Family law tier3

Cohabitation is very different to marriage and you are unable to rely on the same rules as apply to married couples. However, disputes and property issues can be approached in a number of ways.

Mediation can be a useful tool when attempting to achieve agreement on key issues. If willing to attend mediation, both parties may find it very beneficial in that it is cost effective and will be much quicker that involving the Court.

If mediation is felt not to be appropriate or fails for some reason, negotiations or proceedings may become necessary. You will be unable to rely on the rules that apply to married individuals, but if you were engaged an application for a declaration of ownership can be made by virtue of the Married Women’s Property Act 1882.

Property can be held in a number of ways:

Joint Tenants. Both parties will have an equal and identical interest in the physical property or in the net proceeds of sale. The court will begin their deliberations on the assumption that each party is entitled to 50%. However, if a party to the proceedings believe they have made a greater contribution to the property, they must prove this to the satisfaction of the Court. It will then be left to the Court to deliberate on the actions and contributions of the parties and this will determine each party’s interest in the property.

Tenants in Common. Each and every owner of the property shall have a specified share in the property. For example, they may have equal shares or other such shares as agreed. As for Joint Tenants, if one party believes they have a greater share than the other shareholders as a result of their contribution, the shareholder claiming a greater interest must prove his/her claim.

Property Held in Sole Name. If the property is held in the name of your partner, it may be possible to establish that you have a beneficial interest in the property. This would also apply to your partner if the property is held in your sole name. If a party’s name is not on the deeds, in may be possible to establish that you have an equitable interest in the property. The same would apply to the other party if your sole name is on the deeds.
Should your name not appear on the deeds, a financial interest in the property can be established in two ways:

If you can demonstrate that you made direct contributions towards the property or mortgage, your beneficial interest will be proportionate to the amount you have contributed.
Should you be able to prove that the parties intended the property to be held jointly and you have relied on the word of the other party to your detriment, you may be able to demonstrate that you have a financial interest. Such evidence as you choose to rely on might include express discussions between the parties or behavior/dealings that appear to indicate the intention of the parties to hold the property jointly. If you have contributed financially to the property, this would be adequate to demonstrate you acted to your detriment. The extent of your interest, given the dealings of the parties would be considered by the Court when assessing your financial interest.
This area of law can be complex. For this reason we would recommend seeking a lawyer’s opinion at the outset. If this becomes a matter of concern for you, we are able to arrange this on your behalf.

When involved in matters such as these, it is important you consider making a Will. This will ensure what will happen to your share of the property on the event of your death.

As joint tenants, should one of the parties die, the property will pass to the survivor. This means that you are unable to leave your share to someone of your choice (by Will.) However, you are able to sever the Joint Tenancy and for both parties to hold equal shares in the property. Under these circumstances you could then leave your share (50%) to the beneficiary of your choice.

Under a Joint Tenancy, the 50/50 share held by the parties can be adjusted at a later stage by the agreement of the parties or by Court Order. Should anything happen to you in the intervening period this will enable you to ensure your wishes are complied with in respect of your beneficiaries. If you wish to sever a Joint Tenancy, please contact us. We can help.

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When Is My Marriage Over? Is There An Answer to That Question?

Very few people, if any, expect a marriage to end in divorce when they first get married. Yet, divorce statistics tell us that nearly half of all marriages will end in divorce. When a marriage is over, it can be very difficult to begin to move on. Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to make it through the rough times.

Many people feel as though they are ready to move on immediately after a marriage is over, without fully working through the healing and recovery process. Divorce can be severely debilitating. It can disrupt your life on many levels, from work to your social life to your physical health. The journey to healing after a marriage is over is a long one, and it is not easy. However, by dealing with your divorce, you can ultimately find yourself in a much better place; eventually, you will make it through the rough times and be able to move on.

When a person goes through any traumatic experience, such as marriage ending, it is important to try to get control of their life and emotions. To heal after a divorce, you must stop seeing yourself as a victim. Recognize that you alone are responsible for your fate; however circumstances may treat you, it is still up to you how you will go forward. It is up to you to decide whether you will learn from mistakes, or whether you will be crippled by them. Create an action plan that includes all areas of your life. Commit to your physical well-being by taking care of your body through a healthy, balanced diet and exercise. The connection between your physical and mental and emotional health is a strong one; when one is failing, the others often fall behind as well. By gaining a sense of control, you will be better able to make it through the rough times.

Part of gaining control after a marriage is over is restoring and/or maintaining a positive self image. Even if you are the one that initiated the divorce, the feelings of failure and betrayal that accompany divorce can overwhelm you sense of who you are. It is important to keep these feelings in perspective. Don’t put yourself down now; what is done is done, and it cannot be undone. Going forward, you need to have your bearings about you. Stop comparing yourself to others. Try to focus on the things that you can do, even the small things. Every day that you get out of bed is one more day that you are further in the recovery process, and one more sign that you are learning how to heal after your divorce, and are ready to move on.

Divorce not only hurts the parties involved, it can hurt their friends and family, especially the children. If you have children, don’t let them become pawns in a struggle between your ex and you. Often, by focusing on the needs of others, we are able to move past our own problems. Don’t overcompensate, but make sure that you are being a good parent by taking care of your children and by making sure that they know that, no matter what happens, you love them and have their best interests at heart. You have to help them heal after divorce, as well. Part of healing after a divorce is just getting out of the house from time to time. Isolation only leads deeper into depression; get out with your friends and your family. When you get invited to an activity, force yourself to go if you have to; in the end, time that you spend with other relationships will very much help you deal with divorce.

If you are having an extremely difficult time, you should seek professional help. A therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, or religious leader may be able to help you make it through the rough times as well.

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Everyday, our law office witnesses the advantages and blessings associated with adoption. For many years, we’ve brought joy and love into the lives of thousands of children and the parents who adopt them. We believe adoption is a “win-win-win” situation for everyone involved: children are given a chance at life, while couples unable to have children on their own are blessed with the son or daughter they’ve always wanted, and birth moms find peace in knowing they have provided a loving and secure home for their precious babies. In working with prospective birth mothers over the years, the same concerns, issues, and worries often arise.

If you would like to schedule a free, confidential consultation to learn more about our practice, contact San Antonio adoption attorneys at our law firm today. You under no legal or financial obligation. Call today to learn more.

Agency Placements

Agency placements occur when the child is in the custody of a local department of social services or licensed child-placing agency. In this situation, all parental rights are terminated, custody with authority to place for adoption is granted to the agency, and the agency consents to the child’s adoption.

Non-agency Adoptions

A non-agency placement occurs when the child is not in the custody of an agency. In a non-agency placement, the birth parents or legal guardian(s) consent to the adoption, and parental rights are terminated by entry of the final order of adoption.

Except for licensed or duly authorized child-placing agencies, only birth parents and legal guardians are allowed to place a child for adoption. Although anyone may provide assistance to birth parents in locating a prospective adoptive family and to adoptive parents in locating a child, only birth parents and legal guardians may actually place the child for adoption.

There are three different types of non-agency adoptions.

Stepparent adoptions: A stepparent adoption takes place when the spouse of a birth or adoptive parent is adopting the child. In this situation, consent has been obtained or is not required. An investigation will only take place if the court determines it is necessary before the adoption is finalized. If the court does consider an investigation necessary, the agency becomes involved when the adoption petition is filed and the circuit court enters the order of reference.

Parental Placement Adoptions: These are governed by the state. In a parental placement, the approved child placing agency completes a home study report and a petition is filed in the juvenile and domestic relations court for execution of consent and awarding of custody to the prospective adoptive parents. The juvenile and domestic relations court reviews the home study report and collateral material to determine whether the requirements of law have been met, accepts parental consent, and transfers custody to the adoptive parents. An adoption petition may then be filed in circuit court.
The overall steps in a parental placement adoption are as follows:(i) the agency receives a request for a home study; (ii) a home study is completed; (iii) a report of the home study is submitted to the juvenile and domestic relations district court; (iv) adoptive parents file a petition for execution of consent in juvenile and domestic relations district court; (v) court accepts consent and awards custody to the prospective adoptive parents; (vi) a petition for adoption is filed in the Circuit Court; (vii) the circuit court enters an interlocutory order of adoption if everything has been done in compliance with law; and (viii) after a six-month supervisory period, the circuit court enters a final order of adoption.

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THIS FIRM HAS LEGAL EXPERIENCE IN AGGRESSIVELY REPRESENTING CLIENTS IN ALL ASPECTS OF MATRIMONIAL AND FAMILY LAW, INCLUDING NEGOTIATIONS, INVESTIGATIONS, SETTLEMENTS, MEDIATIONS AND TRIALS.

The areas include grounds for divorce, separation or annulment, when children are involved, custody, visitation and support, orders of protection when necessary, and distribution and allocation of properties and liabilities. This Firm also represents clients for Pre-Nuptial Agreements. The Firm will provide you with our legal opinion based upon our many years of experience and understanding of the seriousness and importance of matters involving the marriage and children prior to undertaking your case. We also offer mediation services. Once we take your case, we will advocate aggressively on your behalf.

If there are children of the marriage, issues of custody, visitation and support arise and must be resolved. There no longer is a presumption to custody. Parents are presumed to have equal rights and responsibilities for their children. The Court’s look to what is in the best interest of the children, commonly called “the best interest standard ” in determining child custody. The Courts do not look to what is in the parents’ best interest. The wishes of a child may be taken into consideration depending upon the age of the child. There are different types of custodial arrangements. The parties may agree on different types of custodial arrangements such as joint custody or shared custody, but after trial a Judge may only order sole custody.

Benefits of Using A Local Divorce Attorney

Having a family law attorney in San Antonio is much more convenient than traveling to another city

A local family law firm will be accustomed to San Antonio laws, and keep up-to-date on new legislation than can affect your case or an agreement you need prepared.

A family lawyer in your town will be familiar with San Antonio courts, judges, and other local family law attorneys.

Retaining a local law firm makes transporting children easier if your family lawyer needs to speak to them.

If you have to drop off or pick up documents or agreements, a family law practice in close proximity to your home or office will save you valuable time.

A local family law firm will know local schools, programs, and customs particular to your town.

A local law firm will be able to provide you with resources in your area such as associations and advocacy groups

A family law firm in your San Antonio neighborhood will be current on the real estate sales in your area or development, which can be beneficial if there is a division of property.

A local family law firm can recommend banks or insurance companies that are located close-by.

If you would like to learn more about Matrimonial and Family Law or know your rights, please contact our law firm.

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A word that no one likes to hear but one that is becoming increasingly more common in today’s society. Literature suggests that over 50% of marriages in the United States will end in divorce at some point. In this difficult time with so many things to consider, it is essential that you choose an attorney who can help you to navigate the divorce process successfully. Only an experienced attorney can help you avoid common pitfalls that can literally make your life miserable for a very long time.

As difficult as a divorce is by itself, the situation is made even more complex by the presence of children. The entire family unit is changed, and the process can be very traumatic and confusing for everyone involved. Child visitation, support, and custody are often issues that are hotly contested between divorcing spouses. An experienced attorney can assure that any child support payment or custody agreement reached is fair to you and to your children. An experienced attorney can also help with the appropriate legal steps to take if you are the victim of domestic violence.

Marital property is also often the subject of dispute. During marriage, a couple builds a life together, a life which includes material possessions. These possessions, called “marital assets,” must be divided fairly if a couple chooses to divorce one another. An experienced attorney can prevent LOSS of marital assets that are RIGHTFULLY YOURS. Decisions such as whether or not you should move out of the marital residence and whether you should begin to separate your finances from your spouses finances also must be considered very carefully and truly require the advice of an experienced attorney.

The divorce procedure itself can be complicated. How long must I be separated before filing for divorce? How do I keep up with all of the dates and information? An attorney can answer these and many other questions. He or she can advise you on how to gather the information you will need once the divorce is filed and will assist you in preparing for experiences such as mediation or trial.

Speaking with an attorney before any decisions are made is ESSENTIAL to assuring that your rights are protected during the divorce proceeding and afterwards. Assuring that your divorce is handled properly will free you from future complications in many areas of your life.

Attorneys at our law firm will be happy to assist you with your case. Call our office today.

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During the year that we are separated, can I receive child support?

You should not need to wait for child support until your divorce is filed. In fact, it is best to have a separation agreement, or some other form of action, drawn up as early in the separation as possible. The attorneys in our law firm have experience and expertise in the Texas child support laws.

I have a better health care plan for covering my child, and my ex-spouse has agreed to reimburse me for putting him on it – is this OK?

Generally, the court will consider and authorize all reasonable agreements made by both parties involved in child support negotiations.

How can I get a copy of my child support order?

Check with the county in which the divorce or child support action was filed. You will need to pay for the copying costs.

My ex-spouse wants part of my overtime for our child support agreement. Does overtime money count?

That really depends on whether working overtime is a regular part of employment and how much control the employee has over whether to work overtime or not. The court would generally look at work history to make this determination.

My child’s father has made such erratic child support payments that he now owes us
thousands of dollars – what can I do?

There are many things that can be done, but your first step is to see a qualified attorney. You will need to obtain an order for the payment of child support if you do not have an agreement on file. The Texas courts can order wage assignments or attachments.

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Texas General Statutes: Marriage
Requisites of marriage; solemnization

A valid and sufficient marriage is created by the consent of a male and female person who may lawfully marry, presently to take each other as husband and wife, freely, seriously and plainly expressed by each in the presence of the other, either:

(1) a. In the presence of an ordained minister of any religious denomination, a minister authorized by a church, or a magistrate; and

b. With the consequent declaration by the minister or magistrate that the persons are husband and wife; or

(2) In accordance with any mode of solemnization recognized by any religious denomination, or federally or State recognized Indian Nation or Tribe.

Marriages solemnized before March 9, 1909, by ministers of the gospel licensed, but not ordained, are validated from their consummation.

Certain marriages performed by ministers of Universal Life Church validated:
Any marriages performed by ministers of the Universal Life Church prior to July 3, 1981, are validated, unless they have been invalidated by a court of competent jurisdiction, provided that all other requirements of law have been met and the marriages would have been valid if performed by an official authorized by law to perform wedding ceremonies.

Capacity to marry:
(a) All unmarried persons of 18 years, or older, may lawfully marry, except as hereinafter forbidden.
(a1) Persons over 16 years of age and under 18 years of age may marry, and the register of deeds may issue a license for the marriage, only after there shall have been filed with the register of deeds a written consent to the marriage, said consent having been signed by the appropriate person as follows:
(1) By a parent having full or joint legal custody of the underage party; or
(2) By a person, agency, or institution having legal custody or serving as a guardian of the underage party.
Such written consent shall not be required for an emancipated minor if a certificate of emancipation issued pursuant to Article 35 of Chapter 7B of the General Statutes or a certified copy of a final decree or certificate of emancipation from this or any other jurisdiction is filed with the register of deeds.
(b) Persons over 14 years of age and under 16 years of age may marry as provided in G.S.
(b1) It shall be unlawful for any person under 14 years of age to marry.
(c) When a license to marry is procured by any person under 18 years of age by fraud or misrepresentation, a parent of the underage party, a person, agency, or institution having legal custody or serving as a guardian of the underage party, or a guardian ad litem appointed to represent the underage party pursuant to G.S. is a proper party to bring an action to annul the marriage.

51-2.1. Marriage of certain underage parties:
(a) If an unmarried female who is more than 14 years of age, but less than 16 years of age, is pregnant or has given birth to a child and the unmarried female and the putative father of the child, either born or unborn, agree to marry, or if an unmarried male who is more than 14 years of age, but less than 16 years of age, is the putative father of a child, either born or unborn, and the unmarried male and the mother of the child agree to marry, the register of deeds is authorized to issue to the parties a license to marry; and it shall be lawful for them to marry in accordance with the provisions of this Chapter, only after a certified copy of an order issued by a district court authorizing the marriage is filed with the register of deeds. A district court judge may issue an order authorizing a marriage under this section only upon finding as fact and concluding as a matter of law that the underage party is capable of assuming the responsibilities of marriage and the marriage will serve the best interest of the underage party. In determining whether the marriage will serve the best interest of an underage party, the district court shall consider the following:
(1) The opinion of the parents of the underage party as to whether the marriage serves the best interest of the underage party.
(2) The opinion of any person, agency, or institution having legal custody or serving as a guardian of the underage party as to whether the marriage serves the best interest of the underage party.
(3) The opinion of the guardian ad litem appointed to represent the best interest of the underage party pursuant to G.S. as to whether the marriage serves the best interest of the underage party.
(4) The relationship between the underage party and the parents of the underage party, as well as the relationship between the underage party and any person having legal custody or serving as a guardian of the underage party.
(5) Any evidence that it would find useful in making its determination.
There shall be a rebuttable presumption that the marriage will not serve the best interest of the underage party when all living parents of the underage party oppose the marriage. The fact that the female is pregnant, or has given birth to a child, alone does not establish that the best interest of the underage party will be served by the marriage.
(b) An underage party seeking an order granting judicial authorization to marry pursuant to this section shall file a civil action in the district court requesting judicial authorization to marry. The clerk shall collect court costs from the underage party in the amount set forth in G.S. for civil actions in district court. Upon the filing of the complaint, summons shall be issued in accordance with G.S. 1A-1, Rule 4, and the underage party shall be appointed a guardian ad litem in accordance with the provisions of G.S. 1A-1, Rule 17. The guardian ad litem appointed shall be an attorney and shall be governed by the provisions of subsection (d) of this section. The underage party shall serve a copy of the summons and complaint, in accordance with G.S. 1A-1, Rule 4, on the father of the underage party; the mother of the underage party; and any person, agency, or institution having legal custody or serving as a guardian of the underage party. The underage party also shall serve a copy of the complaint, either in accordance with G.S. 1A-1, Rule 4, or G.S. 1A-1, Rule 5, on the guardian ad litem appointed pursuant to this section. A party responding to the underage party’s complaint shall serve his response within 30 days after service of the summons and complaint upon that person. The underage party may participate in the proceedings before the court on his or her own behalf. At the hearing conducted pursuant to this section, the court shall consider evidence, as provided in subsection (a) of this section, and shall make written findings of fact and conclusions of law.

(c) Any party to a proceeding under this section may be represented by counsel, but no party is entitled to appointed counsel, except as provided in this section.

(d) The guardian ad litem appointed pursuant to subsection (b) of this section shall represent the best interest of the underage party in all proceedings under this section and also has standing to institute an action under G.S. 51-2(c). The appointment shall terminate when the last judicial ruling rendering the authorization granted or denied is entered. Payment of the guardian ad litem shall be governed by G.S. 7A- 451(f). The guardian ad litem shall make an investigation to determine the facts, the needs of the underage party, the available resources within the family and community to meet those needs, the impact of the marriage on the underage party, and the ability of the underage party to assume the responsibilities of marriage; facilitate, when appropriate, the settlement of disputed issues; offer evidence and examine witnesses at the hearing; and protect and promote the best interest of the underage party. In fulfilling the guardian ad litem’s duties, the guardian ad litem shall assess and consider the emotional development, maturity, intellect, and understanding of the underage party. The guardian ad litem has the authority to obtain any information or reports, whether or not confidential, that the guardian ad litem deems relevant to the case. No privilege other than attorney-client privilege may be invoked to prevent the guardian ad litem and the court from obtaining such information. The confidentiality of the information or reports shall be respected by the guardian ad litem, and no disclosure of any information or reports shall be made to anyone except by order of the court or unless otherwise provided by law.

(e) If the last judicial ruling in this proceeding denies the underage party judicial authorization to marry, the underage party shall not seek the authorization of any court again under this section until after one year from the date of the entry of the last judicial ruling rendering the authorization denied.

(f) Except as otherwise provided in this section, the rules of evidence in civil cases shall apply to proceedings under this section. All hearings pursuant to this section shall be recorded by stenographic notes or by electronic or mechanical means. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no appeal of right lies from an order or judgment entered pursuant to this section.

§ 51-2.2. Parent includes adoptive parent

As used in this Article, the terms “parent”, “father”, or “mother” includes one who has become a parent, father, or mother, respectively, by adoption.

§ 51-3. Want of capacity; void and voidable marriages

All marriages between any two persons nearer of kin than first cousins, or between double first cousins, or between a male person under 16 years of age and any female, or between a female person under 16 years of age and any male, or between persons either of whom has a husband or wife living at the time of such marriage, or between persons either of whom is at the time physically impotent, or between persons either of whom is at the time incapable of contracting from want of will or understanding, shall be void. No marriage followed by cohabitation and the birth of issue shall be declared void after the death of either of the parties for any of the causes stated in this section except for bigamy. No marriage by persons either of whom may be under 16 years of age, and otherwise competent to marry, shall be declared void when the girl shall be pregnant, or when a child shall have been born to the parties unless such child at the time of the action to annul shall be dead. A marriage contracted under a representation and belief that the female partner to the marriage is pregnant, followed by the separation of the parties within 45 days of the marriage which separation has been continuous for a period of one year, shall be voidable unless a child shall have been born to the parties within 10 lunar months of the date of separation.

51-3.1. Interracial marriages validated
All interracial marriages that were declared void by statute or a court of competent jurisdiction prior to March 24, 1977, are hereby validated. The parties to such interracial marriages are deemed to be lawfully married, provided that the provisions of this Chapter have been complied with.
§ 51-3.2. Marriage licensed and solemnized by a federally recognized Indian Nation or Tribe
(a) Subject to the restriction provided in subsection (b), a marriage between a man and a woman licensed and solemnized according to the law of a federally recognized Indian Nation or Tribe shall be valid and the parties to the marriage shall be lawfully married.
(b) When the law of a federally recognized Indian Nation or Tribe allows persons to obtain a marriage license from the register of deeds and the parties to a marriage do so, Chapter 51 of the General Statutes shall apply and the marriage shall be valid only if the issuance of the license and the solemnization of the marriage is conducted in compliance with this Chapter.

Prohibited degrees of kinship

When the degree of kinship is estimated with a view to ascertain the right of kins people to marry, the half-blood shall be counted as the whole-blood: Provided, that nothing herein contained shall be so construed as to invalidate any marriage heretofore contracted in case where by counting the half-blood as the whole-blood the persons contracting such marriage would be nearer of kin than first cousins; but in every such case the kinship shall be ascertained by counting relations of the half-blood as being only half so near kin as those of the same degree of the whole-blood.

Marriages between slaves validated
Persons, both or one of whom were formerly slaves, who have complied with the provisions of section five, Chapter 40, of the acts of the General Assembly, ratified March 10, 1866, shall be deemed to have been lawfully married.

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Dating After Divorce

Dating and especially remarriage require new levels of understanding, acceptance, and flexibility on the part of both divorced parents and their children. All children want parents to be available to them and fear that involvement in another relationship might interfere with that availability. Many children also harbor unrealistic hopes that their divorced parents will get back together, and dating and remarriage dash these hopes. For adolescents trying to master intimate relationships themselves, watching a parent struggle with the same issues can be especially difficult and unsettling.

There is some danger in beginning to date too soon after a divorce.

After a marriage ends, most people eventually build a new social life – which often includes dating. Even people who do not, for religious reasons, contemplate remarriage as long as their former spouse is alive, recognize the value of interacting with members of the opposite sex.

Whether and how long before dating begins, and how many different dating partners a person has, varies tremendously. Some people prefer to wait to date until the divorce is final. For some people, it may take months, or even years, before they feel emotionally ready or have an opportunity to date. And some people begin seeing other people, or one special person, before their marriage is even legally dissolved. This may not be as outrageous as it seems. Once a couple separates, they often feel “divorced,” but the legal proceedings stretch out over a number of months-or in some cases even years.

There will be considerable difference of opinion among divorced people about the right time and right way to begin dating. There is some danger in beginning to date too soon after a divorce. Most people need a period of “mourning” to get over the “death” of the old, intact family. Individuals are very vulnerable immediately after a separation, and premature serious dating can lead to getting remarried “on the rebound” – which could result in a second divorce. The “right” time to start dating is simply when you are emotionally open to new people and when someone you like becomes available.

There are two major factors for you to consider when thinking about how dating will affect your teenage children’s lives: your own dating pattern and your attitude toward your former spouse’s dating.

YOUR OWN DATING

If you begin to date, it is important that your teenagers not feel pushed aside or replaced. It may make you feel so good to court someone or be courted that you find yourself somewhat “high”. When you feel this good it is very difficult to tell your new friend or friends that you need to stay home with your children several nights a week. You may even be tempted to stay home but have your date come over to your home.

Think about how this might feel to your teens. They have lost their intact family structure. Now they may feel you too will be lost, lost to a new love. Telling them, “Len is not trying to be your father, he is just my friend,” will not alleviate their feeling that you may want or need Len more than you care for them.

By all means date Len. You don’t have to marry him – or anyone else, for that matter! Go out, get dressed up, have fun. Introduce Len to your son and daughter, include them-if they are available – in some of your outings together, even have him over to your house on occasion. But also plan time at home without Len. Continue to do things with your teens without Len; balance your time. They need you and need “special” time alone with you – not just day-to-day “necessary” time.

This balancing act may he difficult, but it is important in helping your children feel secure. If you have primary custody of your children and have free time only every other weekend, for example, you may feel it is unfair that your former spouse can go out every night. You already have so much responsibility and now must limit your dating while your former spouse has so much freedom! It is true this may not be exactly fair, but very little about divorce can be viewed as fair. Your former spouse may feel it is unfair that you get to make the major decisions about the children and that it is unfair that he or she cannot have custody. Each of you must live with and accept the reality and limits of the divorce.

The right time to start dating is simply when you are emotionally open to new people and when someone you like becomes available.

People you date can have a positive influence on your children. They may help you feel better about yourself, feel happier. If you are happy, it will help your children feel happy. By getting to know other adult men or women, your teenagers may be exposed to new ideas and new experiences. If people you are dating genuinely like them, they can become other supportive relationships for them.

If your children do not like the person you date, or a person you date does not like your children, this can prove to be very upsetting. Perhaps they are jealous of each other, each wanting to control you. Adolescents have a more difficult time than younger children accepting stepparents. They have lived a much longer time than younger children in their original family and are often not sure they need or want another. Teenagers are also sometimes more difficult for a new person to get to know and love than a younger child. So there may be tension between your new adult friends and your adolescent children. If you are feeling conflicts and pressures over this issue, talk with a professional counselor a time or two to help you sort through what is happening. Both your children and your new love interest are important to you, hut you must never let any of them begin to run your life. It is you who must decide how you will handle your choices and responsibilities.

YOUR FORMER SPOUSE’S DATING

You are not responsible for your former spouse’s dating pattern, but rather for your attitude toward his or her dating. It is critical to understand and accept the fact that you cannot control who or how frequently your former spouse dates. If you will accept this fact you will feel much freer and happier and it will be much easier for your teenagers to deal with it in their own way.

You will certainly have feelings about your former spouse’s caring for someone besides you. This is normal and understandable and part of the process of divorce. Be aware of these feelings and, if you can, share them with another adult. Long-standing relationships and feelings do not end or change the minute the judge signs the divorce decree. Yet, regardless of these feelings, it is very hurtful and damaging to lay them on your children.

When your former spouse begins dating or falls in love with someone else, it may stir up all sorts of feelings in you. You may experience jealousy toward the new person, anger at being replaced, sadness in realizing that the marriage is over, or fear that your children will like the new person more than they like you. Perhaps you might even feel happiness or relief that your former spouse is starting a new social life.

Feelings of jealousy, anger, sadness, and fear may be so intense that they strongly influence interactions between divorced parents when they relate to each other about their children. Divorced parents sometimes feel the only way they have any leverage with a former spouse about dating is by limiting access to the children, or by attempting to control visitations: “You can’t have Marge to your apartment when the children are over!”

Parents confuse their teenagers by expressing their opinions about their former spouse’s new friends: “Your mother has turned into a whore, sleeping at her boyfriend’s house while you are with me,” or “Your father’s new girlfriend thinks she is so sophisticated! I will not have her taking you shopping for clothes,” or “I forbid your mother’s date to come to your graduation. If he does I will beat him to a pulp.”

When the person you loved for many years – and possibly still do – chooses someone else, it is understandable that you have a strong response. For the sake of the children, however, it is important not to let these intense feelings be seen by them. Begin to let go of feelings of attachment (love or hate) for your former spouse.

You may not want to “let go” because that will confirm that the relationship as it was between you and your former spouse no longer exists. This can be painful, for it demonstrates that both of you will not only survive your divorce but must build a new life without each other. Perhaps this is something you really do not want. Some people remain bitterly attached to their former spouse years after the divorce. They say: “I can’t help it. I just can’t help how I feel.” If you find this happening to you, consider talking with a professional counselor. As you master letting go you will discover that who your former spouse dates and what they do is no longer as important to you.

The above information was excerpted from the workbooks: Kids are Non-divorceable, Tots are Non-divorceable and Teens are Non-divorceable and is used with the permission of the author Sara Bonkowski, Ph.D.

Dr. Bonkowski is Associate Professor of Social Work at Aurora University in Aurora, Illinois and the founder of the Myrtle Burks Center for Clinical Social Work in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. She may be reached at:
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Remarriage

As if managing the emotions and relationships created when divorced parents begin to date were not complicated enough, adjustment for parents and children takes a new turn if and when either parent remarries. Remarriage seals the fate that there will be no parental reconciliation (although even children in their teens and twenties often have fantasies about reconciliation of their original family long after both parents have remarried).

Your original relationship will exist with your children forever.

Not only is the door of reality closed on reconciliation, but new people are brought into the children’s lives for whom they are supposed to have, or at least begin to have, a “family” feeling. Here is another major change – just like the divorce itself – when children feel that they have had no control over their own family structure.

If remarriage takes place within a year or two after the divorce, all children will still be in the process of adjusting. At the same time they are adjusting to the losses created by the divorce, they must also adjust to the entrance of a stepparent, sometimes bringing with him or her stepchildren, step-grandparents, and even step-pets.

If you remarry, do not expect or encourage your children to call your new spouse “Dad” or “Mom”.

Some of the major problem areas for remarriages are disagreements about children. These do not need to become crises between you and your new spouse, but it is important to discuss together your values and beliefs about child rearing prior to remarriage. All family members, old and new, must realize that they are members of a remarried family and that a remarried family is not like an original nuclear family. An acceptance of this “differentness” may remove a lot of pressure from everyone.

If you remarry, do not expect or encourage your children to call your new spouse “Dad” or “Mom”. Your children already have a set of parents – you and your former spouse – and will probably resent your trying to suggest otherwise. Allow the relationship between your children and your new spouse to develop naturally. In some instances, particularly where the biological parent emotionally or physically deserts a teenager, a close parent-child relationship may develop between the child and the stepparent. Over time, he or she may choose to call your new spouse “Mom” or “Dad”. That must be his or her choice, however. Do not try to force it in any way. Be sensitive to your child’s feelings, and accept his or her ongoing loyalty to the other natural parent.

Recent research that explored children’s adjustment to stepfamilies found that adolescents have more difficulty accepting a stepparent than younger children. Teenagers have spent more time in their original family than younger children and thus may find it hard to accept a new person. Teenagers also do not like “a stranger” telling them what to do. To prevent problems on this score, it is best whenever possible for the biological parent to establish and enforce rules. The stepparent can still be supportive of his or her spouse’s decisions and enforce “house” rules when the biological parent is not present.

Remarriage seals the fate that there will be no parental reconciliation.

Stepparents can add support and security to a single parent family, bringing to the family some additional time and energy and even money that may be very much needed. If you or your former spouse remarry, take some time to consider how this will affect your teenagers. Have family discussions and ask the teens for their input about how they would like the new family to function. Allow them to care for new family members – including members of your former spouse’s family – but don’t force feelings. If both you and your former spouse remarry, your teenagers will belong to two separate remarried families. They will still and always will have, however, only one set of parents – you and your former spouse. Your original relationship will exist with your children forever.

The above information was excerpted from the workbooks: Kids are Non-divorceable, Tots are Non-divorceable and Teens are Non-divorceable and is used with the permission of the author Sara Bonkowski, Ph.D.

Dr. Bonkowski is Associate Professor of Social Work at Aurora University in Aurora, Illinois and the founder of the Myrtle Burks Center for Clinical Social Work in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. She may be reached at: (630) 469-2000.
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Parenting Across the Miles

Ellen was surprised when her former husband John called her at work to tell her that his entire department was being moved to New York City. John and Ellen had become aware of their differences during their first year of marriage. When they mutually agreed to divorce, they did not know Ellen was pregnant. They stayed together during the pregnancy, but when Luke was 6 months old John moved to an apartment nearby and the couple began the divorce process. Their divorce had been final for three months. Luke was into a routine of seeing John three to four times a week. Ellen went to night school and ran errands during the times John was with Luke. It finally seemed that their lives were settling down. Now this!

Calls, letters and cards are certainly important, but they are not Daddy or Mommy.

John was torn. If he didn’t move, there would be no job for him with the company. Although he might find another job in Lincoln, it would be almost impossible to match his current salary. John loved adventures, and living in New York City appealed to him; it seemed exciting, busy, and offered opportunity. On the other hand, he couldn’t imagine not being able to see his son on a regular basis. Like John, parents usually move away for financial opportunities, although some parents relocate for health reasons or to be near extended family. All of the reasons to relocate are valid, important factors, but the reality is that for the child it will mean lost contact with one parent.

Ellen and John talked over the options and decided that John would take the transfer. Now their task was to make a new plan for how Luke would see his father. The first thing John realized was that he would have to develop a different type of relationship with Luke than the one he would have if he remained in Lincoln. Many move-away parents have difficulty accepting the reality that phone calls and e-mail do not replace person-to-person, day-in, day-out contact. Calls, letters, and cards are certainly important, but they are not Daddy or Mommy. Next, Ellen and John decided that Luke would not fly as an unaccompanied minor until he was 7 or 8, which was six or seven years away.

What to do until then? With the help of a mediator, they decided to make a plan for just one year and at the end of that time assess Luke’s adjustment and any changes in their own lives. The first year apart would probably require the most flexibility and commitment by both parents. The next major principle they decided on was that during the first year Luke would not be separated from Ellen except for a few hours at a time. This meant that John would need to fly to Lincoln for visits or Ellen would have to travel to New York with Luke.

If you are going to be separated from your child, the importance of maintaining a relationship with him or her cannot be stressed enough.

Fortunately, for the first six months John would be coming to Lincoln every four to six weeks to follow up on projects. They agreed that when John was in town, Ellen would arrange her schedule to accommodate him. The first evening or two, John would come to Ellen’s home, play with Luke, eat with him, let father and son get used to each other again. The third day John would take Luke to his parent’s house for several hours but return Luke to Ellen at least an hour before bedtime. This would be repeated every evening. Ellen had a cousin living in New Jersey. She agreed to take a week of her vacation and fly to New Jersey. She would travel with Luke into New York City once, spending at least two hours at John’s apartment. John would make at least one trip to New Jersey. Ellen also agreed that once a month she would e-mail John a brief overview of what was going on in Luke’s life. John had wanted her to do this weekly, but Ellen felt that that was too much to ask. Ellen was getting tired of so much contact with John – after all, they were divorced! Although neither parent was sure how their plan would work, when John moved they had a sense of hope knowing they had put Luke’s needs ahead of their own.

If you find yourself in the position of living far away from your young child, it is important to try to implement some of the same principles Ellen and John used:

Regardless of geographic separation, a young child needs to have a relationship with both parents.

Children and parents who do not have frequent physical contact will develop a different relationship from one where children see the parent frequently. An important consideration is that children and parents know when and how the contacts will be and for both parents to support the plan. Children need reliability.

Very young children should not be taken abruptly from their secure environment.

Young children need time to feel comfortable with the absent parent. Even when the absent parent has an excellent relationship with the child, the child will need a warm-up time.

In most cases children under 2 should not be separated from their primary caretaker overnight; children between 2 and 3 should not be away from the primary caretaker for more than two days: children between 3 and 4 can be away for three to four days, and 5-year-olds for five days. (Remember that the presence of older siblings helps younger children feel more secure during separations.)

Generally, the absent parent should do most of the traveling. This may require making long trips for short contacts. The payoff for this commitment comes as the parent develops a positive relationship with the child.

The primary caretaker needs to accept responsibility for keeping the absent parent informed about the child’s life experiences.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS ON GEOGRAPHIC SEPARATION

Some parents, given an option, put off a business-related move until their young child is older. If that is a possibility, it is preferable. Because infants and toddlers have difficulty keeping a person in their memory, the frequent-but-short visitation plan is recommended. Children may be fascinated with the phone, but they certainly cannot get to know a parent through phone calls. If you are going to be separated from your young child, the importance of working on maintaining a relationship with her or him cannot be stressed enough. The years of inconvenience you may have to put up with will be worth it. Your child needs you and needs to know you cared enough to invest time and energy’ to stay connected. The appreciation of your commitment may not be fully understood by the child until he or she is an adult. Remember as parents we are in it for the long run.

The above information was excerpted from the workbooks: Kids are Non-divorceable, Tots are Non-divorceable and Teens are Non-divorceable and is used with the permission of the author Sara Bonkowski, Ph.D.

Dr. Bonkowski is Associate Professor of Social Work at Aurora University in Aurora, Illinois and the founder of the Myrtle Burks Center for Clinical Social Work in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. She may be reached at: (630) 469-2000.
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Coping & Mourning – Dangerous Coping Techniques

COPING AND MOURNING

Your teenager will often need to talk about the divorce in order to understand, accept, and mourn the loss of family. This may sound as if he or she will be just waiting anxiously to pour out questions and feelings. Nothing could be further from the truth! Most adolescents develop techniques to cope with all the changes. They develop and cling to a style that works for them, that saves them pain.

Begin by looking – really looking – at the changes brought about by your divorce.

Some common psychological terms used to describe methods of coping are:
“denial” (the divorce is not happening, or the divorce is not sad)

“repression” (I refuse to think about the divorce)

“sublimation” (I will become so busy with swimming I won’t have to deal with the divorce)

“projection” (this divorce is the fault of Dad’s secretary; she’s the villain)
These coping processes are often done subconsciously, so the child is usually unaware of how he or she copes.

Perhaps as you have been reading about these common coping mechanisms of children you may recognize ones you yourself use to help you deal with difficult, painful problems. These psychological techniques are useful for a period of time until a person-child or adult-is strong enough to be able to explore carefully and slowly the dynamics of why a marriage ended. They must not be allowed to go on forever, however, and you as a parent have an obligation to help your children recognize and break through them.

Create an open atmosphere and eventually your children will feel free to share the important losses with you.

Begin by looking – really looking – at the changes brought about by your divorce. Look at wedding pictures, the marriage license, baby pictures, and the family photo album. Remember gifts given at a happier time, holidays, vacations, family routines. As you look at your history, remember the good times and remember the not-so-good times. It is important to recall both aspects of the marriage-so you can feel how the marriage really was. If you feel like crying, go ahead. If you feel like screaming, go ahead (within reason). Share some of your losses, and how you feel about the divorce, with a good friend or close adult relative.

If you cannot look at your past right now, wait a week or two, or a month or two, until you are able to do it. Perhaps you can only think about one memory at a time. That is perfectly all right. Proceed with mourning the loss of your marriage (and “mourning” is what you will be doing) in your own way and at your own pace. You will need to mourn in some way, at some time, however. Don’t put it off forever. If you never feel ready to examine your marriage, then perhaps talking with a professional counselor or trusted member of the clergy will help you get started. You need to mourn to help yourself heal, which will result in your being more available to your adolescent.

Any time a person carries excessive bitterness and anger it hurts him or her as well as the other people close to the embittered person.

Your teenager will also be in a process of mourning the loss of the family. When he or she says “Remember how Dad always brought home fresh donuts on Sunday?” know that this is a form of mourning. Remembering the family as it was to him or her (and this may be very different from how you remember the marriage/family) is an important first step in accepting the changes and losses. Perhaps your child will be able to express how he or she feels about some of the changes. “I hate it that you have to work now!” or “Every time I see Mom’s new boyfriend I feel sick” are examples of natural expressions of loss. Allow your teen to make these statements. Just as you might need time before feeling able to express your losses, so too your child might need time. Create an open atmosphere and eventually your children will feel free to share the important losses with you.

If your feelings are similar to your adolescent’s you may offer understanding by stating them. “It’s difficult for me to see your Mom with Nick, too”. Do not, however, get into a blame/hate campaign. This will eventually be counterproductive. Any time a person carries excessive bitterness and anger it hurts him or her as well as the other people close to the embittered person.

If your feelings differ from those of your child, acknowledge how you feel, but accept how he or she feels. “You know, I sort of enjoy working full time. The responsibility they have given me at work is making me feel good about myself. I know what you mean about missing our time together, though”. Notice that this mother did not try to talk her child out of her feelings. She understood and accepted the child’s position, even if she did not share the feeling. If you are ever tempted to say, “You shouldn’t feel that way,” stop. There are no “shoulds” about feelings; feelings just exist.

DANGEROUS COPING TECHNIQUES

There are coping techniques that are not healthy.

Examining the history of your marriage and experiencing the many losses is an important step in healing. However, you and your children cannot stop the world and sit around and mourn; you must live each day. You must pay bills, buy groceries, go to school/work, be friends or neighbors, visit relatives, watch TV and read newspapers. As you go about daily living, you will find some activities are more enjoyable than others. During the healing process you may find yourself doing more of whatever gives you comfort. For example, during a divorce many adults often talk to friends on the phone more frequently and for longer periods of time than previously. Other methods of coping include getting new clothes, playing new music, eating different foods, and going on a diet. These are positive activities that may help you feel better during a stressful time.

There are coping techniques that are not healthy. These are “overindulgent” responses: overeating, excessive use of alcohol, too much sleep, etc. If you find yourself engaging in behavior that is potentially harmful to your health or well-being, please get professional help. Just talking with an outside party may help you develop better ways of coping.

When coping techniques begin to fail, that is, when a person no longer feels good no matter what he or she tries, there is a state of depression.

Adolescents will also be using coping techniques to emotionally manage all of the losses and changes in their lives. There are many functional ways of coping-putting extra effort and time into a sport, watching TV, spending more time with friends, or trying for the honor roll. Be alert, however, for ways of coping that may be dangerous for your teen. Drinking and drug use are two common responses to loss that some adolescents use. Familiarize yourself with the signs of substance abuse. If you are not aware of the signs, speak with the school counselors – they will probably have printed resources readily available.

Other potentially dangerous coping techniques are developing an eating disorder (anorexia or bulimia), engaging in excessive sexual activity, shoplifting, or practicing a “cult-like” religion, such as Satanism. Sometimes parents are the last to know about the destructive behavior in which their child is engaging. Don’t become over-alarmed, but don’t be naive either. Keep your eyes and ears open. Know your children, be aware of their activities and friends. If you suspect problem behavior, immediately speak with a professional mental health worker – psychiatrist, social worker, or psychologist.

When coping techniques begin to fail, that is, when a person no longer feels good no matter what he or she tries, there is a state of depression. Symptoms of depression are sleep disturbance (too much or too little), early waking (about 3 AM), eating problems (too much or too little), muscle aches or headaches, exhaustion, and a general sense of sadness with outbursts of weeping.

Divorce may trigger depression for adolescents, although it is important to keep in mind that many adolescents whose parents never even consider divorce experience depression. If you or your child has a number of the above symptoms consult your family physician, and follow his or her recommendations.

ADAPTING

Have patience with yourself and your children.

After a period of time you and your children will settle down into a new pattern of family life. This new family pattern will emerge slowly, a little at a time. Perhaps you now go to church on Saturday night because everyone wants to sleep in on Sunday morning. You may do major shopping only twice a month on paydays, and each child maybe in charge of his or her own laundry. This new routine works well and you all feel good about it.

Your family has adapted to the changes. The losses still exist – but they are being faced and slowly mourned. During the period of transition to this new family system perhaps all family members utilized some different coping techniques. Eventually, however, you become a functioning single-parent family with teenage children. This is not the family – dreamed of – but it is your family and you are making it work.

If you have just separated, then the process of mourning, coping, and adapting is just beginning. Have patience with yourself and your children. Reading this book, thinking about each topic, doing some of the exercises may help.

The above information was excerpted from the workbooks: Kids are Non-divorceable, Tots are Non-divorceable and Teens are Non-divorceable and is used with the permission of the author Sara Bonkowski, Ph.D.

Dr. Bonkowski is Associate Professor of Social Work at Aurora University in Aurora, Illinois and the founder of the Myrtle Burks Center for Clinical Social Work in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. She may be reached at: (630) 469-2000.
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