How do you handle religious issues after divorce?

It isn’t unusual for interfaith marriages to happen these days — and it isn’t unusual for one or both spouses to turn back to their religious roots during a difficult time (like divorce).

However, that can create all sorts of unintentional conflicts over the children. If the kids were once raised “interfaith” or generally kept to the secular world, one parent may not see the other parent’s newly discovered religious devotion as a good thing — especially if the more religious parent wants to involve the children in his or her faith.

Wait — isn’t it every parent’s right to involve his or her child in the parent’s religion?

Not exactly. There’s no one standard that’s followed on a national level, but courts can (and do) restrict parents from raising their children in their current or former religion for a number of reasons:

  • The children are old enough to express an opinion and are not interested in attending the religious services or don’t have the same belief systems.
  • The parent with primary physical custody may simply have the legal say-so over the religion the children follow, per your custody agreement and the law.
  • There may be an existing agreement in the divorce to continue raising the children in a specific religious tradition. For example, the divorce may state that the children will be raised in the mother’s Jewish tradition — which is how things were done when you were married. Objecting now that you’re divorced probably won’t gain much traction with the court.
  • The court decides that exposing the children to their parent’s religion creates a risk of harm to your child. The risk could be physical or emotional. For example, if your religion forbids modern medical care and you have a child with asthma, the judge is likely to side against you.
  • The court decides that the exposure to the religion is creating actual harm to your child. For example, if your religion says that anyone who doesn’t follow certain rules will be damned for eternity and that includes their other parent, that can be psychologically damaging to your children.

It’s important to address interfaith issues during the divorce — otherwise you may find yourself back in court again very shortly.

Source: FindLaw, “Divorce: Child Custody and Religion,” accessed Sep. 20, 2017

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Why does a parent become a deadbeat dad or mom?

Why do some parents choose not to pay child support? It certainly isn’t a wise choice to go against a judge’s order, and the penalties can range from having wages garnished and tax returns grabbed to being jailed for contempt of court.

Here are some of the main reasons experts have discovered that parents refuse to pay support:

  • Their own low self-esteem leads them to believe that their children would be better off if they simply drop out of their lives altogether. Even the support payment is a connection that they see as unnecessary.
  • New romantic interests or spouses might resent the children, the custodial parents or the money being sent to a different household. Noncustodial parents can be persuaded to stop sending child support payments.
  • Some noncustodial parents are convinced that if their exes drive nice cars, wear expensive clothes or get manicures, they are using “the children’s” money on it. These noncustodial parents seem to prefer their exes live in poverty. They see any visible indications of material wealth as signs that the child support is unnecessary.
  • Others feel the whole system is rigged. Maybe they didn’t want children and felt tricked (even if the contraceptives just failed), or maybe they wanted the mother to get an abortion or think it’s unfair that a woman has to pay support to a man when the dad has custody.
  • Some genuinely can’t afford to pay. They’ve lost their jobs, been demoted or laid off, were recently injured or had another child and now can’t afford the same amount of support.

Whatever the reason, you have to decide how to respond, whether you agree to receive less support on a temporary or permanent basis (if the nonpayment is due to a real problem). You might decide to ask the court to enforce the order.

You also need to reassure your child, if he or she is old enough to understand the money-flow problems, that the situation isn’t his or her fault. Children often worry that they are somehow responsible for things they can’t control.

For help with child support issues, talk to an attorney today.

Source: the spruce, “21 Reasons Why Deadbeat Parents Bail On Their Kids,” Jennifer Wolfe, accessed Sep. 08, 2017

How do you tell your adult children you’re getting divorced?

Whether you were only staying together for the sake of the children or just grew apart after you had an “empty nest,” telling your adult children that their parents are getting divorced is never easy.

In fact, it’s probably easier both to break the news to young children and for young children to adapt. Adult children generally have a hard time getting people to understand that their grief over the divorce is very real — even when they are grown.

Here are some tips on how to handle the issue:

  • Make sure you tell your children early. You don’t want to let them find out on social media. They need to hear it from one or both of you first.
  • If possible, tell them together. Try to consider it your last joint act with your spouse when it comes to raising your children.
  • Reassure the kids that they don’t have to choose sides. Make sure you mean that statement, too.
  • Remember that it’s okay if you don’t want to discuss certain things. Frankly, you may not have thought far enough ahead to have considered how the holiday dinners are going to be handled. As to why you are divorcing, keep your answer short and simple. Good answers include things like, “We just don’t want to be married to each other anymore,” or “We fell out of love.”
  • Don’t go into tawdry details — even after you have any of the kids to yourself. While they may eventually find out that their father has a chronic drinking problem or their mother had an affair, avoid trashing out your spouse. That gives the kids the impression that they do have to take sides.
  • Don’t try to defend your decision. Some of your kids may insist that you’re too old to divorce or that you’re being foolish. Recognize that their feelings are a reflection of their own grief and you can’t convince them of the “rightness” of the divorce.

The biggest thing to remember is that you don’t need their permission or acceptance to have a divorce — but they do need your reassurances that they’re still loved equally by both parents and that it’s okay if they still love you both equally in return.

For more information on divorce at any age, talk to an attorney today.

Source: AARP, “The Way They Were,” Brooke Lea Foster, accessed Aug. 25, 2017

Does your child need extra financial support this fall?

Back-to-school season is starting and a lot of parents are still frantically trying to fill their school shopping lists.

If you’re the non-custodial parent, you probably figure that’s what your child support is for, right?

Well, not exactly. The support you pay is based on your child’s ordinary living expenses. However, there’s nothing ordinary about the expenses at this time of year.

You can expect each of your children to need a rather impressive list of supplies:

  • New shoes are probably needed, including more than one pair if your child has to take gym. Many school gyms require a separate pair of sneakers in order to protect costly gym floors.
  • At least five complete outfits are necessary. You aren’t off the hook if your child wears uniforms either — those can be just as costly (or more) than jeans and shirts.
  • Each child needs paper supplies, including folders, pens, pencils, notebooks, calendars, calculators, file folders and whatever else the school or teacher puts on the list. It may include things like tissues and sanitary wipes for young children.
  • Electronic supplies are also important these days — if your child is in college, there’s a good chance that he or she needs a new laptop (because they seldom stand up to the abuse a full year of being toted back and forth to class without some damage). If he or she is in high school or middle school, there’s probably electronic lab fees that have to be covered.
  • Fees for art classes, band classes, choir or sports are also part of the deal. Many schools no longer provide the supplies for these activities for free.

It’s estimated that the average parent will spend somewhere between $369 and $680 per child, depending on the area of the country that you’re in. Divorced parents — or those in the midst of a divorce — should try to work together to split the extra burden of the back-to-school season. That can help prevent a trip back into court to reassess the child support order in place.

Voluntarily contributing a little extra financial support at this time can also go a long way toward showing a judge that you’re a devoted and committed parent with your child’s best interests in mind — which can help if you’re fighting for more custody. An attorney can provide more information or advice on child support.

Source: Real Simple, “Back-to-School Supplies Checklist,” accessed Aug. 11, 2017

Divorce, social media and your children

Social media has become an important part of American life, but it can also be a problematic area for families going through a divorce. The last thing you want if you’re in the middle of a custody battle is to have your — or your child’s — social media activity become a problem. Here are some good guidelines to follow:

1. Don’t allow children unsupervised access to social media.

If your children have social media accounts, make sure that you are on their friends list and able to monitor what is said on their pages. In addition, insist that your children keep you informed about password changes and let them know that you’ll periodically spot check their conversations. Make it clear that your goal is to protect them from online predators and ensure their safety. Otherwise you could be accused of neglecting an important parenting duty.

2. Discuss age-appropriate content.

You may be okay with a swear word or two in your home, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay for your children to post vulgar or obscene posts online — even in the name of humor. Similarly, you don’t want your teenager posting “sexy selfies” online. Talk to your children about the limits of what they can post, and make it clear that violations will result in suspended privileges.

3. Don’t post anything the judge — or your kids — shouldn’t see.

Pause before each post and ask yourself if you would feel uncomfortable trying to explain it to the judge overseeing your custody case. If there’s any doubt, don’t post.

For example, you might not think much about a picture of your backyard barbecue, but that beer can in your hand could be an issue if your kids are around or your ex is alleging that you drink too much. Similarly, online rants about your child’s other parent can come back to bite you — especially if your children can see the posts. You don’t want your ex to allege that the posts are causing an emotional rift with the kids.

Ultimately, you want to model good online behavior for your children and help them learn to live up to the standards you set. If you keep that in mind, you probably won’t have to worry about social media hurting your custody case. For more information on this and other child custody concerns, talk to your family law attorney.

Source: The Our Family Wizard Blog, “Kids and Social Media: Three Tips for Parents,” accessed July 28, 2017

Acceptance of divorce rises, while divorce rates fall

Divorce used to be seen as a shameful subject in this nation — at the very best, it was a sign of a personal failure. At it’s worst, it was seen as a moral failing as well.

Those days are now long past — divorce is now seen as morally acceptable by most people — including among married couples and older Americans, both groups that have traditionally opposed easy divorces.

Despite the massive shift in the nation’s moral code over the decades, American are actually divorcing less than often than they were in previous decades when divorce was seen as less socially acceptable.

California was the first state to grant no-fault divorces, way back in the 1960s when the majority of Americans still felt that divorce should be difficult. By the 1980s, the rest of the nation had followed California’s lead — leading to a national epidemic of divorces.

Gradually, however, divorces have been declining. In 2015, divorce rates dropped to their lowest in 35 years. Meanwhile, acceptance of divorce as a means to end an unhappy marriage has risen to more than 70 percent.

This shift in attitudes coincides with a shift in acceptance for same-sex marriages and the cohabitation of unmarried couples both with and without children. Experts suggest that the timing is not coincidental — the general shift toward the acceptance of all these things together may signal a general cultural shift. Both marriage and divorce are increasingly being understood as legal processes — marriage formalizes existing relationships and divorce formally dissolves relationships that have fallen apart.

Whatever the reasons behind the shift in attitudes, it may make it easier on you emotionally if you’re contemplating divorce to know that you enjoy the social support of many others — whether they’ve been in your position or not.

For more information about divorce or to discuss your options, contact an attorney today.

Source: Hot Air, “Americans Increasingly OK With Divorce, But Actually Doing It Less,” Andrew Malcolm, July 09, 2017

3 quick tips to make summer trips easy despite custody issues

Planning a family vacation can get complicated even without custody agreements to work around, so it’s no surprise that summer sees an uptick in the number of disputes that end up heading to family court.

In order to stay out of family court this summer, make the following tips part of your vacation plans:

1. Review your custody agreement before you start planning.

Forgetting what’s in the custody agreement is probably the biggest mistake that parents make. It’s great to plan a trip to Disney but you don’t want to announce that to the kids if your custody agreement says you can’t take them out of state without the other parent’s agreement (unless you already have that agreement — in writing). Similarly, the Canadian Falls has long been a favorite trip for family vacations, but your custody agreement may not allow you to take the kids out of the country. If you want to do anything that violates your custody agreement, you’re going to need some legal paperwork to make it happen.

2. Plan your trip ahead of time and get the court’s approval.

You may prefer to follow the road wherever it takes you, but you can’t do that when you have a custody agreement in place. Set down and figure out your plans, put them in writing and see if your kids’ other parent is agreeable. You may need the help of an attorney to then submit them to the court for approval, but once the judge has signed off on the plans you won’t have to worry about being charged with custodial interference.

3. Realize that a temporary change in custody doesn’t entitle you to any other changes.

If you’re planning a trip that will last most of a month and your kids’ other parent is willing to allow it, that’s fantastic — but it doesn’t automatically change your child support obligation for that period of time. One of the hardest concepts for divorced parents to grasp is that support and custody are two separate legal issues. If you need to request a modification of support for a month, go through the proper channels in court.

For more information on summer custody concerns or similar issues, please contact an attorney. Visit our page if you’d like more information on how we may be able to meet your needs in this area.