At the top of your divorce priority list you will find the subject that is far and away the most important to you. If you are a parent who is going through a divorce then you will almost certainly have your children (who are under age 18) at the top of your particular list. In all of the divorce cases that I have had the privilege of representing people on, I cannot think of one parent going through a divorce who did not tell me that by far their children were the most important issue in the case. We can “punt” on every other issue and as long as their children were to remain a huge part of their life then the divorce could be considered a success.
It is certainly important to keep every issue in your divorce in perspective and to not lose sight of the importance of all of the issues of your case, your children understandably take on special significance in a divorce case. Whether you anticipate being the parent with whom your children primarily reside with or you are the parent who will likely have visitation rights, you need to enter your divorce with a strategy and plan to achieve your goals in regard to parenting time and child custody.
The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC would like to continue with our recent theme of presenting “best practices” blog posts to you all as we touch on the subject of child custody and divorce today. If you have been wondering about just how you can go about achieving your goals with the least amount of turmoil then today’s blog post is right up your alley.
Your spouse is going to be awarded time with your child
Many parents will come into our office for an initial consultation and will tell me that he or she wants “full custody” to the exclusion of their spouse. When I press the person on this subject he or she will tell me that in their estimation the only reasonable outcome of their divorce will be that their spouse will not get awarded any time with their children after the divorce for any number of reasons.
While this is a possibility in situations that involve domestic and family violence, it is unlikely to happen in any other scenario. The fact is that the state of Texas wants to encourage parents to take active and involved roles in the lives of their children. It does not matter if the parents are no longer married, either. It is thought that children are best off with having substantial contact with both parents after a divorce has concluded. In fact, the default parenting plan in Texas is that you and your spouse will be named joint managing conservators of your child.
Joint managing conservators basically share in the rights and duties associated with raising your children. Note that I didn’t say that the time you are able to spend with your child is gong to be equal or the same. However, decision making abilities associated with medical and educational choices are often shared equally between parents after a divorce with a few exceptions. The state of Texas understands that parenting means more than just spending time with your child though this too is important.
Again, it is unrealistic to expect that you will be able to present a case to a judge that will justify their not awarding your spouse with any parenting time, rights or duties. If your intent is to settle with your spouse in the divorce rather than proceed to a trial this is even more of an impossibility. Your best bet is to address whatever concerns you do have with your attorney so that you and he/she can discuss how to take into consideration those concerns during negotiations.
Encourage the relationship of your child and their other parent
This piece of advice is in regard to both the divorce itself and the post-divorce time period. Remember that no matter how you feel about your spouse, your children probably don’t feel the same. Even if they do, it is critical to a child’s development that they be able to have contact with both parents. It can take an incredibly “big” person to understand this and encourage your children to have a relationship with the other parent in spite of the personal differences you have with him or her.
Doing so will benefit your children but will also benefit you. The fact is that you will want to have a life of your own after divorce. If your ex-spouse completely falls off the map you will be left as the only parent who can be there for soccer practice, costs associated with church camp and other parenting responsibilities. As much as you do not like your spouse right now, you still want him or her to be a good parent.
Parent with your ex-spouse, not in spite of him or her
The best case scenario for you and your spouse after your divorce is that you each are able to lead your own separate lives but are also able to come together on the subject or raising your children. A united front when it comes to discipline, academics, extracurriculars and other important subjects is incredibly important. Children can identify weaknesses in the chain of command when it comes to parenting with relative ease. If you are telling your child one thing and your ex-spouse is telling him or her something different there is no consistency there and your child is not able to glean any lessons to learn.
If you cannot stand to speak to your spouse do your best to send emails providing him or her with important details on your children. If your child was grounded for breaking a rule it would be great if that grounding could continue at your home. Again, there is value in consistently offering reasonable discipline as a response to issues that you all face as parents.
I do not mean to imply that you and your ex-spouse have to be friends, or to see eye to eye on every issue related to your children. My wife and I have what I consider to be a strong marriage but she and I disagree with some frequency on many issues related to our children. We get through those disagreements by discussing them. What always gets us through these disagreements is the fact that we know the other one is making their points based on an unconditional love of our kids. If you and your spouse can both keep these things in mind during the divorce and after it has concluded your children will be far better off.
Do not speak ill of your child’s other parent
Both during and after the divorce be careful not to speak in poor terms of your child’s other parent. It is easy to do so. It may even make you feel good to let out an insult about your ex-spouse or their family. However, you cannot contextualize the comment sufficiently to help a four year old child understand what you meant when you said that their daddy was a four letter word.
Your court will likely have instituted a temporary or standing order that bars you from engaging in this sort of behavior now and into the future as well. Beyond merely abiding by court orders you will not do anything to strengthen your relationship with your child by continually denigrating your ex-spouse. Be civil and remember when your mother told you years ago: if you don’t have anything nice to say about a person, consider not saying anything at all.
Divorce is tough, you need an attorney who is too
The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC work hard to help our clients achieve goals in divorce and other areas of family law as well. We promise to put your interests ahead of our own. If you are interested in speaking to our office about developing an attorney-client relationship please do not hesitate to contact us. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week with a licensed family law attorney. It would be an honor to be able to speak to you about your family law situation in order to address your concerns and present how our office may be able to help you and your family.