What happens after a family law case? This is a question that not many people will ask around the time that their case is coming to a close. Now that I have been able to work with families for some time in family law cases and have gained some experience doing so, I always make it a point to share with folks what they can expect in their lives after the issues come to a close. Most people are understandably concerned with completing their case that they do not take the time to consider all the changes that they will see in their lives once their case comes to a close.
It is important to note that post-divorce or post-child custody life will be a lot longer than your case’s shelf life. This may seem like the most obvious statement in the world, but the reality of your situation is that your family law case will last for only a short time, while your life after your case will likely last for far longer. This is a good thing. You don’t want the most significant event of your life to be your family law case. Ideally, your family law case will be the stepping stone to a much more positive post-family case life for you and your family.
However, because these cases are so important, I always recommend that clients begin to think early and often about what their post-divorce or post-child custody case life will look like. The difficulty associated with this is that it is easy to wander into a family law case, but it is more challenging to walk out of a family law case and succeed in the time. You are immediately following the conclusion of your case. There are so many factors at play and so many new factors that you may have trouble adjusting two whatever your life ends up looking like.
Hopefully, the outcome of your case would have been positive, Ann; you are satisfied with its results. Sometimes taking a different perspective on your case and being able to step away from it for a short time can give some additional perspective that you could not consider during the pendency of your family law matter. Think of it like how you would view a painting when you are an inch away from it versus how you would consider a picture when you’re 6 feet away from it. A different perspective may allow you to take a more honest view of it.
When you have children involved in your family law case, you must view the results of your case from your child’s perspective. No matter how things turned out for you financially, relationally, or emotionally it is most critical that your child is on solid footing after the case’s conclusion. Remember that you, as an adult, are better suited to take on the challenges of a post-family law case life versus your child. They lack the experience and maturity you do and will take more time to get used to those changes. With that said, I recommend you taking the time to make sure your child is adjusting well to post-divorce life.
For you, figuring out how to parent your children with an ex-spouse is probably the most critical challenge that you will have to meet. There is a term associated with parenting your child in a separate household from their other parent, and it is called co-parenting. This is a term that you probably became familiar with during your divorce or child custody case whereby you will share the parenting rights and duties with your former opposing party from the point. Just when you think you are getting rid of them, it becomes apparent that your lives will still be linked in a significant way through your children.
The critical aspect of this entire discussion is that you will need to learn how to share your child’s time, challenges, difficulties, and successes with the person you are likely not on the best of terms with. That is not necessarily a bad thing as it forces you to grow as a person and probably increases apparently. The better you adjust to these circumstances, the better you will be able to parent your child.
Do not assume that your child will be completely aware of all the circumstances of your post-divorce life. Sometimes we think that our children are more mature and more aware of their surroundings than they are. For instance, parents of teenage children sometimes assume that because their kids look and talk more like adults than children, they understand and perceive circumstances like adults. From my experience, both as a young person and an attorney, this is not the case. Children are not capable of understanding adult circumstances like an adult would. Even if they can intellectually grasp the subject matter of your divorce, they cannot emotionally handle events.
The gulf between appreciating circumstances from an intellectual perspective and considering them emotionally can be highly vast, even for a mature teenager or older child. It is up to you and your co-parent to guide them through this process and help them to adjust their expectations and view of normalcy in light of the changes seen in your divorce. With that said, I think you have a Golden opportunity to take advantage of the time you have with your child to help them grow as a person and show you how to do the same.
In today’s blog post from the law officer Brian Fagan, I would like to share with you the perspectives that I have gained as a practicing family law attorney to help you better approach your life as a parent sharing time with your child after a family law case. While the circumstances of this pandemic our novel and look to be only temporary, it is true that what attitude you have going into your post-divorce life can impact how you parent your child and how your child adjusts to life in two different households.
Talking with your child about the post-divorce world: presenting a united front
one of the major mistakes that many parents make after a divorce is to go to their respective corners and attempt to parent without working out a plan on how to talk to their child about what to expect in the post-divorce world that they inhabit. I can completely understand not wanting to interact much with your ex-spouse after a difficult divorce. After all, you did divorce them for a reason, and it is most likely due partly to not wanting to spend that much time with them for various reasons. However, this attitude can be destructive in a co-parenting scenario, and I recommend he resisted the temptation to do so.
The first thing I would do after a divorce would be to have an honest conversation with her ex-spouse about expectations surrounding how you both will be parenting your child. This may seem like a relatively straightforward conversation to have. Still, if you have ever gone through a divorce before, you will know better than anyone that setting aside your ego and putting the interests of your child first can be very difficult. The benefit to having done so would be to put your child in the best position possible in your post-divorce life and to avoid the possibility of future court dates.
You and your spouse likely had very different parenting styles, which may have led to some of the problems you experienced in your marriage. If it was challenging to parent together with your spouse living in the same home, imagine how difficult it will be to live in separate households. This is all the more reason to have honest discussions with your expose after the divorce about how you plan on providing consistency for your child in all areas of their life, specifically regarding school, extracurricular activities, and their general well-being.
Things that seem as simple as determining a time for your child to go to bed and a schedule for your child to be on as far as after and before school are significant. One aspect of divorce cases that many parents talk to us about is how their children respond positively to structure and consistency in their schedules. The whole divorce case may have thrown off your schedules, and you are now more likely to be able to get back on track as far as that is concerned. This is all the more reason to Work with your ex-spouse rather than against them when it comes to parenting.
One of the significant inconsistencies that I have been able to note from divorces in our area is that parents often are not consistent in how they discipline their children. For example, if you have decided to limit your child’s screen time or take away a favorite activity due to poor grades in school, then you must communicate this to your child’s other parent. If you do not do so, you cannot expect them to apply the same level of discipline at their home. On the other hand, if you do communicate the current field regiment at your own home, your ex-spouse may choose not to follow suit. This is something that you cannot help necessarily, but you can at least put yourself in a position for your child to receive consistent discipline in both homes.
When it comes to your child’s emotional well-being after a divorce, it is also essential to present a united front when it comes to your child’s place in both your life and that of your ex-spouse. Children have a way of internalizing negative emotions surrounding divorce and placing a lot of the blame of the separation on themselves. This may seem silly to us as adults, and you may know in your heart of hearts that the divorce had nothing to do with your child. However, your child likely does not have the maturity or ability to self-reflect in a way that allows them to understand that the divorce was not in any way their fault.
Instead, a child is more likely to believe that they are at fault for having caused the divorce. As a result, both you and your ex-spouse must make it known to your child that the divorce had nothing to do with them in that both of your goals are to place your child at the forefront of your lives if you all can have this discussion with your children together all the better. If not, having a debate and allowing your children to talk about their thoughts to you is a great idea. Minimizing distractions, turning off televisions and phones will show your child how important this topic is to both you and your ex-spouse.
Managing a visitation schedule after a divorce
One of the more challenging aspects of shared parenting after divorce is the emotional, relational, and logistical problems of sharing custody. As you likely will recall from your time as a married person, it was difficult enough to manage changes in schedules and things of that nature when you, your spouse, and your children were pulled in multiple directions. The reality is that now you are divorced in these challenges will only grow in importance over time.
That does not mean that you cannot intercede and step in to create a beneficial situation for your entire family and, most notably, your children. The easiest way to transition into living in separate households would be to adhere to the custody orders and Visitation schedule as closely as possible. This means arriving on time for pick up and drop off duties and giving your Co-parent the benefit of the doubt in situations where they may be running late. In my time as an attorney, I’ve learned never to assume that a person is acting maliciously when the more reasonable explanation is that they were merely negligent. Translation: don’t assume the worst in your ex-spouse when a more plausible explanation is lying right in front of you.
Next, it is essential to understand that while the custody orders as outlined in your final decree of divorce will be binding on both you and your ex-spouse in the future, that does not mean that you will always be able to abide by them. Emergencies arise, changes in schedules happen, and you all need to be flexible with managing these different scenarios. There is nothing wrong with making temporary modifications to your custody orders when the situation merits it.
Getting back to what I was talking about earlier in today’s blog post, if you and your ex-spouse can at least be civil with one another enough to work out common-sense solutions to everyday problems in custody and Visitation matters, then your entire family will benefit. It is frustrating for everyone involved, especially your attorneys, when two people cannot get along well enough to put their children first and work out temporary changes that benefit all parties involved. If you find yourself having to consider judicial options every time a slight modification is needed of your orders, then you are probably on the wrong track.
Instead, choose two put your children first in place their interests at the forefront of your life. Doing this may cause you to agree to things you otherwise might not want to do other than to relieve tension and create scenarios where your child can get as much out of your post-divorce family life as possible. Note that I have never said that this will be easy, but it certainly will be worth it for everyone involved if you can share parenting responsibilities, duties in time with your child effectively.
Questions about the material presented in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material presented in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are an excellent way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and the services that our attorneys provide to our clients daily.