5 Ways to Co-Parent Like a Ninja During Holidays and Summer Vacations

By Christine Powers Leatherberry Whether you’re thinking about the upcoming holidays or want to ensure co-parenting with your ex goes smoother next summer, it pays to plan ahead. You’ll also have a better shot at co-parenting ninja-hood if you and your ex work together and agree on a co-parenting plan that works well for everyone involved. Ready to start co-parenting like a ninja during upcoming holidays and summer vacations? Consider the following tips.   No. 1: Review your parenting plan and holiday schedule. If it’s been a few years since your parenting plan and possession schedule were agreed upon, it may be time for an update. Children’s needs, activities and interests can change drastically over time. Schedule time with your ex (and, if necessary, a mediator or parenting coordinator/parenting facilitator) to make adjustments. Once both parties agree to the changes, their respective attorneys can file any necessary paperwork. If you’re in the process of divorce and need to make plans for an upcoming holiday or vacation, your divorce attorney can explain what the default possession schedule in the Texas Family Code provides and whether a hearing will be necessary to address holiday and vacation plans. For additional tips, check out our holiday co-parenting infographic.  No. 2: Keep the shared family calendar up to date. Shared calendars help keep everyone on the same page and are readily available online. Some judges even require parents to use shared calendars, like Our Family Wizard, during the divorce process. However, shared calendars only work when they are accurate, so agree to diligently update the calendar when new events or activities arise. These include the children’s school and extracurricular activities, doctor appointments, family celebrations, birthday parties and other outings, as well as upcoming vacations. Newly divorced? Check out our back-to-school tips here.  No. 3: Discuss how to handle unforeseen costs and expenses. Who pays for what should be covered in your parenting plan; however, it isn’t unusual for unexpected events or activities to come up during summer vacation and holiday breaks. For example, say your son is invited to join his best friend and his parents for a weekend ski trip, and they’ll cover all expenses except airfare. You could ask the other parent to split the cost of the flight, or agree that the more affluent parent will pay a larger portion or all of the expense. No. 4: Be proactive about planning YOUR solo time. If you’re not used to spending summer vacation or holiday time without your kids, being apart could be difficult for you. To ease the loneliness, schedule activities for yourself while the kids are away. Whether that means reconnecting with old friends, going on vacation, pursuing a new hobby or donating time to a favorite charity, staying busy helps time fly and can be fulfilling as well. No. 5: Remember, the kids come first. Splitting children’s holiday and vacation time with another parent can be challenging, especially during and following a high-conflict divorce. To help minimize trauma and maximize enjoyment for your child, try to be as kind and flexible as possible with your ex. This will hopefully encourage him or her to do the same in return. If you find it impossible to co-parent – regarding holidays or otherwise – bring in a mediator or parenting coordinator/parenting facilitator to help sort through any issues. Your family law attorney can make recommendations if you need help finding one. Christine Powers Leatherberry is a compassionate family lawyer who is equally comfortable in the courtroom as she is counseling her clients one-on-one. To learn more about divorce and child custody in...

read more

Thinking About Dating During Divorce? 7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t

By Aubrey Connatser If you’re in the process of a divorce and thinking about getting back into the dating scene, you may want to think twice. Not only can dating during divorce potentially jeopardize your divorce settlement and child custody arrangement, it can rock the emotions of everyone involved. Before you start downloading dating apps, consider the following reasons NOT to date during divorce. No. 1: It could take longer to finalize your divorce. If your spouse hasn’t come to terms with your split – which usually takes time – finding out that you’re dating someone else probably isn’t going to go over well with them. Depending on his or her current state of mind, it could feel like you’re pouring salt on their wounds, or you could end up fanning the flames of their anger. People who are upset and/or angry are typically less likely to want to make life easy for you or work with you to settle the divorce amicably. They could very well want to make you feel as miserable as they do, which in some cases, means drawing the divorce case out. No. 2: It could jeopardize your divorce settlement. In Texas, the judge will consider a couple legally married until their divorce decree is signed, sealed and delivered. An affair either party has prior to the divorce being finalized could be considered adultery, which could support a fault-based judgment against the adulterer, since adultery is one of the seven grounds for divorce in Texas. The issue here is that questions could be raised as to whether community funds are being used to pay for entertainment, gifts, loans or trips for a lover, leaving you subject to a reimbursement or waste claim. If the judge finds that misuse of community monies has occurred, your spouse could be awarded a larger portion of the community estate when all is said and done. No. 3: It could intensify the angst your children are feeling. Going through a divorce is a tumultuous time for everyone involved, but children can take it especially hard. Bringing someone new into the mix can be confusing and stressful for children. Plus, the time you spend dating or with a new lover is precious time taken away from your kids. Don’t underestimate the fragility of your child’s mental health right now – they need as much attention as you are able to give. Check out this past post where Aubrey shares five valuable resources to help kids cope during divorce. No. 4: It could complicate co-parenting and child custody. If your spouse is hurt or angry that you’re dating someone else, how eager do you think he or she will be to amicably co-parent and share custody with you? They may also have concerns about your child spending time with your new lover and whether that will affect the child negatively. Don’t be surprised if the other parent fights tooth and nail over every item in the parenting agreement or if they’re unwilling to let you keep your child an extra day for a special trip. No. 5: It could cost you more to get divorced. Whenever you do anything that complicates or drags out your divorce, you’ll most likely end up paying more fees to your attorney. If your spouse isn’t pleased that you’re dating before your divorce is finalized, your case could get prolonged, and therefore more expensive, if your spouse pursues relief from the court to keep the kids from being around your new love interest. Want to keep costs in check during your divorce? Avoid these eight mistakes....

read more

Keep Calm and Parent On: 9 Essential Co-Parenting Tips During High Conflict Divorces

By Alissa Castro During a high-conflict divorce, interacting with a future ex-spouse can be emotionally draining. However, when children are involved, minimizing contact – by phone, email or in person – typically isn’t an option. Parents need to communicate regularly about exchanges, soccer games, school projects, piano lessons, etc. – not to mention which parent will have possession of the children and when. So how can couples successfully co-parent during the emotional rollercoaster of divorce – especially when one of the parents would rather escalate conflict than get along? At Connatser Family Law, we recommend the following nine tips. Tip No. 1: Never forget – kids come first. Divorce is stressful regardless of the circumstances, and it can be especially troubling for children. Before you say or do something, consider how those actions will affect the kids. Because children often have different perspectives than parents on topics during divorce, it can also be helpful to schedule time for children to meet with a family therapist or member of the clergy to discuss any concerns. Find more helpful resources to help kids cope in this past post. Tip No. 2: Don’t bad mouth the other parent. One of the first pieces of advice we give parents: Don’t speak poorly of the other parent in front of the children and ask friends and family members to do the same. Be the bigger parent. Keep in mind that half of your child’s DNA comes from the other parent. If you disparage your spouse, the child may believe you think less of him or her, too. Tip No. 3: Follow the Golden Rule. Treat people the way you want to be treated and opt for the kill-them-with-kindness strategy. As Michelle Obama famously said, “When they go low, you go high.” We get it, taking the high road isn’t easy. However, you’re better off going into court with clean hands, without threats or nasty emails showing up in evidence, which is likely to position you unfavorably in the eyes of the judge. Tip No. 4: Try to give the other parent the benefit of the doubt. He or she will probably make mistakes, but so will you. For example, if the other parent is always five minutes late picking up the kids, ask yourself, is that a battle worth fighting? If the parent is consistently late on certain days and that tardiness is creating a problem for the child, maybe he or she has a good reason for being late. Instead of attacking the other parent, bring the issue up directly with him or her. Explain how you are seeing a pattern on certain days or times and ask if adjusting your schedules could help. The goal here is to work together to co-parent like you’re still married. Collaborative problem solving and a willingness to work together – without attacking each other – is what your children need to see. Tip No. 5: Resist escalating conflict. In the midst of a high-conflict divorce, tensions are running high, and it can be tempting to send an angry text or email to the other party. By doing so, you’re just adding fuel to the fire, which isn’t healthy for anyone involved. Avoid responding immediately and take time to draft a thoughtful response before hitting send. Any correspondence sent to your spouse can be submitted as evidence and you want to avoid damaging your case. Tip No. 6: Utilize professionals to settle disagreements. Whether your disagreements are few or the other parent refuses to co-parent with you in any way, a parent facilitator or coordinator can be...

read more

Lend a Hand: 5 Big and Small Ways to Help Victims of Domestic Violence Now

During the time it takes you to read this story, 30 women will be assaulted during acts of domestic violence. On behalf of those moms, aunts, sisters, daughters, cousins, friends and neighbors – and their children – Connatser Family Law asked Jan Langbein, CEO at Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support in Dallas, what we all can do to make a difference. When we spoke to Langbein, the shootings of a domestic violence victim and her eight friends (one who survived) in Plano, Texas were fresh in her mind. “Our community is still reeling from the mass homicide in Plano during a football watching party. The woman did exactly what we tell victims of domestic violence to do – which is get out of an abusive relationship and surround yourself with friends. She had no idea how much danger she was in, and her friends certainly didn’t either,” Langbein says. Ready to “get out?” Here’s information on how to leave an abusive relationship and protect your kids. In order to make a difference, Langbein says, “We all have a responsibility to know the signs of domestic violence long before a tragedy like the one in Plano ever happens.” Common signs, actions or traits of someone who is likely to be an abuser: Hyper-vigilant, such as needing to know where his partner is every moment of the day. Extremely jealous. Transfers blame for problems he contributed to. Aggressive with wait staff or other service professionals. Does or says things that make your hair stand up on end. Common signs, actions or traits of a victim of abuse: Unexplained bruises. Days missed from work that seem excessive or unexplainable. Change in patterns or behavior, such as not going out as much. Limiting or halting communications with family and friends. People need to be more proactive about stepping up when something seems off or intuition tells them a woman or child may be in peril. Langbein recently experienced this situation at the DFW Airport. As she explains, “I was waiting at the gate for my flight to board, and a man was really going off on his wife and yelling at her. My gut told me she was at serious risk for getting hurt. When she got up to go to the bathroom, I followed her in and gave her my business card – I didn’t do it in front of him.” Langbein strongly believes it’s our responsibility as human beings to say something if we see something, even when it feels uncomfortable. “We need to step up long before a woman starts thinking about leaving her abuser or entering a shelter. This requires a change in mindset, where we acknowledge that everyone needs to play a part in ending domestic violence. We also need to do so 365 days a year, not just the 31 days during Domestic Violence Awareness Month,” Langbein says. Five ways you can help – before, during and after a victim of domestic violence seeks help   No. 1: Change your mindset and take responsibility. According to Langbein, “Domestic violence happens everywhere. After the Plano shooting, I heard people say, ‘I can’t believe it happened in Plano.’ That’s where the problem resides. You can’t be surprised if it happens down the street because it happens everywhere. It’s not an economic thing, and it’s not an education thing. It’s about power and control.” When you see something, say something.   No. 2: Know what resources are available in your community. Don’t feel like you have to “fix things” for that person. Even if you can’t provide financial support or...

read more

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

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