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...

read more

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

Since founding Connatser Family Law in 2014, 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...

read more

6 Holiday Co-Parenting Tips for the Recently Divorced [Infographic]

The holiday season should be a happy and joyous time for children, but that isn’t always the case for kids whose parents have recently divorced. To help children navigate this stressful time, Dallas Family Law Attorney Christine Powers Leatherberry encourages parents to be proactive, maintain traditions and closely monitor children’s mental health during the holidays. In the following infographic, Christine offers six helpful, holiday co-parenting tips for divorced moms and dads. Consider Christine’s advice to put children at ease during Christmas, Hanukkah and other holiday celebrations as they transition from a single-family unit to life as a child of divorce. Christine Powers Leatherberry is a compassionate Dallas family lawyer who is equally comfortable in the courtroom as she is counseling her clients one-on-one. She is a past chair of the Dallas Junior Board of the Big Brothers Big Sisters and was a Big Sister to the same Little for 11 years. If you have questions about a Texas divorce or child custody and visitation, please call 214-306-8441 to speak confidentially with a knowledgeable and considerate member of the Connatser Family Law team....

read more

12 Back-to-School Tips for Newly Divorced Parents

When the wounds are fresh, it can be difficult to get along with an ex-spouse following divorce. But setting differences aside and putting children first are essential for the long-term health and happiness of your kids. With the new school year upon us, we asked Dallas Divorce Attorney Christine Powers Leatherberry to share advice to help newly divorced parents kick off co-parenting and the school year on the right foot. No. 1: Commit to open communication and inclusion from day one. Communication is the key to successful co-parenting (and is an underlying theme throughout this post). If you receive information regarding your child and their needs and activities, be sure to share it with your ex-spouse. Agree to keep each other in the loop. No. 2: Set up a shared family calendar and update it diligently. This is the key to following through on tip No. 1. As Christine explains, “There are a number of shared family calendars available online and some families even use Google calendars to share information about activities. “Our firm typically recommends Our Family Wizard, because it offers a variety of helpful tools. Plus, many Texas Family Court judges require divorcing couples to communicate through Our Family Wizard and use the shared calendar.” Within your shared calendar, you can keep track of: Extracurricular practices and events. Doctor appointments. Homework and project deadlines. School photo days. Family vacations and more. No. 3: Have a conversation about back-to-school supplies. “In Texas, back-to-school supplies are supposed to be paid for with child support. However, the cost for supplies, school uniforms, sports gear, etc., can often exceed that amount. If you want to start out on the right foot with your ex-spouse, offer to help pay for certain items. This can help set the tone for a more amicable co-parenting relationship. “However, I do recommend paying for those designated items directly, such as taking your child school shopping at Target or paying the school directly for uniforms,” Christine says. No. 4: Drop off your children together on the first day of school. Though this may be a difficult for the newly divorced, it’s just one day that will be tough for you, but an important day that will speak volumes to your child. Says Christine, “This stand of unity shows the child that regardless of his or her parents’ differences, you’re all in it together.” No. 5: Get on the same page regarding homework, deadlines and obligations. Christine recommends that parents agree at the outset to share homework duties as equally as possible. “As a Dallas divorce attorney, I frequently run into scenarios where one parent takes on the bulk of the homework follow up while the other disregards it. This is especially problematic when large school projects are involved. “You don’t want to pick up your child on a Sunday night at 7 p.m. and find out they have a huge diorama or book report due in the morning. This is not a fair way to co-parent and it puts unnecessary pressure on the child. Agree to keep each other informed and share homework deadlines and progress reports regularly.” No. 6: Make sure the child’s backpack stays with the child. Speaking of homework, to help your child stay on track and complete homework assignments on time, his or her assignment folder and necessary books and materials need to accompany him or her from home to home. “You can even use the backpack as a talking point. Take a few moments during the exchange to communicate how far along the child is with completing his or her assignments. For...

read more

10 Essential Tips for Successful Co-Parenting Following Divorce

While Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin mastered the art of “consciously uncoupling” in 2014, their dedication to peacefully co-parenting following their split has been making headlines ever since. As Paltrow recently told BBC News,  “You can remain a family even though you are not a couple and make it a less traumatic experience for the children.” If only it was always that easy. According to Dallas Family Law Attorney Christine Powers Leatherberry, “It can be challenging to share parenting duties with an ex, especially following a high-conflict divorce. Emotions can run sky high during divorce, but you need to set those feelings aside when kids are in the picture.” So what can YOU do to successfully co-parent following divorce? According to Christine, parents should: 1. Put the kids first. “This is rule No. 1. Your child’s world has been turned upside down, and as the adults, you need to attend to their needs before yours whenever possible,” says Christine. 2. Be civil. Don’t add more fuel to the fire by trying to push your ex’s buttons. Focus on the matters at hand and what is best for your children. 3. Work with a parent facilitator if necessary. Parent facilitation is a process where parents going through a high conflict divorce – or following one – work out parenting issues together with a third party parent facilitator (almost like a referee or coach). The parent facilitator helps them reach amicable resolutions and agreements together without going through the court process. As Christine explains, “The parents and parent facilitator meet regularly or as problems arise in the same room. No divorce lawyers are present. Most of the time (not always) this approach can be very successful and cut down on future litigation.  During these sessions parents can decide issues like who pays for ballet, whether a party can take a child to China, if the parties can switch possession periods, etc.” 4. Opt for a collaborative divorce. If you or your spouse recently filed for divorce, consider going the collaborative route. The collaborative divorce process in Texas allows parents the opportunity to hash out divorce and child related details with the help of their respective family law attorneys, along with neutral experts (mental health and financial professionals). “For some couples, the collaborative process can provide a more conducive environment to sit down together and work things out for the sake of the children, such as child custody and visitation. This approach is often better for children in the long-term because parents can learn how to get along and resolve issues during the early stages of divorce,” says Christine. 5. Set up a shared calendar. According to Christine, “You can find a number of helpful scheduling tools and apps online, and in some cases, the court may order you to use one. In fact, Dallas County Family Courts often require parents to use a tool called Our Family Wizard. Along with offering a calendaring tool, parents can email each other through the software. These communications are unmodifiable and copies of all messages are stored in the system. It also records when communications are opened by each parent.” Many family courts also use Our Family Wizard so impartial, amicus attorneys appointed to advocate for children can monitor communication between the parents, and judges can have a reliable source for documenting communication between the parties. 6. Keep the lines of communication open. Kids’ lives and schedules change constantly, so parents need to keep each other in the loop. While it may be uncomfortable to communicate with your ex-spouse, you could agree to only communicate...

read more