Small Steps Make a Blended Family

potted plant-sm

potted plant-smDear Mr. Dad: I’m engaged to an amazing man with a 9-year old son who’s with him every other weekend. When I first started going out with his father, the boy and I got along great. But the closer we get to the marriage, the worse things get between us. I’ve tried to talk with him about it, but he just screams at me that, “you’re not my mother!” and runs to his dad, whose usual response us to take his son’s side and spend more time with him. That leaves me feeling completely left out and unheard. I’m not trying to replace my fiancé’s son’s mother or interfere with his relationship with his dad. At the same time, I need more attention and understanding from my fiancé. How do I have these conversations?

A: The dynamic you’re describing is incredibly common, but that doesn’t make it any less unpleasant for anyone involved. Think about this from your boyfriend’s point of view: He’s trying to balance being there for you and being a good dad. Because he sees his son only every other weekend, he wants those precious days to be as conflict-free as possible, which may explain why he seems to be taking his son’s side over yours (although there really are no “sides” here). He may also be feeling guilty about not being able to be more involved, which may explain why his response to conflict is to spend more time with his son. Unfortunately, that leaves you out in the cold.
[Read more…]

Long-Distance Parenting

Dear Mr. Dad: My ex and I share custody of our son (age 6) but she recently moved a few hundred miles away so I sometimes don’t get to see him for a few weeks. In between, I really miss him and I worry that he’ll forget who I am or won’t want to see me when we finally get together. I sometimes feel like giving up. How can I stay connected when we’re apart for so long?

A:  Great question, one that also applies to single moms and anyone else who has to spend extended periods of time away from their children (military servicemembers, for example). As hard as those separations are, the good news is that not being together physically doesn’t mean that you can’t be together emotionally. The even better news is that while it’s not easy to keep those bonds strong while you’re away from your son, you can—and do—play an important role in his life. And it’s vital to both of you that you not give up. Here are some steps you can take to stay involved.
[Read more…]

Initiating a Divorce: The Proper Steps, Part 2

In the first part of this article, we talked about the importance of separation from your soon-to-be-ex, working with an attorney, and keeping your spouse in the loop on what’s happening. Now we continue with the next steps in the process.

It’s Time for Negotiations

The negotiations can quickly become the most overwhelming part of your divorce. In most cases, a trial is set for a year away, and you’ll need to participate in a temporary hearing to establish child custody and support issues. From requesting exclusive use of the marital home and temporary custody of minor children to who gets the car, everything will be covered.

What Happens if You Can’t Agree?

If at this point you cannot agree, the attorneys involved may submit your issues in question to the Judge during what is known as a pretrial conference. Pretrial conferences are held in the Judge’s chamber, and both of your attorneys will need to be present.

Your attorney will present their position to the Judge, and the Judge will make an educated recommendation for settlement. It’s important to remember that the Judge’s pretrial recommendations are not set in stone, but they’re a sign as to how the Judge thinks the case should be settled. In most cases, the pretrial conference is the greatest motivation for agreeing on a final settlement without needing to prepare for a full trial.

The Final Step

Once you’ve made it into the divorce court, it can become ugly in no time at all. Your attorney’s job is to win the case for you. Are you worried about a jury? Don’t be. Most divorce trials are held with only a Judge present. Once you get through the part where you promise to tell the truth, things take a serious turn. You’ll have to settle on the entitlement to divorce, child custody/visitation rights, distribution of property, child support, spousal support, and much more. Of course, if you don’t have children, you only have to worry about a few of these things. If your spouse isn’t happy about the results, they possess the right to appeal. If the Judge grants the appeal, it’s back to the courthouse to start over.

Divorce is Not for the Faint-hearted

Divorce isn’t easy, but no one ever said it was. If you think divorce is the only option you have in your marriage, be sure to prepare yourself for a year-long battle. While you and your spouse may not disagree on a lot of things, divorce has a way of bringing out the worst in anyone. Choose your stance wisely, and make sure you get what you deserve.

Initiating a Divorce: The Proper Steps, Part I

Let’s face it; divorce is scary for anyone. You’re uprooting your life and changing things you never imagined changing. Yet while it can be difficult, it doesn’t have to be. Sure, it’s easy to fight over the little things, but your divorce will run a lot smoother if you communicate effectively and follow the proper steps.

It’s Time to Separate

If you’re ready to make the plunge, you need to separate from your spouse. Separating is never easy, but it has to be done no matter what grounds for divorce you choose to file under. In some cases, separation can lead couples to reconcile. Unfortunately, for others, the often liberating experience can further cement the desire for a divorce. If you have successfully separated from your spouse and wish to pursue the divorce, the next step you need to take is petitioning for divorce.

Making it Official

When you petition or file for divorce, you need to file in the state where you live and make sure you’ve met the separation requirements. Filing for divorce is also known as a “Complaint for Dissolution of Marriage.” This requires that you can complete the necessary forms, pay a fee, and file the papers with the district court in the correct county.

If you choose to use a divorce attorney, your attorney will assist you in completing and filing the forms. If you decide against using an attorney, the process can become significantly difficult. The court personnel will not and cannot answer any legal questions or assist with your paperwork.

Grounds for Divorce

  • No-fault divorce
  • Irreconcilable difference
  • At-fault divorce

The reasons for divorce vary from state to state. You need to make sure you know what to choose as your reason for separating before you fill out the paperwork.

Let Your Spouse Know What’s Happening

Your third step is to notify your spouse. This is also known as having your spouse served. You or your lawyer will have to submit proof to the court that your spouse was formally notified about the divorce. In most cases, the spouse can sign a Voluntary Appearance document. During a specific period of time, your spouse will need to respond or file an answer. They’re usually given up to 30 days to get this done. Once your spouse has responded, you’ll begin the waiting period for a hearing to be set.

Divorce Mediation or Collaborative Divorce?

Coping with divorce is never easy, but you can make things a lot easier if you choose a strategy that allows you to divorce without going to court. Staying out of court reduces time, expense, and trauma for everyone involved, especially the children.

There are several ways to handle a divorce without court. Ultimately, your personal and family situation will dictate which option is best for you. If you’re a dad, you may be concerned about visitations and the impact that your divorce will have on your children.

I spoke to the divorce lawyers at Galbraith Family Law, in Barrie, Ontario, who said “Although separation and divorce can be heartbreaking and challenging with the emotions that come along with it, having an experienced divorce or family attorney can help with this process tremendously. These lawyers can help you with your cases and settlements using out-of-court options such as Divorce Mediation or Collaborative Law. This is the best way to ensure there is minimal effect on all parties involved. Especially those fathers who most often experience suffering after divorce, as well as the children.”

[Read more…]

Wiser Divorce + The Importance of Failure

Angie Hallier, author of The Wiser Divorce.
Topic:
Positive strategies for your next best life.
Issues: Developing a solid game plan to keep tempers in check and everyone moving forward; identifying bad habits that can lead to unhealthy choices; how learning to collaborate with your ex-spouse will give your kids a bright future; saving money by choosing your battles wisely; why going to court is rarely the best solution.

Leon Scott Baxter, author of Secrets of Safety-Net Parenting.
Topic:
Raising happy and successful children.
Issues: The importance of letting our children fail—and learn from the experience; helping children find their passions and strengths; the difference between nudging a child in a particular direction and pushing; why you’re not your child’s friend—and shouldn’t try to be.