At the top of your divorce priority list, you will find the subject far and away from the most important to you. If you are a parent going through a divorce, 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 critical issue in the case. We can "punt" on every other issue, and as long as their children were to remain a considerable part of their life, then the divorce could be considered a success.
It is undoubtedly essential to keep every issue in your divorce in perspective and not lose sight of the importance of all of the problems 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, 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 regarding parenting time and child custody.
The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, would like to continue with our current 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 achieve 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 tell me they want "full custody" to exclude their spouse. When I press the person on this subject, they will say 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 domestic and family violence situations, 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 their children's lives. It does not matter if the parents are no longer married, either. It is thought that children are best off having substantial contact with both parents after a divorce has concluded. The default parenting plan in Texas is that you and your spouse will be named joint managing conservators of your child.
Joint managing conservators share in the rights and duties of raising your children. Note that I didn't say that the time you can spend with your child will 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 through this; it is essential.
Again, it is unrealistic to expect you to present a case to a judge that will justify their not awarding your spouse with any parenting time, rights or duties. If you intend 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 have with your attorney so that you and they can discuss how to consider those concerns during negotiations.
Encourage the relationship of your child and their other parent.
This piece of advice regards both the divorce itself and the post-divorce 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 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 despite the personal differences you have with them.
Doing so will benefit your children but will also help you. The fact is that you will want to have a life of your own after the divorce. If your ex-spouse ultimately 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 them to be a good parent.
Parent with your ex-spouse, not despite them
After your divorce, the best-case scenario for you and your spouse is that you each can lead your own separate lives. Still, it can also raise your children—a united front for discipline, academics, extracurriculars, and other vital issues. Children can identify parenting weaknesses in the chain of command with relative ease. If you are telling your child one thing and your ex-spouse is telling them something different, there is no consistency there, and your child cannot glean any lessons to learn.
If you cannot speak to your spouse, do your best to send emails providing them with essential details on your children. If your child were 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 to respond to issues you all face as parents.
I do not mean to imply that you and your ex-spouse have to be friends or see eye to eye on every issue related to your children. My wife and I have what I consider 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 that we know the other one is making their points based on the 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.
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 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 challenging; 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. 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 consultations with a licensed family law attorney six days a week. It would be an honor to speak to you about your family law situation to address your concerns and present how our office may help you and your family.