As I'm sure you could imagine, a Texas child custody or divorce case can become quite heated, especially when children are exposed to stress for less than ideal circumstances. When families are confronted with a great deal of change, sometimes the changes and tumultuous nature of a family law case can bring the family together. On the other hand, most of the time, the heartache associated with a difficult family rod case can go a long way towards harming the bonds between parents and children. This can be true no matter how strong a relationship was before the beginning of the family law case.
With that said, I think it is important for you to understand the aspects of a family law case that can be especially difficult for families of all sorts. I also want you to understand where you can turn for help with the mending of a broken family after your family law case is over and done with. The trouble with the divorce or child custody case is that parties and their attorneys get lost in the day-to-day grind of the case and lose track of the big picture and long-term future of the family. After all, if it weren't for your desire to do something good for yourself and your family, you likely wouldn't have gone through with the case in the 1st place.
There are ways to avoid completely taking your family and putting you all through the wringer to maximize the opportunity or difficulty in stress in a case. While it is not always easy to do so, there are ample opportunities within a family law case for you and your opposing party to work together to minimize discord and amplify the bonds that you once shared as a family unit. Bear in mind that you all will still be responsible for caring for your children together as a team after the divorce or child custody case.
The term Co-parenting is thrown around quite a bit, especially at the end of a family law case. Co-parenting means that you and your opposing party we'll come together to share the responsibilities and duties associated with raising a child. This is despite your having different beliefs and perspectives when it comes to parenting and your living in different households. Regardless of any differences that you shared before your family law case and throughout the case itself, it would serve your child well for you to be able to Bury the hatchet and put their best interests first. this is easier said than done, but I believe that it is something that you can accomplish if you put your mind to it.
What aspects of a family law case can be especially divisive for a family like yours?
It could be incredibly humbling when you spend a great deal of time analyzing and performing postmortems on a failed marriage or failed family structure. Usually, when I make a mistake, I like to do everything I can to put it in my past and to make amends to do better in the future. That doesn't mean that you can always ignore prior mistakes, but it does mean that you can, on a minimal level, acknowledges mistakes but not dwell on them.
Unfortunately, a divorce or child custody case causes you and your Co-parent to come face to face with your shortcomings and failures consistently over a long period. This can cause even the most stable and caring parent to become defensive towards the other person involved in their case. More times than not, this can be a recipe for acrimony if you and your Co-parent do not make a concerted effort to avoid circumstances that may lead to your disrupting the family unit.
Taking the time to understand the positions of your spouse
If you are going through a divorce, the last thing that you probably want to do is spend a lot of time considering the positions of your opposing party and why he or he is doing the things that they are choosing to do during your case. For many people, seeing your spouse as a sort of adversary during the case is enough to drive you towards accomplishing your goals even more.
Rather than approach your spouse in a divorce scenario as an opponent, I recommend that you approach the divorce in general as a business transaction rather than a gladiator’s main event. It goes against our society's narrative in place for divorces, but it ultimately serves you and your family better. What I like to tell clients all the time is that it is difficult to say “yes” to something that you have spent a great deal of time saying “no” to. Rather, I would tell you that it is a great idea to go into your divorce with a mindset geared towards compromise rather than hand-to-hand combat.
I always like to talk to opposing counsels to find out where the opposing party's head is regarding the decisions and settlement offers being made. After practicing family law for a certain period, it becomes second nature to approximate a settlement offer from a party given a certain situation. I can guess what a mother of three kids under ten will ask for in things like child support, community estate division, and a possession schedule.
What I don’t know is what their client is thinking about or basing their positions on. It could be that some issue lingering below the surface is causing the other party to make ridiculous settlement offers and do hurtful things during a case; if I can learn more about why the other person is taking the positions that they are, then my client. I can approach settlement negotiations from a completely different vantage point.
What can you do in worst-case scenarios involving your child after a divorce?
My hope for you is that after your family law case, there is no need for any intervention, therapy, or counseling for your family. To be sure, most families do not go through an ordeal that is so tumultuous and upsetting that therapy is needed to bridge the gap in the relationship between parent and child. These may be the horror stories you hear about in the media and just from friends and family. However, from my experience, parents will typically tell me that their relationship with their children is still intact after a family law case.
However, I think it is always a good idea for you to have plans of action in mind to act intentionally if and when any problems arise regarding your children and your relationship due to it less than ideal divorce or child custody case. One of the many concerns that I hear from parents regarding their children, especially from fathers, is that they are afraid the family law case will result in their parental rights being either restricted or essentially terminated. I think many fathers feel this way because they have received threats from their spouse or Co-parent that at the end of the case, they hope that the father will not have any right to take care of the child or even be with the child. This is a threat only and is used to intimidate and coerce fathers primarily into negotiating for a point of weakness rather than from the point of strength.
The number one thing that I would tell you is that unless your family has a history of abuse or neglect within it, there is almost no way that I could conceive that your parental rights will be terminated or restricted due to a family law case. You may not end up being able to see your child or spend time with him as much as you would like, but that is a far cry from losing any ability to spend time with your child or make decisions on their behalf. As a result, you should not be concerned with strictly maintaining a relatively small chance of spending time with your child in the future.
Rather, the thing that I focus on with clients is ways to help them take advantage of the opportunities that they have with their children in their post-divorce lives. A standard possession order is the most typically awarded or negotiated upon post-divorce possession and Visitation plan for parents and children. This is the structure that we are familiar with for parents with Visitation rights for most of us. If you end up being the parent with visitation rights under a standard possession order, you will have Visitation opportunities on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends of each month, in addition to Holidays scattered throughout the year.
Well, this may be a far cry from how much time you are used to spending with your child; it is far from nothing. In many cases, the real danger that parents run into is that their relationship with their children can become estranged for many reasons after or even during a divorce or child custody case. Unfortunately, children can be made to take sides either organically or through coercion from the other parent. It is tough to stop this problem, and it requires a good deal of monitoring to make sure that a parent is not alienating your children from you.
Parental alienation after the conclusion of a family law case
This subject is broadly referred to as parental alienation. Parental alienation occurs when one parent attempts to coerce or manipulate a child against their relationship with the other parent. Most frequently, you see parental alienation act out in circumstances where your Co-parent would tell your children that you do not care about them, love them, or appreciate them. Your children would begin to withdraw from you emotionally and physically, in your relationship could take a serious turn for the worse.
As I noted a moment ago, this is a tough scenario for you to be in because you cannot constantly oversee your Co-parent's behavior around your kids. Included in most final orders in a family law case will be some prohibition against speaking negatively about the other parent in front of your children. In contrast, this is probably a good thing to include in your court orders; that doesn't mean that your Co-parent will necessarily follow the rules all the time. With that in mind, you need to take steps to repair broken relationships with your family and with your children if they need to arise. This is true even if you were not the one to necessarily cause the breakdown in the relationship in the 1st place.
What are some telltale signs of parental alienation?
It is not common for a parent to alienate their children from the other parent by telling them point-blank negative things about the other parent. That would be too obvious and could come back directly to hurt the parent, saying negative things about the other parent. If you believe that your Co-parent is attempting to alienate your children from you, here are a few telltale signs that alienation may be occurring.
If your children are being emailed by your Co-parent consistently while they are with you during your periods of Visitation, then that may be a subtle way of alienating your children from you. Constantly taking your children's time away from you when they have to answer a text message, phone call, or email will adversely impact your relationship with your children. Subconsciously, this teaches your children to constantly be on guard and alert to phone calls and other electronic messages from their Co-parent when they should be focusing on their time with you.
A big part of a family law case is willing and encouraging your children to have a strong and positive relationship with their other parents. Unfortunately, many parents do not take this part of post-divorce life seriously and go the other direction when it comes to helping to encourage a relationship to be built with an ex-spouse or Co-parent. If you get the impression that your Co-parent is actively encouraging your children to cut ties with you, this is an example of parental alienation.
Another good way to tell that your Co-parent is attempting to alienate your children from you is if they are constantly undercutting your parenting decisions by offering what their mother or father would do instead of what you are doing. This shows that not only does their other parent have a different way of parenting than you do, but it shows that the other parent is quick to point out those ways in conversation with your children. There is nothing wrong with your Co-parent having a different way to approach a subject than you do, but it is wrong to draw dividing lines between children and parents to point out those differences.
Reunification therapy as a means to combat parental alienation
Among the types of family therapy that are available is something called reunification therapy. Counselors and therapists will work with you and your children to help you bridge any divides that have occurred since the time of your divorce or child custody case. These sessions can be helpful because they put your children and yourself in a position where you can speak freely and openly about your family's concerns and any issues you have seen develop throughout your family law case. Accounts can help you to be an objective third party who can look into your situation and determine what sort of alienation is occurring, if any.
Family therapists in these situations attempt to be as neutral as possible. A family therapist will want to appear unbiased and hopes to draw the children's trust while also causing you to feel like the effort you are making to bridge this relational gap is working. Children have a difficult time understanding their thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a way that helps them improve their relationships with the people around them. If nothing else, a family therapist in reunification settings can help your children better understand and be aware of the things they say and do that can harm a relationship with you or their other parent.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
Thank you for joining us today on our blog post. We hope that the information shared with you today has been both unique and interesting for you as you consider your options in the world of Texas family law. If you have any questions about the material we shared today, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys are available six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video to schedule a free of charge consultation for you to discuss whatever circumstances are facing your family at this time.