After having represented many fellow Texans in divorce cases, I can tell you that the number one concern of parents is that they are concerned about the effect of the divorce on their children. How will the kids adjust to visiting one parent in a new home or even having to move due to the divorce? Easing the transition between having both parents at home to withstand visitation that requires a lot of movement can be difficult.
Fortunately, you do not have to go into this process alone and without assistance. Today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will seek to pick up where we left off yesterday by sharing some tips and tricks regarding visitation in a post-divorce world. I did my best to try and come up with suggestions and hints that will apply across the board for as many families as possible. However, if you have a specific question that does not relate to any of the material that we shared today, please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We can work to set up a consultation here in our office with an attorney.
Keep track of your kids' belongings.
It is easy; the more mobile your kids have to be, to lose their belongings. As the parent of two little girls, I know how kids like to travel with many things, even if you are going on a quick trip to the store. Water bottles, hygiene items, hair stuff (for girls), jewelry, clothes, sports equipment, school supplies, etc. These are all items that your child likely needs or uses daily. As such, it is your responsibility to help your kids keep track of their belongings. This goes double when you have younger kids who cannot keep track of their belongings without your assistance.
I would recommend helping your kids pick out what belongings they need to bring to their other parent's house at least a day before the hearing. Start by setting out clothes, medicines, toiletries, and other personal effects not to forget them. If there is a specific item that absolutely cannot be overlooked at the other parent's house, you can contact your ex-spouse to let them know. That way, your child and your ex-spouse can do their best to make sure the item comes home in a few days.
The communication aspect of planning to make sure items are not forgotten is crucial. This is an excellent way to keep an open line with your ex-spouse. Speaking about what your child needs and what should come home with them are a pretty delicate subject. If you warn your ex-spouse ahead of time about belongings that need to go home, it decreases the likelihood that your child will be without that item during the week. It will also allow you to discuss any problems or illnesses that your child has been dealing with.
The bottom line is that you should not be forced to shoulder the burden of packing the items, making a list, reminding your ex-spouse and child about the things, and then having to deal with the consequences of getting the item home. Place a great deal of responsibility on your ex-spouse and give your child as much responsibility as they can handle based on their age. Mistakes happen, and items can be forgotten, but if you have a system in place, the likelihood of that occurring decreases significantly.
Take the time to spend alone time with each of your kids.
One of the things that I think many parents miss out on in the post-divorce years with their kids is any opportunities to spend time one on one with each child. I realize this may be difficult for more prominent families, but you should let each of your children know how special they are and what each of them means to you. This can be as simple as doing yard work with one child and putting puzzles together with the other.
Parents are convinced that unless an activity is based on technology/expensive/time-consuming/social media-worthy, or something similar, it is the event that is not worth doing. To me, this could not be farther from the truth. You have the whole world available to you as far as entertainment is concerned. I think technology and modern conveniences have made it much easier for a parent to entertain their children. However, utilizing technology is that we have lost some of the personal relationships we have with the people in our lives.
My advice would be to avoid doing things that you think are noteworthy or cool and instead focus on activities that will focus on you and your child. In the months following your divorce, you could probably stand to take it easy on your budget. Don't just assume that just because you are spending dollars that you are spending quality time. One does not usually equal the other. Your kids want time with you, and deep down, don't care how they get it. Don't use the lack of funds as an excuse not to spend quality, one on one time with your kids immediately following your divorce.
Don't create conflict after a divorce- show respect to your ex-spouse.
The last thing you want to do after you just finished getting divorced is to have to head right back to court because of a disagreement that has started between you and your spouse. That's not to say that you all are going to agree on everything after the divorce. The likelihood of that is very low. However, if you disagree about something but are respectful towards your ex-spouse, the possibility of finding a mutually agreeable solution is relatively high. The possibility of having to go back to court in a situation like this is low.
I find that if you and your ex-spouse are constantly arguing with one another after the divorce, it will impact the tone of your visitation exchanges. For instance, I have had clients whose relationships with the ex-spouses were so bad that they had to exchange their kids during pickup/drop-off times at a local police station. Our client would video record his ex-wife to catch her in any bad behavior. His ex-wife would bring a family member to do the same to our client.
These folks never got into any altercations (that I knew of), but I saw a few of the recorded videos, and the tone of voice and the anger both people displayed towards one another were sad. Caught in the middle of this was a four-year-old boy who was traumatized by his parents' behavior. The worst part was that both parents seemed to have genuine love and concern for their child. Our client would go through a lot of trouble to be present for his son's extracurricular activities and other events.
All of this is in stark contrast to how badly he would treat the mother of his child. Neither parent was treating the other one poorly because it was intended to benefit the son somehow. On the contrary, their actions were visibly hurting the boy. I can only imagine the degree to which that child suffered during these pickup/drop-off sessions. The best I can do is to encourage you as a parent not to engage in similar behavior.
There are no qualifiers here to mention. Just don't do it. You're an adult. You just went through months of fighting with your spouse. If you find that you cannot help but be upset with your spouse, it may not be your spouse that you have a problem with. Seeking counseling or therapy in this type of situation may not be the worst thing in the world for you to consider.
How can you show a basic amount of respect towards your ex-spouse in connection with visitation scenarios? Let's walk through some examples right now before we go any further.
Pick up and drop off your child on time. I don't think any real explanation of why this is essential needs to be given. Coming late to things may be a habit for you at this stage of your life, but many people see you as disrespectful. When people constantly have to work around your schedule, you are laying the groundwork for a constant stream of anger and frustration that you will have to face from that person moving forward. Your kids are also caught in the middle of all this because they have to wait in vehicles, show up late for other things and get home late each weekend before school on Monday.
Don't spring visitation changes on your ex-spouse at the last minute. Do not expect your ex-spouse to be willing to accept changes to the visitation plans at the last minute. So, if you know that you will be running late to a pickup/drop-off time, you need to give your ex-spouse as much advance notice as possible about this development. If you cannot visit your child on the weekend for some reason, then you should tell your ex-spouse about the problem as quickly as possible.
Also, if you have a significant other in the picture and will introduce them to your children, you should be upfront with your ex-spouse about it. Do not allow your children to do the dirty work for you. There is nothing wrong with you dating again, but your ex-spouse should hear about it from you- not from your kids. Remember that your final decree of divorce likely has some rules in place that bar them from being in your home after 6:00 p.m. and before 6:00 a.m. Surprising your ex-spouse with news like this can lead to hurt feelings and will, generally speaking, make life difficult for you and your ex-spouse.
Update your ex-spouse if any of your information changes. If you move, you need to let the court know, and your ex-spouse know. This isn't a situation where you can be petty and not update your ex-spouse. What if you need them to come to pick up your child at a moment's notice? Or what if an emergency happens and your ex-spouse has to send help? Knowing where to send emergency personnel could be the difference between avoiding a lousy result and having something horrible happen to your family.
I have seen many spouses try to play games when it comes to not telling an ex-spouse where you live, what your new phone number is, and any other information that could help in the event of an emergency. "We can communicate through email!" is not a good enough excuse. We've just covered a couple of scenarios where an email will not suffice. Be the bigger person and update your ex-spouse regarding changes to your address or contact information when you need to.
More information on respect and communication in tomorrow's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained 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 with our licensed family law attorneys. These consultations can go a long way towards answering your specific questions. You can also learn a great about our office and how we can best assist you and your family.