The Good, Bad and Ugly Sides of Nesting During Divorce

By Christine Powers Leatherberry Divorce can be very stressful for children, especially early on as they adjust to the reality of their parents’ breakup. To ease the blow, some parents consider nesting, where the children remain in the marital residence after the divorce is filed, and the parents rotate in and out on a set schedule. The good side of nesting? It helps maintain normalcy for the children Nesting really helps smooth the transition to a post-divorce family by maintaining normalcy and the status quo for children. Their home environment doesn’t change, they get to sleep in the same bed and take a bath in the same bathtub. Plus, all of their toys are within reach. One such Connaster Family Law client, Frank Jones,* experienced the ups and downs of nesting firsthand. “The big pro to nesting in our case was my son was able to stay in his own room, and we could go play ball in the backyard like we always had. He didn’t have to pack a backpack and shuffle back and forth between two households. Essentially, he could continue on with his life in the same place he had always called home,” Frank says. Not sure how to tell your children you’re getting divorced? Get some excellent insight here: Break the News with Care: How to Tell Kids You’re Getting Divorced Also good: Nesting can simplify finances and help parents save money Along with easing the blow for children, nesting does offer other benefits. It gives the parties more time to decide who will live in the marital residence long-term, if either party wants to. In addition, if the parties live with parents or another family member when it isn’t their turn to live in the marital residence, they may be able to save money. Nesting can simplify finances, too, because the parties likely will continue to pay the same bills – mortgage, utilities, etc. – as they did in the past. So, nesting can work well for some families during the early stages of divorce, but it isn’t a workable solution for most people in the long-term. Frank and his ex-wife nested for nearly a year and a half, and by the end, they were both ready to move on. The bad and ugly side of nesting? Painful memories, house cleaning disputes, life in limbo and privacy concerns Most family law clients who have agreed to a nesting arrangement do so for the sake of their children, but they find it can be personally challenging and stressful over the long-term. Memories … From the outset, living in the marital residence was never comfortable for Frank, because his ex had an affair in the home. As he explains, “During my time in the house, I wanted to create normalcy for my son and do what I had to do to get custody. Unfortunately, many painful memories lingered there due to the affair. I wanted to distance myself, but every time I walked through the door I kept reliving those memories.” Life in limbo … Many parents also feel unsettled because their possessions move between two places and they never know in what state they will find the house when it’s their turn to move back in. According to Frank, “If you leave anything behind at the house, you may not have access to it until you return. I eventually moved all of my personal items to my parents’ home and packed a backpack with essentials when it was my time to stay at the house. With nesting, if almost feels like you’re in limbo and...

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From Hollywood to Highland Park – 12 Reasons Married Couples DON’T Get Divorced

By Aubrey Connatser It seems like Hollywood divorces make headlines everyday. On the flip side, some celebrity couples do make a go of it – many for decades. Just look at Tinseltown marriage veterans Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, and Sting and Trudie Styler. So why are these Hollywood marriages still going strong? Many of the couples took time to get to know each other before marrying, and they probably work hard to maintain healthy relationships both as couples and parents. The same holds true for couples that live happily ever after away from the spotlight. 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, couples typically have enduring marriages for several common reasons, whether they are famous or not. No. 1: They wait to get married until they are older. As divorce attorneys, we regularly 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 have changed. 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: They don’t marry due to a pregnancy. If the main reason a couple decides to marry is because the woman is pregnant, divorce may be looming around the corner. Starting a marriage as new parents 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: They don’t let in-laws interfere with their relationship. It’s important for couples to tell parents to stay out of their business, or suggest the parents go to in-law premarital counseling where they will learn to mind their own business. The sooner a couple’s in-laws know their place, the less likely their marriage will suffer. No. 4: They are upfront about their desired spousal roles. I always say, hold true to the deal you strike. For example, if a wife tells her spouse she wants to work outside the home versus stay home with the kids (or vice versa), then changes positions after getting married, that might be too big of a hurdle for the husband to overcome. Couples need to be honest up front. No. 5: They don’t abuse alcohol or drugs. Substance abuse tears families apart. If either spouse (or both) is battling substance abuse, they need to address addiction problems head on. Abusing alcohol or drugs is one of the most common reasons people divorce. No. 6: They seek help for mental health issues. As with No. 5, if either spouse is struggling with mental health issues, the couple’s marriage will face challenges. Seeking guidance from a mental health professional can help a spouse cope psychological issues before they spiral out of control. No. 7: They don’t cheat. It’s no secret, cheating is one of the biggest reasons people get divorced. Adultery is typically a sign of a much deeper problem. Couples that want to stay married, need to address the issues in the marriage before straying. No. 8: They don’t marry the mistress. Unfaithful spouses who plan to marry the person with whom they had an affair – need to be wary. Think about it. If the mistress slept with a married person in the past, why wouldn’t she do it again?...

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They Help Others Navigate Divorce, So Why Are These Divorce Attorneys So Happily Married?

Dallas divorce attorney Alissa Castro has plenty to celebrate. June marks her third anniversary working with Connatser Family Law, and she recently became engaged to her fiancé Jimmy. So why is this young divorce attorney so excited to get married? For one thing, Alissa looks forward to people no longer asking: “After seeing so many people get divorced, are you ever going to get married?” She also has a positive outlook about marriage, because her happily married parents and colleagues have served as terrific role models. According to Alissa, “I am lucky enough to have parents who remain happily married after being together for over 40 years. Plus, it’s hard to be jaded about marriage when you work with five happily married divorce attorneys.” You get out of marriage what you put into it While she is consistently surrounded by the reality of divorce, Alissa is also inspired and encouraged by the successful marriages and behaviors modeled by her colleagues. “The attorneys that I work with lead by example – both in the workplace and within their relationships. They regularly show me they didn’t achieve the levels of success at work or in their marriages by luck – it all takes hard work,” Alissa says. She also appreciates the honesty, guidance and support her workplace family provides on a daily basis – much like they do with their clients. As Alissa explains, “The attorneys here have helped me set realistic expectations regarding difficulties related to balancing a legal career, marriage and (someday for me) children. They remind me each day that there will be bumps in the road, but you have to lean on your spouse (and your workplace family) during tough times.” Advice from the trenches: Five tips for a happy marriage We asked Alissa’s happily married colleagues to share insight on how they manage to keep their marriages going strong, while juggling busy careers and family life. The attorneys at Connatser Family Law shared the following tips: Tip No. 1: Don’t bring work home. Connatser Family Law founder Aubrey Connatser’s husband is also an attorney, and the couple agrees that it’s important to avoid talking about work after hours. As she explains, “Our cases can be really emotional and intense. So it’s best to leave that at the office.” Tip No. 2: Schedule lunch dates. Connatser Family Law attorney and mom of two Abby Gregory is fortunate to work in the same office building as her husband. “Since our offices are in close proximity, we enjoy one-on-one time at lunch and taking walks together nearby,” Abby says. Aubrey and her husband also schedule regular lunches together, because, “With young kids running around at night, it’s too hard to talk.” Connatser Family Law divorce attorney Christine Powers Leatherberry agrees. “It’s a lot to juggle with a baby, a toddler and both my husband and me being attorneys. In order to avoid feeling like ships passing in the night, we’ve started doing monthly lunches to regroup, enjoy each other’s company and not have to hire a babysitter.” Tip No. 3: Plan date nights and weekend staycations. According to Aubrey, “It’s nice to have the house alone to your spouse and yourself once in awhile. My husband and I send the kids to my mother MIMI’s house when we need a break.” Christine agrees and says, “We also try to do date night a couple times a month, which we hope to bump up to every week once we are past ‘the baby stage.’ The key is taking time to connect and not getting so consumed by children (or work)...

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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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Wealthy and Getting Divorced? 6 Essential Tips for Hiring a Divorce Attorney

Divorce attorneys vary greatly when it comes to personality, level of experience, areas of expertise and more. In the following post, Dallas divorce attorney Aubrey Connatser offers advice for wealthy individuals on how to hire a divorce attorney when sizeable assets and custody of children are at stake. Divorce is rarely easy, regardless of income level. However, how an affluent person approaches divorce and the divorce attorney he or she chooses can have a significant impact on the outcome of their divorce case. If you are wealthy and plan to divorce, consider the following tips to find a divorce attorney whose values align with yours, and who has the capabilities to meet your financial and child custody goals. No. 1: Ask trusted advisors to recommend a good divorce attorney. One of the best ways to begin your search for a divorce attorney is to ask a trusted attorney you already work with to make a recommendation. For example, a lawyer who is known and trusted by your family or who handles legal concerns for your family business is typically a good resource. People in the legal community tend to be the ones who know who the good divorce lawyers are in the cities and counties where they practice. Also, if you know someone who has (1) gone through a divorce, (2) been similarly situated, (3) had a good experience with their lawyer, they can be another great resource. What a lot of clients tell me when we meet for the first time is, “I got your name from so-and-so, and then when I asked someone else who they would recommend, your name came up again. So that made me think you must be someone I want to talk to or hire.” If you keep hearing the same attorney’s name popping up, that’s a good way to narrow down your search. Looking for more helpful tips? Check out these 18 helpful tools in our Ultimate Divorce Toolkit. No. 2: Interview more than one divorce lawyer. I always recommend people interview more than one divorce attorney, because you want to hire a lawyer whose experience and approach to divorce aligns with your goals. It’s also important to meet face-to-face, because if you like how the attorney represents himself or herself in person, chances are good that the judge will like them too. The in-person meeting allows you to get a good feel for the attorney, determine whether the two of you are compatible and find out if you share the same ethics, morals and values. No. 3: Seek out an attorney who will be diligent about maintaining your privacy. Affluent parties who want to stay out of the spotlight shouldn’t hire an attorney they see on the news with their divorce clients. This is especially true if any fame or notoriety is associated with either spouse. Instead, hire someone who is known to use discretion, maintain confidences and will be dedicated to maintaining privacy. No. 4: Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the attorney. It’s important to find a lawyer who has business acumen and experience, because the wealthy tend to have more complicated assets. Some attorneys have more experience with complex property cases, while others are stronger on custody cases. Some lawyers are strong in both areas. Look for an attorney who has extensive experience in the issues present in your case. Get Aubrey’s insight on a landmark $1 billion divorce settlement in this past story on Big & Rich Texas Divorces. No. 5: Avoid hiring a solo practitioner. Solo practitioners typically don’t have the bandwidth to adequately address all...

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How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Technology During Divorce and Child Custody Disputes

By Abby Gregory While technology can simplify our lives, it does come with a potential downside, especially during divorce and child custody disputes. Dallas family law attorney Abby Gregory sheds light on common technology-related miscues that can negatively affect divorce, child custody and visitation outcomes. In today’s high-tech world, married couples often share phone plans, home computers, email accounts, cloud accounts and passwords. This may make sense during marriage, but what if you plan to file for divorce and if the custody of your children is at stake? Unfortunately, most people don’t realize how deeply their personal devices (phones, tablets, computers) and digital accounts (email, text messaging, cloud, Dropbox, social media, apps, etc.) are intertwined with their future ex-spouse’s. Abby discusses the misunderstood intricacies of sharing data and why it’s important to know what information can be accessed via the cloud. A fine balance – preserving evidence AND privacy Destroying evidence during a divorce is illegal, and this includes any past phone call, text, email, financial and other records you shared with your spouse. However, during a divorce, you do have a right to keep personal communications private on non-shared accounts. That’s why it’s so important to open a new phone plan in your name only, which is in no way tied to your family’s cloud account. In many cases, I also recommend creating a new email account with unique passwords that only you can access. You should also take steps to ensure that neither your spouse nor your children have access to any device where your personal email or text messages could be retrieved. This may sound simple, but in our practice we regularly see instances where parties private communications have been intercepted. Abby explains how incriminating text messages were discovered and used against a parent in a custody case. 7 steps to outsmart technology AND protect confidential information during divorce and child custody disputes Step 1: Don’t call, text or email any information about your plans to divorce on any devices your family shares. For example, if you have a laptop that you, your spouse and your kids all use, it probably won’t be password protected. This can be problematic, because: Any email accounts or social media profiles you regularly access from that device probably open automatically, without logging in, simply by turning on the device. Any communications you send and receive on shared devices and within shared accounts (email, text messages, etc.) can be accessed from any device tied to your shared cloud account. For more insight on technology, check out this past post: Is Technology Secretly Sabotaging Your Divorce? Step 2: Log out of social profiles and private email accounts on shared devices. You should also change all associated passwords and do so on a device only you have access to. If you don’t want to raise red flags by logging out of your email account, move on to Step 3. Step 3: Create a new, private email account – with a unique password – on a personal device only you have access to. Use this account to correspond with your divorce attorney and family or friends who know about your situation. Step 4: Keep a careful eye on your personal devices (phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) and change your device passwords. Many parents share tablets or smartphones with their kids. However, this can be a bad idea if your private digital accounts can be accessed there, especially if your child brings the device to your future ex-husband or ex-wife’s home for the weekend. Step 5: Turn off location services for apps on devices tied to...

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