The life of a military spouse is one filled with uncertainty. From not knowing where you are going to live over a two or three years basis to not knowing when your spouse is going to be called into activity or put on deployment and issues relating to child custody as you begin a divorce, you have a lot on your mind at all times. Fortunately, you also can work with experienced professionals to assist you in whatever you are going through in your particular child custody or divorce-related matter.
From what I can tell, there is nothing more advantageous for a person going through a divorce than having a support system based on family, friends, and experienced legal advisors. It takes more than you to make it out of a divorce with your sanity and family intact. While your family may be changing due to the divorce, your relationships with your children and extended family can be strengthened in many ways due to an increased effort to care for one another and two work on your problems in this type of setting. I have even seen a spouse going through a divorce reconcile with parents and loved ones who otherwise may not be able to come to their assistance but for that reconciliation.
Many spouses who go through divorce enter into a case with no knowledge of expectations or plans. We call this flying blind in many areas of our life, and it certainly would seem that way for a divorce. If you do not enter into your divorce with a plan in mind and goals to achieve, you are doing a disservice to your family. It is crucial for you all to focus on the most important issues for your family and then plan out a strategy for achieving your goals in both the short and long term. Families that have goals at the beginning of divorce are much easier to work with and serve as an attorney than folks who enter into a divorce with no specific goals in mind.
For one, having goals for your divorce means focusing on what you want your desired finish to look like. Many people go through a divorce and worry about getting through the case on a day-to-day basis. This is not ideal, and you should be able to think about what you want your case to look like at its conclusion rather than where your case is right now. Of all the attributes of successful people in divorce, I think this is among the most important.
There are many goals that you can have in a divorce, especially in the military. The military has specific rules on how a person can receive benefits from military retirement after a divorce. It would be best if you learned more about those rules and how they applied to your family. For instance, did you know but in most cases, you need to be married to your spouse for at least 10 years concurrent with their military service to receive benefits from their retirement? This is something that most people we're aware of, but you need to know.
Otherwise, child custody matters are among the most important for any parent going through a divorce. Truthfully, most parents will tell you that they care more about child custody than any other subject combined. This makes sense on a lot of levels, and she did not surprise us. For that reason, I wanted to spend some time talking about child custody if used in conjunction with military divorces in Texas.
What is the purpose of having joint legal custody of your children while in the military?
The purpose and thought behind joint legal custody for Texas military spouses are that one parent will have primary physical custody of her children. Still, both you and your spouse will be able to take part and have an equal say in the major decisions of your child's life. When we talk about major decisions, we speak about issues like their health, education, and ability to lead productive and happy lives. Essentially, we are talking about all the different subjects that a person typically would think about when it comes to raising a child. These are the most important subjects to people who are going through a divorce and have children.
In many cases, however, when two parents have an equal say in subjects related to custody, there may be problems about parents disagreeing on various subjects. For example, some parents will believe that their child should attend in person virtually during a pandemic, while others will believe that their child should be in school at all costs. This may have been a problem that you and your family ran into during the pandemic. As such, you may need to work on having a person to play tiebreaker who can be named in your final decree of divorce. That person may be a counselor, therapist, doctor, or another third party willing and able to intercede and play a tiebreaker. Not every person will have someone in their life who can play this role, but it can be beneficial for those that can find a person like this who is willing to play a role to help the child and their.
Your custody orders will require that you and your spouse make every effort to allow your child to have a meaningful relationship with both parents. This means that you will not be able to prevent your child from seeing the other parent during their previously determined periods of possession. This could mean that if your co-parent does not pay you the correct amount of child support on time, you will have to look past this and allow visitation and possession. The nonpayment of child support is not a valid reason to withhold visitation with your kids and your co-parent.
Another requirement of your court order will be that you and your co-parent are prohibited from making demeaning, insulting, or otherwise negative comments about one another in front of your children. This cannot be easy. It's human nature to have frustrations about the subject matter that is the most important to us. Certainly, you may have valid reasons to be upset with your co-parent about some aspect of your divorce or post-divorce life. However, your final divorce decree will be clear about not discussing sensitive matters like this with your children or saying negative things about your co-parent in front of the kids. Remember that children cannot contextualize comments about their co-parents. They may hear the things that you have to say and react in a way that would harm their relationship with them.
In other words, you cannot engage in behavior that will alienate your child from your co-parent. Alienating behavior is any behavior you engage in that actively harms the relationship and parent-child bond between your children and your co-parent. Certainly, it is important to remember the adage that if you don't have anything nice to say about your co-parent that you should not say anything at all. This can be a nice way for you to begin to get away from bad habits that may end up harming your mental health. You do not have to constantly bad-mouth your co-parent to make yourself appear better in the eyes of your kids. More is caught than taught when it comes to children. They will seek how you act and take their cues from this behavior much more than the words you say- good or bad.
At a certain point in your post-divorce relationship with your co-parent, you will have to come to terms with the reality that they will parent your children differently than you do. You have confines set up via your court orders that require them to abide by certain rules for raising your children. However, those same rules apply to you. Taking different approaches to parents, even approaches you disagree with is not barred by court orders. Learning to understand this reality which doing what you can to improve your relationship with your kids is extremely important.
Co-parenting is a term that I have used quite a bit in today's blog post and is one that you will begin to learn more about as your divorce case wears on. You have been co-parenting with your spouse since the birth of your child though you likely did not think of it in those terms. Rather, when you and your co-parent lived in the same house, you couldn't help but coordinate your efforts better with your spouse because you all saw each other every day and lived under the same roof. This is opposed to your divorce life now that either you or your spouse have moved out of the family home.
Cooperating with your co-parent is a skill many parents coming out of a divorce do not have. You have spent such a long time disagreeing with them that it is now difficult for you to go the other direction and work with your co-parent to raise your child. Co-parenting does not mean that you all have to magically agree on every subject under the sun when parenting your child. Rather, co-parenting means having open lines of communication with one another to help arrive at decisions that are in your child’s best interests. Sometimes it can become difficult to look past your ego and sense of right/wrong and make decisions purely in your child's best interests. This is understandable but is not what is best for your child or your family.
It would be best if you began flexing your co-parenting muscles early on in your post-divorce life. The reality of your situation is that major questions are likely to come up in your child's life where you and your co-parent do not necessarily see eye to eye. Issues like religious practices, school issues, medical issues, and extra-curricular activities are just a sampling of the subjects that you and your co-parent are likely to encounter together; even if you don't agree on every single one of these subjects, you all need to begin working on having an open stream of dialogue between one another.
If possible, you and your co-parent should select schools, daycares, doctors, and extra-curricular activities together. You may find that you disagree with one another on a particular subject at first, only to find that after actually having a discussion and talking the issue through with one another, you all agree on more than you would have thought. There is no doubt that there is room for disagreement with your co-parent on these sorts of issues. However, you will never serve your child well by ignoring those disagreements and putting them off for another day. Learn how to disagree productively with your co-parent, and you will be in a much stronger position as a parent and co-parent.
Next, you should understand that you can obtain emergency medical care for your child without obtaining permission from your co-parent. This should not come as a surprise, but I know from experience that it is surprising for many parents who have gone through a divorce. You may be so fixating and having to run by every decision you want to make for your child past your co-parent that you forget that time truly is of the essence in some situations. In those circumstances, you should not have to put your child in harm's way. Making emergency decisions for your child based on the information available to you is not prevented by your court order.
Unfortunately, one issue that I have seen happen from time to time about post-divorce families is that one parent may attempt to shield information from their other parent for any number of reasons. That parent may be concerned with how the other parent behaves in certain situations. Or, the child may have asked one parent not to tell the other parent about a certain upcoming event. Either way, you must understand that sharing information with your co-parent is not only the right thing to do, but it is likely going to be required under the terms of your court orders.
This covers sports events, dance performances, parent-teacher conferences, doctor’s appointments, and other events like these. I have seen the impact of parents withholding information like this from their co-parents. It breeds a sense of mistrust between parties, causes children to wonder whether their parents care about their well-being, and puts you and your co-parent into a situation where you escalate this behavior over time to match the other person. None of this is beneficial for your family- most especially for your child.
One last subject that I wanted to talk with you about today is how to handle your child getting sick. I have seen many parents disagree with how and what you should do when your child is under the weather. Likely, this is not a subject that will be covered in your final decree of divorce unless you actively seek to have that information included in your paperwork. For instance, if your child has a chronic illness and you know that they will likely be missing school or needing to attend doctor appointments regularly, this may be a subject that you need to consider adding to your court orders.
Either way, if your child gets sick while in your possession, you need to tell the other parent about that. Especially in this age of COVID-19, parents are worried about the health of their kids. For example, many parents can see if their child went to school each day via email updates and things of that nature. Your co-parent may become worried if they do not receive an email at the beginning of the school day to say that your child is present in the classroom. Rather, you should tell your co-parent about any anticipated absences if your child is in school on a particular day of possession. This is not only w courteous and thoughtful behavior, but it also will help breed a sense of trust between you and your co-parent.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact 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 in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are helpful in that you can learn a great deal about family law in Texas but also learn something about how your family's circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.