Break the News with Care: How to Tell Kids You’re Getting Divorced

At Connatser Family Law, we always say, “Kids come first.” One of the biggest challenges parents face during a divorce is finding the best way to break the news to their children. So we asked psychotherapist Linda Solomon, LPC, LCDC, LMFT what advice she gives to parents regarding how to explain divorce to children. Connatser Family Law regularly recommends Linda to clients who need emotional guidance and actionable insight during divorce and child custody disputes. She also serves as a collaborative neutral during collaborative divorces and as a parenting coordinator in Dallas and Collin Counties. Along with working closely with a family counselor throughout the divorce process, Linda encourages parents to consider the following tips to help ease the blow of divorce when breaking the news to children. Tip No. 1: Plan in advance and schedule time for “the divorce discussion.” Telling children you are getting a divorce shouldn’t come out during a spur of the moment conversation. Linda strongly urges parents to plan the timing for the discussion. As she explains, “Plan the time so no one in the family will need to walk out the door in 30 minutes to an hour after the discussion. Whether that is to attend soccer practice, get a haircut or go to a birthday party. This is an extremely important family discussion and parents must create time for it to take place.” The time of year and day of the week are also important. “I strongly suggest parents schedule the divorce conversation on a weekend, unless it will occur during summer vacation. You don’t want children to have to get up and go to school the next morning. Most parents have the discussion early Friday evening or Saturday morning,” Linda says. Tip No. 2: Present a united front. Children need to hear the news from both mom and dad. As Linda explains, “This is a conversation that parents need to have together with the children, not mom or dad only. Despite difficulties between the two parents, this is the first chance for the children to continue seeing mom and dad as a parental team once they have learned about the divorce. “In other words, by having the discussion together, no matter what, you’re modeling for the children that you’re still a team as their parents. That united front is critical.” Tip No. 3: Plan what you will say ahead of time. Along with breaking the news together, Linda also recommends parents sit down prior to the divorce discussion to get a gist of what they are going to say to the children and how they are going to say it. “I don’t expect parents to script out the entire conversation, but wording can make a difference. One of the most important things parents should do is use the word divorce very early in the discussion. “Parents repeatedly tell me they regret it when they don’t mention divorce early on, because it gets harder over time to use that word. Some children even expect the parents are just going to live separately for a while and everything is going to be OK,” Linda says. Linda and Dallas divorce attorney Aubrey Connatser provide additional insight in this past post: 5 Valuable Resources to Help Kids Cope When Parents Split. Tip No. 4: Plan what you will NOT say ahead of time. It’s also really important for parents to reach an agreement regarding what the children will NOT be told. According to Linda, “This is what I refer to as private marital information or adult information. The divorce conversation will be difficult and filled...

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The Ultimate Divorce Toolkit: 18 Helpful Tools to Survive and Thrive After a Split

Since founding Connatser Family Law in 2013, prominent Dallas divorce attorney Aubrey Connatser and her associates, family law attorneys Abby Gregory, Christine Powers Leatherberry and Alissa Castro have shared insight and advice on the firm’s blog and in television, radio and newspaper interviews. After years of experience representing clients in the Texas family court, we understand that going through a divorce can be overwhelming. So we created a comprehensive Divorce Toolkit with 10 categories and 18 helpful tools to help ease stress and streamline the divorce process. Use this handy Divorce Toolkit to learn: How to hire a divorce attorney. If you are contemplating divorce or are ready to file for divorce, seek out an experienced divorce attorney who is a good fit for YOU and your circumstances. Check out this handy infographic Essential 9-Step Guide to Hiring a Divorce Attorney to learn more. How to get a handle on divorce basics. Wondering what common questions people ask about divorce? What questions they don’t ask but should? Our post, The Top 12 Things You Need to Know About Divorce in Texas, covers most of the bases. (If you don’t live in Texas, consult an attorney in the state where you reside.) How much alimony you can expect to receive or pay. Alimony isn’t a given in a Texas divorce. In fact, the courts typically expect both parties to eventually support themselves following divorce. We cover 11 things you need to know about alimony in Texas in this past post. (Again, contact an attorney in your state if you don’t reside in Texas.) Tips on how to avoid tax and financial woes during divorce. We asked our colleague Todd Amacher, J.D., MBA, CPA, CFP,® CDFA (TM), to share tax and financial insight in this helpful post, Divorce and Taxes: 5 Essential Tips for Avoiding Future Financial Woes. How to manage emotional duress during divorce. We know, going through a divorce can be trying. This is true for the divorcing parties and their children as well. We’ve covered mental health issues on several occasions and encourage you to check out these insightful posts: Emotions Run Sky High During Divorce: 5 Ways to Stay Grounded 7 Sanity Saving Tips for Working Moms (and Dads) 5 Valuable Resources to Help Kids Cope When Parents Split The best ways to co-parent in a peaceful and supportive fashion. At Connatser Family Law, we always say, “Kids come first.” We encourage parents to put their differences aside and focus on the best interests of their children. Co-parenting is another topic we cover regularly in our blog. A few helpful posts include: 10 Essential Tips for Successful Co-Parenting Following Divorce 12 Back-to-School Tips for Newly Divorced Parents Recently Divorced? 6 Tips to Make the Season Bright for Your Kids During the Holidays Steps to take to survive contentious custody battles. Unfortunately, divorcing couples don’t always play nice during divorce and custody battles. In the following two posts, we interviewed two clients who survived and thrived contentious custody disputes. Read their inspiring stories for insight: 5 Crucial Steps Dads Should Take to Get Custody in Texas You Don’t Need to Be Rosie O’Donnell to End Up in a Nasty Same-Sex Custody Fight How you can maintain privacy during high-profile divorce and child custody disputes. If you’re getting divorced in Texas, you’ll be happy to learn that Texas family courts value privacy, especially when children are involved. It’s often easier to seal divorce records here than in other states. Learn how a divorce attorney can help you keep divorce records private in this post we wrote about Blake Shelton...

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Dallas Divorce Lawyer Shares 5 Compelling Reasons to Consider Collaborative Divorce in Texas

When it comes to collaborative divorce, Texas has been leading the way since 2001. Since then, Texas couples have had the option to avoid the more public and often contentious environment associated with a litigated divorce, and instead, settle their differences across the table from one another. Collaborative law also differs from mediation. In mediation, an impartial lawyer serves as an intermediary and the divorcing parties don’t communicate directly. They only speak through their attorneys. While collaborative divorce is a great option for many couples, it isn’t for everyone. We asked Dallas Divorce Attorney Aubrey Connatser to weigh in. Collaborative divorce in Texas can offer several benefits, including: 1. Typically lower legal fees than with a litigated divorce. According to Aubrey, “If you’re involved in a high-conflict, litigated divorce, the process can drag on for months, and more witnesses and experts may be called to testify. The longer it takes to finalize the divorce, the more likely your legal fees are going to skyrocket.” 2. Tends to be less contentious and resolve more quickly than litigation. “We often find that collaborative divorces not only move faster, but they often result in less acrimony than divorces handled through traditional litigation. In fact, collaborative divorces are frequently referred to as ‘friendly divorces’ in Texas,” Aubrey says. 3. Much easier to keep private matters out of the public domain. Collaborative divorce provides a much higher level of confidentiality than a litigated divorce in Texas. If you want to keep your personal affairs and dirty laundry under wraps, the collaborative approach to divorce is typically the best option. As Aubrey explains, “With a collaborative divorce, the couple drives the divorce process, not the judge. Proceedings are held in private, behind closed doors, instead of in open court, where interested citizens and the media are allowed to observe.” In addition, paperwork filed with the court clerk in a litigated divorce (motions, sworn statements, financial records, pleadings, etc.) may be considered public records, unless your family law attorney takes appropriate measures to seal those documents. “Collaborative law is often appealing to our high-profile clients who seek to keep their personal and business affairs private,” adds Aubrey. Learn how to keep your divorce records private in this earlier post. 4. Can lay the groundwork for a more positive approach to co-parenting post-divorce. When children are involved, the collaborative divorce process in Texas allows parents the opportunity to hash out the “hard stuff” with the help of their respective family law attorneys, along with neutral experts (mental health and financial professionals). “It typically provides a more conducive environment for parents to sit down together and work things out for the sake of the children, such as child custody and visitation. The collaborative approach is often better for children in the long-term, because parents can learn how to get along and resolve issues sooner versus later,” Aubrey says. 5. May be a better option if you hope to reconcile. In some cases, where a client hopes to reconcile with his or her spouse, Aubrey often encourages him or her to consider a collaborative divorce. As she explains, “If you’re hoping to reconcile with your partner, your odds will probably be better if you go the collaborative route. Not only will you get more face time with your spouse, you’re more likely to treat each other with dignity, respect and honesty and communicate well during the collaborative process as opposed to litigation.” Collaborative Divorce in Texas Isn’t the Best Fit for Everybody While collaborative divorce can be a smart option for some couples, there are some scenarios where litigation...

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Want to Keep Your Divorce Records Private Like Blake and Miranda? Here’s How!

By all accounts, only two weeks elapsed between the filing and finalization of Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert’s Oklahoma divorce. This is far from the long, drawn-out Hollywood divorce cases of more than one Kardashian sister and a host of other celebrities. The couple also managed to keep all details of their divorce private when the judge agreed to seal their file. However, some alleged the Shelton-Lambert divorce record sealing amounted to special treatment due to their celebrity status. Former Oklahoma state representative Aaron Stiles cried foul when the judge sealed all records associated with the country superstars’ case. (Stiles authored a state open records law that makes it difficult to seal divorce, civil and other public cases in Oklahoma.) It’s Easier to Seal Family Law Case Records in Texas Had Shelton and Lambert divorced in Texas (where the couple married), keeping their divorce details private probably wouldn’t have made headlines. According to Connatser Family Law Attorney Christine Powers Leatherberry, “Texas is more lenient about sealing family law case records than many states.” As Christine explains, “While Texas also has a strong open records rule regarding court records under Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 76a, there are exceptions to this rule. In fact, there is a carve-out that makes it easier to seal records if it’s a family law case. The rule specifically states it exempts ‘documents filed in an action arising under the Family Code.’ In Texas, all you have to allege is that the sealing of the record will not have an adverse effect on the public health or safety, and the records do not involve matters that should be available to the general public.” Sealing an entire divorce case isn’t the only way to protect private matters either. “Even if we don’t seal the entire divorce record, the parties can enter into a protective order and mark certain documents confidential, including deposition transcripts, particularly when sensitive financial information, domestic violence, affairs, unsavory behavior or substance abuse are involved. Otherwise anyone could look up the details of the divorce online,” says Christine Seek Multiple Layers of Protection During Your Texas Divorce If you’re planning to get a divorce in Texas and you want to keep your private matters out of the public eye, there are multiple layers of protection available to you. 1. Mark individual documents as sensitive. Your lawyer can include a BOLD notation at the top of the file that says THIS DOCUMENT CONTAINS SENSITIVE DATA. This can include driver’s license numbers, birthdates, social security numbers and other personal information you want to keep private. This tactic is readily accepted, because revealing such information could result in identity theft, invasion of privacy, and can even endanger children. “Again, you’re not necessarily sealing the entire record, but those documents marked as sensitive will not be available online,” says Christine. 2. Conceal your identity and other details in the divorce decree. Per Christine, “In divorce decrees, we won’t necessarily include a fault ground for divorce, full bank account numbers, birthdates, initials, etc. We sometimes use random initials, especially for high profile individuals and celebrity cases.” 3. Seek a protective order. The next level of privacy protection is to file a motion for protective order or enter into an agreed protective order (sometimes called a confidentiality order). Here you can list everything that you want to keep confidential, such as documents and deposition transcripts. Parties may either agree to a protective order, or if there is no agreement, a party may still request one from the court. “For example, one party may admit to having an affair or...

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Collaborative Divorce Is a Great Option (for Some) – 3 Scenarios Where You Should Think Twice

Since 2001, Texas couples have had the option to pursue divorce through collaborative law as an alternative to a traditional litigated divorce. Collaborative divorce is a great option for some couples, especially when the split is amicable and the two parties believe they can trust and communicate well with one another. However, opting for a collaborative divorce isn’t the best choice for everyone, so you should weigh your options and get educated before opting in. When Kids and Privacy Matter, Collaborative Divorce May Be Best Connatser Family Law Attorney Aubrey Connatser finds collaborative divorce can be very beneficial to couples with children. “For parents, the collaborative divorce process can foster an environment of communicating and co-parenting better post-divorce. Parents are afforded the opportunity to discuss their differences with the assistance of their collaborative divorce attorneys, as well as neutral experts (mental health and financial professionals) and become accustomed to sitting down together and working things out. It’s a good environment for parents to hash out the ‘hard stuff,’ which can be better for the children in the long run,” Aubrey says. Aubrey explains why collaborative divorce can be a better option when children are concerned.The collaborative process is also appealing to high profile clients, who prefer to keep their personal affairs out of the public spotlight. According to Aubrey, “It’s very appealing to our celebrity clients to use the collaborative process because of the confidentiality associated with a collaborative divorce.” Clients Drive the Collaborative Process, Not a Judge “Unlike a litigated divorce, there is no judge presiding over a collaborative divorce, and there are typically only three pleadings filed with the court (the original petition, the collaborative law participation agreement and the final decree of divorce). Consequently, fewer details of the divorce negotiations are part of the public record,” Aubrey says. During the collaborative process, the parties identify their goals and interests, and work toward a resolution of the case. In order for the process to work successfully, the two parties must continue to talk about options until they come to a resolution that meets as many of their goals as possible. In addition, family courts in most Texas counties will sign an order to seal divorce matters based on a very low standard in collaborative divorces. This is especially important when children are involved or reputation management is a high priority. Aubrey may also recommend collaborative law in some cases where a client hopes to reconcile with his or her spouse. “If you want to reconcile, you’ll have a much better chance to do so if you go the collaborative route. Not only will you get more face time with your spouse, you’re more likely to treat each other with dignity, respect and honesty and communicate well during the collaborative process vs. litigation,” she explains. You Should Pass On Collaborative Divorce in These 3 Instances While every case is different, there are three scenarios in which Aubrey typically encourages her clients NOT to opt for the collaborative process. These scenarios include: 1. Domestic abuse. Aubrey finds that when “domestic abuse is present in a relationship, a collaborative divorce isn’t the best option. It’s nearly impossible to trust anyone who has been physically harmful to you, much less sit in the same room with that person. If you have been abused by your spouse, you will likely feel intimidated, powerless and forced to agree to anything the abuser asks you to do.” If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, this earlier post offers some great guidance and resources:  Meredith Vieira, Janay Rice, Rihanna – #WhyTheyStayed and How You...

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Brangelina Finally Make It Official – Why This Hollywood Marriage Might Actually Survive

After nine years together, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie tied the knot in France on August 23. While Hollywood weddings and divorce rumors (think Beyonce’ and Jay Z) dominate headlines, celebrities and regular people actually have a lot in common when it comes to marriage and divorce. “Brad and Angelina have actually taken several steps prior to making it official that could set the stage for an enduring marriage. They took the time to get to know each other, and they reportedly have a healthy relationship as both a couple and parents,” says Connatser Family Law Attorney Aubrey Connatser. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a celebrity couple living in Hollywood or a traditional couple raising a family in Highland Park. While there are always exceptions, we find that there are several common reasons why couples divorce, famous or not,” Aubrey says. No. 1: Getting married too young “We often see clients who were high school or college sweethearts who didn’t really date anyone else. After a couple of years they start to wonder if the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, or their priorities change over time,” says Aubrey. Couples who date other people before settling on a mate are more likely to understand that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. No. 2: Getting married because you’re pregnant If the only reason you’re getting married is because you are expecting a child, think twice. Says Aubrey, “Starting a marriage with a baby on the way can be difficult, especially if the couple hasn’t spent time getting to know each other, or they don’t really love each other.” No. 3: Letting in-laws get in the way “Couples need to tell their parents to mind their own business, or suggest they go to in-law premarital counseling where they will learn to mind their own business,” Aubrey says. The sooner the in-laws know their place, the less likely your marriage will suffer. No. 4: Misleading each other about desired spousal roles “Hold true to the deal you strike,” says Aubrey. For example, if you tell your spouse you want to work outside the home instead of staying home with the kids (or vice versa), then change positions after getting married, that might be too big of a hurdle for your spouse to overcome. Be honest up front. No. 5: Abusing alcohol or drugs Substance abuse and marriage don’t mix. “If you or your spouse (or both) are battling substance abuse, get help. Substance abuse is one of the most common reasons people divorce,” advises Aubrey. No. 6: Not getting help for mental health issues As with Mistake No. 5, if you or your spouse are suffering with mental health issues, your marriage will likely suffer too. Seek help from a mental health professional before it’s too late. No. 7: Cheating Obviously, infidelity is one of the biggest contributors to divorce, so if you’re thinking about cheating, don’t. “Adultery is typically a sign of a much deeper problem. If you want to stay married, address the issues in your marriage first,” says Aubrey. No. 8: Marrying the “mistress” OK, so you went ahead and cheated anyway and plan to marry the person with whom you had an affair – be careful. “If they slept with a married person (you) before, why wouldn’t they do it again?” Aubrey advises. No. 9: Hiding financial issues Aubrey has found that “When a couple’s finances aren’t transparent, their relationship usually isn’t either. Financial surprises can erode trust and breed resentment.” No. 10: Skipping date night It’s important to keep romance...

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