Thirty seven percent of families in the United States are blended families. Sixty percent of second marriages end in divorce. A biological parent has his hands full, but as most step-parents will tell you, their job is even more complicated.
Following a divorce, it is not uncommon for a new step-parent to become the target of unprovoked spite or anger. In many cases, the previous-spouse harbors unfounded fears that their child will look to a new step-parent as a mother or father replacement figure. This can engender resentment to what may already be an uncomfortable situation between parties. Regretfully, these issues often escalate very quickly. Such resentments place the children squarely in the middle of a bitter fight between the people they love the most and are not healthy for anyone involved. The pain of conflicting loyalties to each parent and a child’s feeling of being “caught in the middle” of such disputes exacts an enormous emotional toll on a child. When a parent is in a rage, it is not uncommon for a child to withdraw. The child’s behavior towards the non-primary parent may abruptly change. This change in behavior may have more to do with keeping the primary parent happy than it does with how they really feel about the non-primary parent or step-parent. It is essential that you make it clear to your child that you love them and will always be there for them, regardless of the emotional or less than rosy current circumstances.
It is crucial to a child’s self-esteem and emotional growth that parents avoid putting children in the middle of such disputes. This can be incredibly difficult, however, when a selfish or manipulative parent does not think twice about wrongfully placing his or her child in the middle of conflict. Children are very perceptive and as they grow older they will ultimately realize when a parent has lied to them and used them for their own emotional or financial gain. Though they may temporarily identify with the aggressors, in time they will deeply resent the parent who has manipulated them.
Regardless of the circumstances, it is critical that biological parents avoid arguments or conflicts in the presence of the children. Such conduct is conducive to parental alienation goals of the misguided previous spouse. If the child sees that you maintain a calm and collected demeanor, it gives them reason to pause and feel safe.
If a previous spouse is making statements to the child regarding issues that should only be discussed between adults, tell the child that such discussions are inappropriate and you will take them up with the other parent at another time.
It is ok to tell your child “I am sorry,” if they are upset, even if you are not the parent upsetting them. This validates that they are hurting and relieves any false guilt they may have over things that are being said and done when you are not present. It is sometimes helpful to use everyday situations to explain conflict to your child. As an example, when dealing with conflict explain that “brothers and sisters fight, but they still love each other. Families have to work through conflict in order to stay together. I would not leave you if you made a mistake, I would not want you to leave me.” Such statements reinforces that reasonable conflict is ok and assures the child that you will remain a constant force in their life regardless of the situation.
If you feel that the conflict has escalated to a point of becoming emotionally abusive and/or destructive to the child, consult a Family Law / divorce attorney. It may be in the best interest of the child that he or she be removed from the primary parent and placed with the non-primary parent so that he or she is allowed to love all parental figures, parents and step-parents alike, unconditionally.
You are getting divorced! After the emotional decision is made you must address financial situations impacting the family breakup.
What are the major financial pitfalls of a divorce? Are you prepared to stay on top of all financial problems and decisions in this divorce to strive for a financial win-win situation?
Where’s the liquid cash? Divorce generally never goes as fast as you would like nor do you receive as much as you think you should! If divorce is imminent start saving up money now! You will need to pay divorce expenses and have support for your new household. There will be many unanticipated costs that may drain you financially.
- If you don’t have a credit card in your name get one now. If you share credit with your spouse, close out as many credit cards as possible if he/she can charge on your credit. Even if you don’t use the cards, the account balance will still be owed and both spouses may be legally responsible for the debt.
Not Prepared for this Divorce? Divorce is a serious change of life event. Get Prepared Now! Timing is all important! When is the best time for you to get divorce? Make sure your financial situation is good before you take the divorce leap. Need new tires, buy them. Kids need dental work, see the dentist. Just remember: after the separation, your expenses will be paid by court order and not always be to your liking.
Where are the important divorce financial records? Don’t leave without all your documents that identify what you and your spouse accumulated during your marriage and which can establish the fair market value! Even if you were not in charge of finances while you were married, you must secure copies of all records. You are entitled to your share of financial property and any additional income you find may increase the earnings that calculate child support or spousal maintenance support. What are you looking for? At least three years of tax returns, mortgage paper on your home, wills, trusts, bank, credit card, and financial statements, car registrations and titles, insurance policies, and deeds to real estate. If you have separate property from inheritance or gifts from your family, make sure you have all records of these transactions. Our blog, Texas Financial Checklist http://dld.bz/dqcej is a detailed list of items and records needed to have before filing for divorce. A very good item to use for your preparation!
Have you overlooked any Divorce Assets? If a business is involved a forensic accountant may be hired to look of any signs of additional income or overstated expenses.
- Hobbies and side businesses that use expensive equipment or generate income needs to carefully be looked out. Are you entitled to compensation for expenses you paid to get your spouse through school?
- All assets, big or small can add up. These assets can always be used for trade on something you can use.
- Your spouse may try to hide assets. By keeping all documents and paystubs to make sure there are not any irregularities, things usually work out fine. Stay honest and reveal your assets.
Do Not Ignore Tax Consequences! Divorce may or may not create taxable events but you must report it on your tax return. Should you sell the house now to claim the capital gain exclusion? Who should be paying the mortgage until it sells? Should you take your spousal maintenance monthly or in a lump sum? What about retirement funds? An accountant can help to determine the best path for you on these questions.
Passive Observer of your Divorce? NO! Get control of this process, focus on practical things and work with your future Ex to get this divorce over! You can do this! There is a reason for this divorce and you are the master/mistress of your destiny. Your children need you now to be a responsible parent and wise decision making will save you time and legal fees. Listen to your attorney but you make the decisions!
Is Divorce your survival plan? Now that you have decided to divorce you must break it to your children. People engaged in a Divorce should be in survival mode. The person who will be your future “EX” is looking out for themselves and you need to look out for yourself and your children. YOU must insist within reason on getting what you need and deserve! Emotions and money do not mix! You must be able to take care of yourself and your family financially so look at all property division decisions very carefully and make good decisions to bring the divorce to a successful conclusion.
Prepare for the worst! When entering into a divorce, prepare yourself for the worst! If you are prepared for anything, than your fears will not cause you to panic and you will keep control of your situation. Outside of death, divorce is considered one of the worst emotional situations that a human being will ever experience!
How will you support yourself and the kids after divorce? Hopefully this is not a problem, but now would be a good time to get some career counseling at a community college, university or local job center. Having a fulfilling career is lucrative and helps your self-esteem!
Get Good Advice! Decisions you make now will affect the rest of your life. Find a good, knowledgeable attorney to help you though the rough spots. If you are emotionally a wreck, find a good therapist. If you feel there are hidden assets, hire a forensic accountant. Now is the time to get the best advice you can afford! You will have to live with your financial decisions for a long time.
Are you to the point of no return in your marriage? Nothing left of feelings, just apathy or indifference. Do you feel you must leave this place now or die trying? What about your financial security after the divorce? Divorce is an emotional roller-coaster. How will you take care of your debt, bills, and your children’s needs?
Time to grab your laptop or pad of paper and start thinking smart about “the first day of the rest of your life. If your “I need a divorce” decision is now made, start work on learning your current family financial situation and what needs to be done to secure your financial security for Post-Divorce life!
Here is a list of some of your most important Financial Information that you need to address before the Start of the Divorce
- What are the Community and Separate Property Laws in Texas?
Under the Texas Family Code, a spouses separate property consists of 1) the property owned or claimed by the spouse before marriage; 2) the property acquired by the spouse during marriage by gift, devise, or descent, and 3) the recovery for personal injuries sustained by the spouse during marriage, except any recovery for loss of earning capacity during marriage.
The terms “owned and claimed” as used in the Texas Family Code mean that where the right to the property accrued before marriage, the property would be separate. Inception of title occurs when a party first has a right of claim to the property by virtue of which title is finally vested. The existence or nonexistence of the marriage at the time of incipiency of the right of which title finally vests determines whether property is community or separate. Inception of title occurs when a party first has a right of claim to the property.
Everything you and your spouse have earned in your marriage except for personal gifts or property from devise or descent will now, absent fault, be divided equally in the divorce. This could make a big difference in your post-divorce financial life! Gather all financial statements: income tax returns, insurance policies, bank statements, Investment Accounts summaries, Retirement Account balances, Bills, anything in your marriage that can show who owns separate assets or what constitutes the community property in this marriage.
2. DEBT: Deal With it NOW!
Are you and your spouse in a bad financial situation? Do you both have to work to pay the bills or just barely make ends meet? Now you want to get a divorce and HOW IS THAT GOING TO WORK? How can you be Post Divorce Happily EVER AFTER when you may not even be able to afford a down payment on an apartment?
ORDER A COPY OF YOUR CREDIT REPORT now to see where the damage may exist. You will be able to see what credit cards, loans, and other debt you all have created. If you and your spouse have be leading “separate lives” for a while, you may be surprised when there is more debt incurred for entertainment you never knew about.
Review this CREDIT REPORT carefully. Find out whether you are a joint owner or just an authorized user. Except for your home, usually the DEBT will be in existing credit card accounts, personal loans, and car loans. If possible, try to get as much debt as possible paid off before finalizing the divorce. Remember that joint debts remain both spouses’ legal obligation to the lenders, even when the divorce settlement states that only one spouse is responsible for the debt. If the responsible ex-spouse defaults on the payments, it will show up on both ex-spouse’s credit history.
Some good advice? Get your own credit card in your name only. If you keep other credit cards take your spouse’s name off the credit card Now! Get your name off any credit card that your spouse uses NOW! Divorce causes financial upheaval to a family’s budget so protect yourself, so you don’t have to pay or be legally responsible for your soon to be EX’s Bills!
3. Bank Accounts
Most married couples have at least one joint bank account. Many will have joint checking and savings accounts. You need to get a record of every family bank account in existence. Make sure you have copies of all monthly bank statement for 3 years.
Review these carefully and see if there has been a constant drainage of money from the accounts.
Now open a new account in your name. It is critical to establish your own financial identity when you divorce.
If your spouse does business with the bank in a business capacity or you have car/personal loans with the bank, you need to open a personal account with another bank of your choosing.
4. What About Our Home?
One of the hardest assets to deal with in a divorce. This is where the couple lived as a family, with or without children. If there are children involved, their little lives have centered around their schools, churches, sports teams and friends. It is heartbreaking to the entire family, but this decision is usually the final family break.
If the decision is for one spouse to take over the homestead and debt, the ideal situation is for such spouse to refinance the home in only their name. The single spouse will be responsible for the debt on the house and full title on the house. Otherwise if the spouse can’t afford to refinance the house, both spouses will have to work out a co-owner agreement and continue to have both names on the title and share the large financial burden. In such event, frequently, sale of the home is the best option.
This is one of the most serious real estate problems we encounter in a post-divorce situation. Times get tough and the ex- spouse, who took over the house debt, cannot afford to pay the mortgage and the property falls into foreclosure, affecting both ex- spouses’ credit. Sometimes it is better, if one spouse cannot refinance the house loan, to sell the house and divide the proceeds.
Other “To Do” Items to Address Before the Start of the Divorce
- Make sure your assets are protected. Check that your car, health, and homeowner’s insurance is up to date and enough for your and your children’s needs. Also start the process of changing beneficiaries on all life insurance policies/annuities and retirement accounts (IRA / 401k at work) you own from your ex-spouse to your heirs or other designees.
- Change all passwords on your online accounts and all banking and credit card accounts. Time for some personal privacy!
- Time to start thinking about your digital assets that you as a couple developed and shared? This is a community state and how will this affect this type of asset?
- Think about reviewing your will and other estate planning documents. We suggest that when the divorce is final, you need to have a new will in place that will be only your heirs minus your Ex.
- Very important! Establish your own credit in your single name
This list will give you a start on the financial items that you must be addressed immediately in an upcoming divorce. Be prepared before the divorce and know where you stand financially. This will hopefully give you time to talk with financial and legal experts so you can make wise decisions on addressing the financial aspects of the divorce for you and your other family members.
The Nacol Law Firm P.C.
Are You An Alienated Parent With A Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) Family Experience? What Can You Do?
There is nothing worse than a family torn apart by parents who are battling over child custody. Many of these cases are in serious litigation and often, these disputes will continue for years.
What is Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)? In the 1980’s, forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Richard A. Gardner noticed a large increase in a disorder where one parent will program or brainwash a child to alienate the other parent. He also found the child was self-creating contributions supporting the alienating parent’s campaign of denigration against the targeted parent.
Dr. Gardner’s definition of PAS: Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child-custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilifications of the target parents. (Gardner, the Parental Alienation Syndrome)
There is no pure PAS diagnosis if the child still has a positive relationship with the parent even though the other parent is trying to alienate the child.
Courts are generally more conservative in their judgment acknowledging PAS in high conflict cases. Even though Parental Alienation evidence may be overwhelming, often courts will enter judgments allowing the “parents to make joint decisions about the child’s welfare.” This will not ever happen between two alienated parents! In many situations it will take a dramatic or tragic situation to force the court to change primary custody. When the alienating parent becomes unstable mentally, the court will recognize that there is something “out of line” and will become more supportive of the targeted parent.
What are the Best ways for the Alienated Parent to Deal with the PAS issue?
Keep your “cool”. Never retaliate. Never act in anger since anger=unstable.
Never give up! You cannot let your child grow up in this environment of hate. The child is the victim of a situation that he/she never asked to be in.
Be “Proactive”! It is a terrible situation for the entire family, but work on seeking constructive action to solve the problem. Do not allow yourself to become a victim!
Always keep a journal of dates and times of major key events. Explain when the situation occurred and what happened specifically. Any Witnesses?
Always call and show to pick up the child even when you know he/she will not be there. Try to contact the police to have a record of the no-show event or take a witness to video the denial of possession. You do have an interest in your child, no matter what the alienating parent says.
When you do see the child, focus on enjoying your parent-child time together. Never talk badly about the other parent and do not let children overhear inappropriate conversation on the telephone.
Hire a skilled family lawyer who has experience in parental alienation syndrome issues. Do your homework on PAS and interview the lawyer on his experience and what your issues are. If you are not satisfied look again. This is your life and you are trying to save your child.
Be prepared to financially see this case to the end. Most of these case last for years. You cannot start and stop.
A forensic evaluator in PAS cases is usually an asset in showing that there is truly alienation occurring and recommend changing legal and primary custody to the alienated parent. An appropriate parenting plan included showing how well the child will be taken care of with the alienated parent, is advised.
Always pay your child support on time and never violate court orders. Never give the alienating parent reason to question your behavior.
Last but not least, to show that your parenting skills are superior, take a comprehensive parenting course to be able to show the court that you strive to be the best parent you can to the child, no matter what the alienating parent says.
Courts, legislatures and juries are becoming more aware of the necessity of father’s being involved in the lives of their children. Children with positive father involvement have fewer behavior problems, higher levels of sociability, and perform better in school.
Recent research suggests that father involvement during pregnancy affects multiple areas of child and family well- being, from prenatal care initiation and mother and child health outcomes, to the likelihood that the father will provide ongoing financial and emotional support. This body of research is gaining momentum. Local and regional governmental agencies are focusing more and more on parental father involvement in the lives of children.
As a result of the changes taking place in society today, the Courts are now recognizing a father’s ability to care for his children as becoming equal to that of the mother. Starting out on an equal plane, the Court may look to which parent is more stable, has a superior income, has a parenting plan in place for the child and is capable of providing proper child care and spending more quality time with the child.
If a father ignorantly gives up rights to his children based on prejudices of the past in the Court system he can feed a mother’s confidence and sponsor unnecessary ongoing litigation. The number one mistake made by father’s in the court system today is a failure to take the time to learn how the system works. Failing to learn how the family law system works may doom your case. Once you have learned the ins and outs of the family law system you will need to form a plan, set goals and never relent in enforcing your rights as a father.
Five of the biggest mistakes men make in a legal action are: 1) failing to respond to the legal action itself; 2) obtaining incorrect legal advice (from friends and family rather than a legal expert); 3) signing a settlement agreement they are not in agreement with and later deeply regretting it; 4) failing to perform under the actual settlement agreement signed; and 5) getting frustrated and/or acquiescing to unreasonable orders.
Some of the things you may want to consider as you prepare for the custody battle are as follows:
- Who has the financial ability to best care for the child(ren)? Be sure to have income tax verification, W-2 Forms and other financial information available.
- Form a parenting plan (child care, after school care, transportation, pediatrician, etc.).
- Who is more stable and/or can provide the best home for the child(ren)?
- Where has the child(ren) been attending school? Is it possible to keep the child in the same school district?
- Prepare a chronology of events leading up to the divorce including treatment of the child(ren), time spent with the child(ren), activities with the child(ren), the child(ren)’s schedule.
- Consider if a home study should be prepared regarding each home of the child.
- Consider whether a psychological evaluation should be done on the mother?
- Is drug testing necessary? (Be sure to request hair follicle drug testing.)
- Is there an alcohol or other addiction problem in the home?
- Who can provide the best moral upbringing for the children?
- Is there evidence such as pictures, video tapes, etc. that may help your case?
- Avoid unnecessary compromising photos or data on Facebook or other social networking sites.
List any other relevant issues you feel may be important to your case before you meet with an attorney.
The most important thing to remember is that your failure, if based on dated concepts and inapplicable worn out prejudices, will be her victory and your parental failure.