Despite the difficulties faced in a divorce, the children should not be placed in the center of the crossfire. During the divorce process, and sometimes following the divorce process, it is not uncommon for a parent to become so wrapped up in anger, vengeance or simply being “right” that they forget the effect the whole process is having on the children. Below are some behaviors to avoid and some suggestions to assist you with improving your communications during the divorce process:
- Do not use children as messengers between “mom” and “dad.”
- Do not criticize your former spouse in the presence of your children because children realize they are part “mom” and part “dad.”
- Resist any temptation to allow your children to act as your caretaker. Children need to be allowed the freedom to be “children.” Taking on such responsibility at an early age degrades their self-esteem, feeds anger and hinders a child’s ability to relate to their peers.
- Encourage your children to see your former spouse frequently. Promote a good relationship for the benefit of the child.
- Do not argue with your former spouse in the presence of the children. No matter what the situation, the child will feel torn between taking “mommy’s” side and “daddy’s” side.
- At every step during the divorce process, remind yourself that your children’s interests are paramount, even over your own.
- If you are the non-primary parent, pay your child support.
- If you are the primary parent and are not receiving child support, do not tell your children. This feeds a child’s sense of abandonment and erodes their stability.
- Remember that the Court’s view child support and child custody as two separate and distinct issues. Children do not understand whether “mommy” and/or “daddy” paid child support, but they do understand that “mommy” and/or “daddy” wants to see me.
- If at all possible, do not uproot your children. When a family is falling apart, a child needs a stable home and school life to buffer the trauma.
- If you have an addiction problem, whether it be drugs, alcohol or any other affliction, seek help immediately. Such impairments inhibit your ability to reassure your children and give them the attention they need.
- If you are having difficulty dealing with issues relating to your former spouse, discuss such issues with mental health professionals and counselors.
- Reassure your children that they are loved and that they have no fault in the divorce.
Though these steps are not all-inclusive, they will assist you in dealing with the complex issues of a divorce and hopefully minimize the impact of the divorce process on the children.
One in three children lose touch with a parent, usually the father, following a divorce. In a recent survey, one in five parents stated that their primary objective during the divorce was to make the experience as unpleasant as possible for the former spouse; despite the effects such attitudes and behavior have on the children. One in three children stated that they felt isolated and lonely during and following the divorce process.
Parental Alienation Syndrome is the systematic denigration by one parent with the intent of alienating the child against the other parent. In most cases, the purpose of the alienation is to gain custody of a child and exclude involvement by the father. In other cases the mother wants the father out of the way to start a new life, the mother wants more of the money and assets than she is entitled to and uses the children as pawns. The mother hates the father and the children become false weapons. These are just a few reason Parental Alienation occurs in domestic disputes.
Parental Alienation Syndrome is common because it is an effective device for gaining custody of a child. Trough systematic alienation, one parent may slowly brainwash a child against the other parent. The parent involved in such alienation behaviors then gains misplaced loyalty of the child.
There are two types of Parental Alienation Syndrome, medical and legal. Medical Parental Alienation Syndrome is a form of emotional child abuse. Parents in hostile separations may suffer depression, anger and anxiety or aggression. The expression of these feelings often takes on a form of withdrawing love and communication. This extends to the children through the custodial parent. It is a mechanism employed to stop the father from having contact with his children; and can be described by the mother holding the children “hostages,” afraid of the mother, and obeying her as a means of survival. The child may also be instilled with false memories of the father, may be coached and/or brainwashed. Parental Alienation Syndrome is recognized by the courts but is very difficult to define and in most cases requires bringing in County Social Services, Child Protective Services, and/or other professionals. Anyone claiming Parental Alienation Syndrome should look for family therapy as a constructive way forward. Other forms of abuse are physical, sexual, and neglect and are much easier to identify.
It is important no matter how bad the alienation becomes that you strategize to create a line of contact with your children, the mother and anyone connected to them. Having a plan is critical. When a father loses contact with his children he goes from disbelief, to despair, anger, depression, confusion and a total sense of social injustice. Having a plan means looking at the situation logically, rather than emotionally.
1. The first stage is to look for direct contact with the mother and children. Can you meet, write, or phone?
2. If you are not allowed contact, can a relative contact the mother or children on your behalf?
3. Can you contact your children through church, school, clubs, sports activities, or daycare?
4. Can you participate in your children’s activities?
5. Do you have a non-suggestive witness that can go with you when you exercise your visitation rights?
6. Is there a local grocery store where you can purchase something to have a receipt stating the date and time you were in the area?
7. Will the police make a report stating that you attempted to exercise your visitation?
8. Whenever possible take video and pictures.
In cases of Parental Alienation Syndrome it is important that you document everything. Keep a diary or timeline. Write important events down on a calendar.
If you are a victim of Parental Alienation Syndrome, contact an attorney. Discuss your options. Formulate a plan to move forward. Do not give up your parental rights as a father.
Child support is one of the most heavily litigated issues in all of family law. To increase or decrease payments there are specific requirements that must be met to modify a previous child support order. Per Tex. Fam. Code § 156.401 the requirements necessary to modify a prior child support order are:
- The circumstances of the child or an affected party have materially and substantially changed; or
- Three years have elapsed since the order was entered or last modified, and the amount of child support differs from the statutory guidelines by either 20% or $100.00.
The second requirement is self-explanatory. The three-year limitation to file for another modification is for the benefits of the Courts. If there was no three-year waiting period to refill, then every conservator would constantly attempt to modify child support, thus creating endless litigation for clogging the Courts’ dockets.
The first requirement needs more explanation. A Material and Substantial change in the circumstances of the child or an affected party must be clearly shown at trial. Many Courts are meticulous in making the determination of what a Material and Substantial change is regarding the child and the affected party to insure this requirement is not abused for excessive litigation.
To prove a Substantial and Material change in circumstances, a conservator must show evidence at the final hearing of:
- The financial needs/expenses at the time of the divorce or prior modification for the children and the person affected, and;
- The financial needs/expenses at the time of the request for the modification.
If evidence of financial needs/expenses are not submitted and proved regarding both (1) the prior divorce/modification and (2) the recent modification, then no Substantial and Material change can be adequately proved. Further, if the request for modification of child support is predicated solely on one conservator’s increase in earning capacity, absent other compelling evidence, the change in circumstances is not Substantial and Material. Interest of L.R., 416 S.W.3d 675, (Tex. App.—Houston [14 Dist.] 2013, pet. denied.)
If one conservator decides to file a modification of child support within three years just because the other conservative received a better job, it may be dismissed. At the end of the day a Court has broad discretion on determining what is Substantial and Material and may allow the case to be heard and give an unfavourable ruling, but if that occurs you will have the ability to appeal the judgment and request attorney’s fees. It is important to know in any family law case the Judge has extremely broad discretion and interprets case law in a way that he deems fit using the Best Interest Test.
If you are a conservator that meet these requirements above and wish to increase or decrease the child support obligation, be sure to hire an experienced attorney. Nacol Law Firm will always fight for you and your children’s best interest.
Julian Nacol, Attorney
Nacol Law Firm, PC
Call (972) 690-3333
The number of fathers caring for their children is growing at a rate almost twice that of single mothers. The bottom line is more men are choosing to be hands-on fathers. In addition, presumed joint custody — or shared custody by both parents of children of divorce — is now the law of the land in most states.
Scores of research have documented the positive effects of a father’s involvement in a child’s life. Regrettably, currently approximately 30% of American children live without their father’s involvement in their life.
As the number of women in the work force has increased, some men appear to have become more involved in fatherhood and show greater interest in child-care responsibilities. With more women in the workplace than ever before — 68% of women with children under 18 — divorce courts in most states are not simply awarding custody and care of children to mothers by default. In some cases, the mother has neither the time, nor the will, to care full time for her offspring. In other cases, she may not have the financial means. The gradual progress towards leveling the playing field for women at work has resulted in slowly leveling the playing field at home. The law is beginning to catch up as well. Divorce laws of more and more states are taking into account the importance of children maintaining relationships with dads as well as moms after divorce.
Following is a sample of what other sources have had to say about the risks faced by fatherless children:
- 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census)
- 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes (Source: Center for Disease Control)
- 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes (Source: Criminal Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26, 1978.)
- 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes (Source: National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools.)
- 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept 1988)
- 85% of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home (Source: Fulton Co. Georgia jail populations, Texas Dept. of Corrections 1992)
After economic factors are excluded, children reared in fatherless homes are more than twice as likely to become male adolescent delinquents or teen mothers.
Recent studies have suggested that children whose fathers are actively involved with them from birth are more likely to be emotionally secure, confident in exploring their surroundings, have better social connections with peers as they grow older, are less likely to get in trouble at home and at school, and are less likely to use drugs and alcohol. Children with fathers who are nurturing, involved, and playful also turn out to have higher IQs and better linguistic and cognitive capacities.
The divorce process is difficult for all involved. It is far better for the children if the parents are able and willing to place them outside of difficult divorce issues. Children want to run and laugh and play. In many cases they are not mature enough to process adult issues. Keep heated issues between the adults and away from hearing range of the children. No matter how angry a parent is, they should promote the children viewing the other parent in a positive light. Children need positive role models. Even if a parent feels the other parent has wronged them, it is just as wrong for that parent to take away the ability for their children to have a parent they can be proud of and look up to.