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...

read more

Wealthy, Divorced and in Love? Live Happily Ever After with a Cohabitation Agreement

By Douglas A. Harrison Over the past 37 years, Connatser Family Law attorney Doug Harrison has helped hundreds of clients negotiate premarital, post-marital and cohabitation agreements. In the following post, Doug explains how cohabitation agreements help couples worry less by living life with financial transparency and financial certainty. Many couples move in together when they want to take their relationships to the next level – but that doesn’t always mean marriage is on their minds. This is often true for people with sizeable assets who have experienced a painful divorce or were widowed after a lengthy marriage. Cohabitating without a marriage license doesn’t diminish the love two people feel for one another. However, financial questions and concerns can put undue stress on a relationship – something that could be avoided by having a frank and honest conversation about financial expectations and the signing of a cohabitation agreement. Cohabitation agreements allow couples to spell out financial and other arrangements in black and white. That way the couple can focus on developing their relationship and enjoying life without uncertainty. Such was the case for a client I helped recently. Couples can protect a legacy and provide for a significant other with cohabitation agreements I negotiated a cohabitation agreement for a man who had lost his wife of more than 30 years. He was very lonely and eventually met a lovely woman. After dating for several months, the two discussed moving in together. He resisted. The client had a good deal of money, so entering into a new relationship worried him, primarily because he wanted to preserve most of his estate for his children and grandchildren. His new “partner” was nervous, too. She had gone through a terrible divorce and hoped to enter a relationship where she could feel secure without trap doors. After a series of negotiations, the goals of both parties were met. The agreement ensured his estate was preserved and that there would be reasonable transition provisions for her in the event the two parted ways or he died. Both parties were relieved when the agreement was signed, and they were excited to move on with their lives without financial worries, suspicion or disagreement. Cohabitation agreements also enable couples to avoid disputes related to common law marriage For many couples, one of the most important reasons to get a cohabitation agreement is to clearly set forth that the parties do not intend to form a common law or informal marriage under Texas law. In Texas, there are three requirements that need to be met in order for the court to rule that a common law or informal marriage exists. Proof must be presented in court that both parties agreed to be married, they did so while living in the state of Texas, and they both held out to the public they were husband and wife while living in the state of Texas. The evidence also has to show that the parties intended to have a present and permanent marital relationship, and neither party can be under the age of 18. Today, people wait longer to marry than they used to, which can result in an unintended problem. As time goes on, many couples end up with disputed facts. For example, one party may say, “I thought since we lived together for so long and shared finances, we were in a common law marriage.” Conversely, the other party might say, “That wasn’t my intent. Sure, we did have a joint bank account with both of our names on it, and I did introduce you to my friends as my spouse...

read more

Kids, Hobbies and Tinder? 8 Tips for Dating After Divorce

During the day, Heather Buen, MBA, works as an analyst for a Texas energy company, but to her thousands of social media followers, she’s better known as the Dallas Single Mom. In 2010, the divorced mom of three and freelance journalist launched a blog to share insight about what she knows best – being a single mom. Since then, the Dallas Single Mom has evolved into a lifestyle blog. According to Heather, “Today, the blog offers a lot of advice for women over 35 about how to re-invent themselves following a transition (such as divorce), deal with empty nest syndrome and get back into the dating scene.” In her other roles as a public speaker and online consultant, Heather regularly talks with women in transition about her Four Pillars of JOY: Career, Learning and Education, Creativity and Family. As she explains, “As a caveat, when a woman navigates life after divorce, it really is about creating a starting point around these four priorities in her new found identity/chapter, where she is no longer in a relationship. The goal is to create a fulfilling life for herself – whether she ends up in another relationship or not – where these pillars encompass her life.” Before ending up with her current partner, Heather’s dating experiences ran the gamut of good and bad, and she learned a lot along the way. She graciously agreed to share her tips for dating after divorce with Connatser Family Law. Tip No. 1: Find your emotional center. Heather encourages women to figure out who they are as individuals before dating or entering into another relationship. She also recommends women speak with a licensed therapist for advice. “It’s important to find your emotional center and get strong emotionally, so you can figure out who you are and what your goals are when it comes to dating. Therapy can really help women overcome fears and gain confidence,” Heather says. For tips on how to keep emotions in check during divorce, check out this past post: Emotions Run Sky High During Divorce: Here Are 5 Ways to Stay Grounded Tip No. 2: Place a priority on physical health. Sure, most women want to look their best when they start dating again, but taking time to refocus on getting back in shape is also good for their overall health. As Heather explains, “Women need to dedicate time for physical health. Working out and eating right is essential, because going through a divorce is very stressful, which can be taxing, both physically and emotionally.” Tip No. 3: Get your finances in order. Heather encourages divorced women to plan for the future and get strong financially. “Do you want to start dating to find someone who can support you financially? Did that work out well the first time? I encourage women to work on becoming financially independent, so they can make their own decisions, go out on their own and pursue activities they enjoy,” Heather says. Tip No. 4: Make time for new hobbies and interests. Life after divorce is about more than dating and finding a new relationship. According to Heather, “It’s great to have interests of your own, and it’s enjoyable to share common interests and experiences outside of dating with friends and potential dates. Find a new hobby, revisit an old one, and think about places and things you want to discover, then add those interests to your online dating profile.” (See Tip No. 7) Tip No. 5: Seek professional advice before telling kids you are dating. Heather often turns to her therapist for tips on communicating with her...

read more

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...

read more

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...

read more

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