Child Custody (4)Helping Children Cope and Deal with Divorce
Helping Children Cope and Deal with Divorce
A divorce, while stressful for adults, can be even more traumatic, sad and confusing for children. Regardless of their age, children may feel uncertain, angry or even guilty at the prospect of mom and dad splitting up. It is possible for parents to make the process and its effects less painful for their children. Helping your children deal with divorce means providing much-needed stability at home and attending to your children’s needs in a reassuring and positive manner. This may not always be smooth or easy. But there are several ways in which you can help your children cope.
Understand that the Divorce Will Have an Impact
The reaction of your children to your divorce often depends on their age, maturity and personality. Their sense of loss and conflicting emotions may manifest in a number of ways that even they may not understand. Expect behavioral changes. Young children who are struggling to deal with the situation often have issues with sleep or tantrums. School-age children may experience depression. It is common for teenagers involved in a divorce to act out or to rebel against their parents or teachers. Kindness, compassion and understanding are essential coping strategies when it comes to children and divorce.
How to Say it Right
It is important to strike an empathetic tone and be honest. Do not talk down to your children. Be straightforward, yet kid-friendly. Your children are entitled to the truth. They should know why you are getting a divorce. Come up with a simple, yet truthful answer. Never stop showing affection. Tell your children that you love them. It is very important that they hear it from you. Letting your children know that your love for them has not changed sends a powerful and positive message to them. You can help alleviate your children’s fear and uncertainty about the future by telling them what you know. Talk to them about where they will go to school and what their schedule will look like. The more information they have, the more comfortable and reassured they are likely to feel.
To Share or Not to Share
One of the difficult parts of communicating with your children during a divorce is deciding what to say and what to withhold. Establishing open communication channels is key during this time, but venting to your children could be a mistake. You do not have to hide the fact that you are going through a difficult time, but going into specific details with your children may put an unnecessary burden on them. While it is healthy for them to talk about their feelings, it is important that you do not express bitterness or anger toward your ex. As difficult as it may be, attempt to foster their relationship with your former spouse. This will reduce the amount of guilt or sadness they may feel over the separation. Let your children know it is natural to feel sad. Encourage your children to share their feelings about the divorce.
Fighting in Front of the Kids
Do not fight in front of the children. If you must have heated conversations, have them when your children are not around. Research shows that the most poorly adjusted children of divorce are those who are exposed to their parents fighting all the time. You do not have to be your ex’s best friend. But it is important that you take your battles away from your children. Stop fighting in front of them. Do not badmouth your ex in front of the children. Do not imply that your ex is not a good parent or that your children should not want to have a relationship with their other parent. Support and foster their relationship so that the children don’t feel guilty or uncertain about what to do or how to act.
Creating Your New Life
After the divorce, you may have to move and your children may even have to change schools. While change is often positive, it can also be very stressful. Many of their routines and habits will have to change. Make sure you help your children establish new routines and traditions. It is especially important during occasions such as birthdays and the holidays to establish traditions that help them cope with their sense of loss. There is nothing wrong in creating a cheerful atmosphere at home just as there is nothing wrong with showing your pain or grief in front of the children.
As difficult as it may be, post-separation parenting requires cooperation between you and your ex. The more guidelines and rules you lay down in the beginning will help you in the future. Discuss, negotiate and agree on who is responsible for the children’s health care, when and where the children will stay, how the holidays will be spent, where they will go to school and how their extra curricular activities and classes may continue. It is also important that they get to keep some of their old connections. Scheduling play dates with their friends would be a good idea and help them feel that their world has not shattered. When you and your ex have these types of details ironed out, it will establish a new normal for your children. They will know where they are supposed to be and who is responsible for them at all times. The unknown can be very stressful. Eliminating doubt and confusion is an important part of post-separation parenting. Security and stability are critical to help your child cope and move on.
There is no one right way to raise your child and even the most concerned parent can make mistakes. If your child is not coping well with the divorce, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. There are programs and professionals available for children of divorce as well as for parents who need support. You are not alone and it is your responsibility to ensure that your children don’t feel alone either. If you need legal advice with regard to issues concerning your divorce, please get in touch with an experienced San Diego family law attorney who will help protect your rights and your family’s best interests.
Emancipation of Minors
Are you a teenager considering emancipation or a parent wishing to learn more about the intricacies of the emancipation process? Generally speaking, children under the age of eighteen are considered to be minors and anyone over the age of eighteen is considered an adult. In some circumstances some minor children wish to be emancipated from their parents, or legally declared an adult prior to turning eighteen.
Emancipation can occur for a number of different reasons and the court may grant such a petition for a variety of factors. Many young children consider themselves incredibly independent and therefore fit for emancipation. Whether they have their own job, perhaps pay rent, or even no longer live in the parents’ home anymore. However, independent factors such as these do not necessarily make a worthy case for emancipation or allow a teenager to qualify as an emancipated adult.
There are three main ways a minor can achieve emancipation:
- Get a Declaration of Emancipation from a judge – see below
- Get married – permission required from parents and the court
- Join the armed forces – permission required from parents and military acceptance must be established
If a minor child is granted emancipation this completely relieves the parents of any financial, custodial, or other rights and support. Both children and parents should be fully aware of the ramifications of achieving emancipation in order to be completely confident in their decision. Many teenagers seek independence from their parents or wish to “go out on their own” but do not fully grasp all that is encompassed with legally being declared an adult and achieving adulthood at an early age.
There are a variety of reasons a teenager may wish to emancipate:
- A physical, sexual or emotionally abusive relationship with their parents
- Already legally married but wish to have the same rights as an adult (parental consent and court permission required)
- A parent or guardian has decided they do not want their child to live with them any longer
- The living situation at a teenager’s home is morally unbearable
Because there is so much weight behind the decision to emancipate, California courts require a legal process. If a minor child is emancipated they can apply for a work permit, get medical care, live independently and apply for college. If they achieve emancipation they are required to go to school, cannot get married with parent’s permission, and will go to juvenile court is they break the law. Again, each state is different when it comes to legal emancipation process requirements, so it is important all parties are familiar with the applicable laws.
Broadly speaking the emancipation process requires the petition by a minor to the court, sufficient evidence in support of the petition, and an appearance at a hearing that may require testimony to be given.
To receive emancipation the minor must prove all of the following factors to the court:
- Minor must be the minimum age required (varies depending on state of residence)
- The minor lives independently from their parents and has established its own form of income which allows them to support their residence and lifestyle
- The minor has a steady and reliable source of income and is financially able to fully support himself or herself
- The minor’s ability to demonstrate their maturity level and proficiencies
If a minor is granted emancipation and is legally considered an adult, this does not override age requirements for other legal rights. Achieving emancipation does not grant the right to vote, the ability to purchase alcohol or marry without parents’ consent before the legal achieve of majority in the applicable state of his or her residence. Emancipation status can also be revoked if the teen decides to return to their parents’ home or care.
The decision to become an adult prematurely is a big one, and taking on the rights and responsibilities is not easy. Teenagers should be sure they have considered and weighed all factors and consequences before moving forward with the legal emancipation process.
There can be many alternatives to the process should you decide emancipation may not be for you:
- Speak with an adult you trust and value their opinion. Whether this person is a close grandparent, aunt or uncle, or a guidance counselor or church mentor. This person may be able to hear your reasoning and wishes, and may also be able to speak your parents if you feel that is appropriate. Having a uninvolved mediator is often helpful to speak with both sides and reach the best logical decision.
- If you are involved in an abusive relationship there are many hotlines or child protective services that will offer support, advice and often times an alternative option for your living situation. This may be an option better suited for your current needs if you cannot financially support yourself but wish to be removed from your current home.
- Many teenagers and parents just don’t get along. As unfortunate and emotionally frustrating as this may be, emancipation is probably an extreme solution to this problem. You may be better off staying with a close relative or friend and working through things that way.
If you or someone you care about is considering the legal emancipation process, you may have questions or confusions you would like to clarify. A family law attorney is often incredibly helpful in helping you make the best choice for yourself and your situation. If you’re not sure whether emancipation is the best choice for you or a minor to make right now, call Fischer & Van Thiel LLP at 760-722-7646 today and let us help you with your questions.
Child custody: things to consider in California
Child custody or visitation rights are one of the most stressful aspects of a divorce case and an experienced Carlsbad family attorney can help protect your rights as a parent. Divorce is an unfortunate fact of life for many people and it can be very difficult for children to understand what is going on when their parents aren’t together anymore. As a parent it is your obligation to make sure that your child remains safe, stable and happy.
In California, parents are allowed to come up with a custody plan if they can mutually agree on a schedule that is in the best interest of the child. The County of San Diego has a list of guidelines for child custody as well as counseling services when parents cannot agree on a custody plan. The courts will draft a plan for you if an agreement can’t be reached. A skilled family attorney can guide you through all of the steps you’ll need to take to protect your rights and your children.
There are two primary forms of custody in California
- Physical custody – a determination of which parent the child will be with and when. This also refers to day-to-day responsibilities that each parent has for the children.
- Legal custody – this form of custody determines which parent will have legal decision making power on behalf of the child. Generally this is shared between both parents. Decision making authority includes healthcare, education and other considerations that impact the welfare of the child.
It is common and desirable for both parents to have legal decision making power for the child and to share physical custody of the children as equally as possible. When you work with your lawyer and your ex spouse to come up with a custody plan there are numerous factors you will want to consider.
- Joint custody – this can refer to legal or physical custody. Under joint custody both parents have decision making power for the child and either or both parents have some physical custody with the child according to a determined schedule. Generally each parent will spend significant time with the children.
- Sole custody – this form of custody places legal and physical control of the child in the hands of only one parent.
- Grandparent’s rights – family is more than just the immediate parents and children. In many cases grandparents are important part of their grandchildren’s lives. They may also assert a right to visit with their grandchildren.
- Visitation – this refers to the designated amount of time that non-custodial parent will have responsibility for the child. That is, the right to spend time with your child even if you do not have legal or physical custody of the child. In some cases, visitation may be supervised.
The amount of time spent with each parent is one of the most common areas of disagreement between divorced parents. It is understandable that you would want to spend as much time with your children as possible. This is especially true during holidays, birthdays and other special occasions. An experienced child custody lawyer can help you avoid these conflicts and prevent them from occurring in the first place.
Putting Your Heads Together: Preparing for Mediation over Child Custody
Determining child custody can be the most difficult and emotionally straining portion of negotiations with a former spouse. How much time a child spends with each parent and where they will live are undoubtedly major decisions and it’s important to keep emotions in check and to be fully prepared for every important step of the decision making process.
Going into a child custody mediation, some nervousness is completely natural, but these discussions are meant to bring about the decision that is in the best interest of the child and will offer them the greatest benefit while taking as little as possible away from either parent. In most scenarios, it is best for parents to come to an agreement without the help of a mediator, or in cases where the two parties are completely deadlocked, a Court Order.
The first, and most important thing to remember, is that the mediator’s entire job is to keep the bitterness between the parties to a minimum and encourage a healthy and fair decision. What occurs during the mediation can have an effect on every other remaining decision made in the proceedings, so there’s no lie in stating cooler heads generally prevail.
Prior to any mediation or any meeting with the opposite side, it is always good advice to relax beforehand and ensure you get plenty of rest. It seems like a basic suggestion, but reducing any potential stress or aggravation can make an immense difference when dealing with a sensitive situation like child custody. Ensure that you have no other meetings or obligations the day of the mediation and leave all the anger and stress outside the door when you go into mediation. Your attorney is there to support and assist you as well, so don’t be afraid to be open with them on how you are feeling about mediation.
Cooperation with the mediator can help them determine the best way to move forward, and telling the truth along with divulging all relevant details will help them determine the best course of action, and will help get your opinion across more effectively.
Often, mediators will ask that you prepare a parenting proposal, suggesting potential custody schedules for the children. It is important to take the other parent’s feelings and logistics into consideration when creating the schedule. A biased or unreasonable schedule can do much more harm than just being rejected outright. The more you can show you are placing your child’s best interests first, the heavier weight your opinions and arguments will carry during mediation and any potential evaluations.
When putting together your parenting proposal, it is best to consult with your attorney to ensure that all the details of the child or children’s lives are considered and that their needs are met. Major flaws in parenting plans can include an inability to properly structure custody switches at proper times, failing to take into account schooling or other scheduling concerns and letting acrimony dictate unreasonable schedules, like asking someone to pick up their children in the morning when their work schedule keeps them occupied until the afternoon.
Being prepared is the best way to obtain a favorable result from mediation. The more information you have readily available, the more willing you are to answer questions efficiently and properly. Working with your attorney is the best way to prepare for mediation. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions, as there are numerous terms that can be confusing and you want to be able to understand any terminology presented by the mediator. Knowledge is power and the party that is most prepared often comes off with the better result.
Another common misconception involving mediation is that judges, evaluators and mediators will automatically favor women and lean towards giving them full custody. Mediators do not make decisions based on any source of bias and instead, focus on the accessibility of both parents to the child and ensuring a safe and healthy environment for the child, both emotionally and physically. Their main goal is to make sure that both parents are able to contribute positively to the child’s relationship and if so, ensure that both have as close to equal access as possible.
Mediators are extremely pro family and encourage situations where the family can remain as close to the prior status quo as possible. They are aware of the intense stress you and your children may be under due to the divorce, and generally believe that access to both parents is the best basic course of action.
They will also be extremely patient and thorough during the mediation process, starting with an agenda covering each topic that will be discussed and then concluding each topic with an open discussion from each side. The mediator will also provide his or her own advice to help both sides come to an amicable and fair agreement. It is important to remember that even if it seems like the mediator is favoring the other side, they are impartial and will try to offer advice that supports a fair and neutral solution.
Finally, it is important to remember that this mediation is centered on custody of the child. This isn’t a time to bring up support payments or other issues that have nothing to do with the custody or welfare of the child. Also, every child’s life is different, so standard custody schedules may not work. When determining a final schedule, take into account both sides and be patient and understanding when working out a schedule for both you and your former spouse. While you and your former partner may still be at odds, keep in mind that a child should not be drawn into arguments, should not be used as a “bargaining chip” and that he or she deserves equal time with both parents in a supportive and healthy environment.
If you approach mediation with a calm and collected attitude and take the time to prepare with your attorney, it is much more likely the mediator will present a more favorable decision for the child, helping them to maintain the best possible situation during what must be a very difficult time. Developing a proper plan through mediation and attorney planning is the best solution to ensure your child remains in a happy and stable situation.