve the dispute, it is likely that the parties will save significant time and money–not to mention the emotional investment–that it would otherwise take to prepare for trial.

In future posts, I will discuss more tips to help increase the likelihood that your mediation will be successful.  In the meantime, if you have a question about the mediation process, feel free to leave a comment.

About Kirk Garner

Kirk Garner was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1967.  He was raised in and around Lubbock, Texas, and graduated from Shallowater High School in 1985.  Kirk graduated from Abilene Christian University in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing.  The week after graduation, he married his wife of now 22 years.  They have three daughters.

Kirk graduated from Baylor University School of Law in 1995.  During law school, he served on the Baylor Law Review, and was a member of the international legal fraternity Phi Delta Phi and the Harvey M. Richey Moot Court Society.

Upon graduation, Kirk Garner was admitted to the Texas Bar, and practiced law in Winnsboro, Texas, for fifteen years.  He had a general small-town practice, including family law, civil litigation, probate, and criminal defense.

In 2010, Kirk obtained his license to practice law in Colorado.  He and his family pulled up stakes and moved to Colorado Springs, where they had always wanted to live.

Kirk Garner opened his Colorado Springs law office in 2010. The Colorado Springs office is devoted to all aspects of family law, including divorce, child custody, child support, spousal maintenance, adoption, and grandparents’ rights.

In 2011, Kirk Garner added a second office in Woodland Park to better serve his clients in Teller County.  The Woodland Park practice is more of a general-civil, small town law firm. In addition to family law and dissolution of marriage, the office handles civil litigation, probate, and other matters. Have a case in Teller County? Call Kirk Garner today to see if he can help.