Author Archive for Shawn Weber

6 Tips for Successful Holiday Co-parenting

By Shawn Weber, Family Law Attorney and Mediator

holiday co-parenting cookies

When we think of the holidays, we think of family.  Our traditions are all about bringing the family together and celebrating togetherness. We have Norman Rockwell style images in our heads of the family (and children) gathered around the table with something delicious.  Whether it’s lighting the menorah or setting out cookies for Santa, the Holidays inspire hopes for greeting card type scenery and happy times with our children.  After all, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

However, for single parents, the holidays can be especially trying.  As a family law attorney, I typically see an uptick in custody and visitation disputes prior to every major holiday.  It makes sense that the most emotionally meaningful calendar dates for people sometimes lead to the most emotionally driven family disputes.

It is always amazing to me that a time of year for celebrating peace on earth can be so full of conflict.  Often I will get a frantic call right before a special day.

Examples are:

  • “The kids were with my ex last year. Now he wants to take them again!”
  • “I have been planning a visit with my kids to see my parents in another state and now she is ruining our plans!  I already bought plane tickets!”
  • “He is trying to buy the kids with expensive gifts.  It makes me look terrible!  He knows he doesn’t pay me enough support and I can’t keep up with him!”
  • “She is threatening to show up right in the middle of our holiday dinner.”

Below are some tips learned through years of trial and error as a family lawyer to help co-parents get through the holidays:

Tip #1:  Be Specific In Your Holiday Co-Parenting Plan 

There is a reason why lawyers write everything down.  When you have your agreement in writing, there is less opportunity for playing games.  When I draft custody orders, I try to include a written holiday schedule with specifics about when the kids will be with each parent for which holiday.  For example, a provision might look something this:

“In every even-numbered year, Sarah shall be in the Father’s care at 10:00 A.M. on December 24 until 10:00 A.M. on December 25 and in the Mother’s care from 10:00 A.M. on December 25 until 10:00 A.M. on December 26.   In every odd-numbered year, this schedule shall reverse.”

(As an aside, notice that I split up the Christmas holiday in a way that lets both parents share in the fun.  This is a very typical type of provision to consider including in your holiday co-parenting plan.)

The more specific your order, the less confusing your holiday co-parenting will be on the day of the holiday.  Remember, confusion and ambiguity breed conflict and disagreement.

Tip #2:  Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute.  Discuss and Agree to Holiday Co-Parenting Plans Early.

Planning a trip to North Dakota with the kids for winter break?  Then make your holiday co-parenting plans and get your ex’s agreement early.  I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a party make plans and buy non-refundable tickets only to have those plans dashed at the last minute because they didn’t consult with the other parent.  Talk about it early.  Agree on travel plans.  Get it in writing.

Tip #3:  Talk to each other about gifts.

It can be very awkward when both parents buy little Susie a Big Hugs Elmo.  So, make an effort to coordinate.  And please, don’t make it a competition.  It’s about your child after all.

Tip #4:  Control the Relatives.

Your child does not need to hear anyone speaking ill of the other parent over turkey, even if he really is a big jerk.  Make sure that relatives and family members refrain from bad mouthing.  Remember, that’s your child’s other parent they’re talking about.  When you allow other people to speak ill of the other parent in front of your children, it only hurts the kids.

Tip #5:  Don’t be selfish.  Share!

There is a real temptation to want to keep all of the holiday fun for yourself.  Avoid that type of thinking.  When you are co-parenting, you simply may not get to spend every holiday with your child.  It’s the season of giving—remember?  However, you may consider (if you are up to it) spending a holiday together with the ex.  Why not do the Santa thing together? It can really make a holiday special for your child if you can pull it off without fighting.  Be realistic about it, though.  If you really can’t get through an evening with your ex without throwing your egg nog at him, then go the separate route.

Tip #6:  Respect Boundaries.

If it is your ex’s year to have the kids on a holiday, remember to be respectful of her time with the kids.  Don’t interfere.  Do not try to show up at the house unannounced during dinner.  Don’t worry.  I know it may be really difficult to be away from your little ones during a special holiday, but it will be okay. Don’t let your kids be the subject of a tug of war on a day that is supposed to be merry and joyful.  Let them experience the holiday without being placed in the middle of your struggle.  Just let go—at least for the holiday.  Your ex will be grateful and will be more likely to return the favor when it’s your year.

Holidays After Divorce – Bring Peace on Earth to Your Kids

My second appearance on “Real Divorce Talk”

real divorce talk divorce information

I was happy to appear again on the Facebook Live program Real Divorce Talk. This time, I co-hosted with my good friend Bryan Devore. The potential for this program as a divorce information resource really excites me.

About Bryan Devore

Bryan Devore co-founded Divorce Home Solutions.  There, he helps people gather needed facts to make tough choices (including whether to sell their home or to stay).  They provide helpful services along with access to trusted divorce pros guiding folks through the divorce transition.

Bryan and his partner, Jami Shapiro, also sponsor a  Separated and Newly Divorced Meetup support group.  They meet every two weeks on Tuesdays in Carlsbad from 6pm – 8pm.  Because each session is led by a therapist specializing in divorce, it’s a time for folks to learn and share.  Sharing experiences helps people realize they aren’t alone.

Watch Episode 2 of Real Divorce Talk for Relevant Divorce Information

This week’s Real Divorce Talk show featured Certified Divorce Financial Analyst Carlie Headapohl, divorce mortgage expert Eric Billock, nationally recognized author of The Good Divorce Dr. Constance Ahrons, and “Lemonade Divorce” attorney and mediator Allison Patton.

Today’s Topics: co-parenting, divorce emotions, divorce finances, mortgage lending during a divorce, divorce mediation, the Good Divorce, and Lemonade Divorce.

If you like what you see, then be sure to “Like” the show and follow.

For more divorce information, check out:

Forgiveness During Divorce: A key to finding peace

Watch my appearance on Real Divorce Talk on Facebook Live

We don’t get along very well. How can we possibly mediate our divorce?

Watch my appearance on Real Divorce Talk on Facebook Live

I was very pleased to have the opportunity to appear on Real Divorce Talk, a new show streaming via Facebook Live.  We talked about my “Tips to Have a Miserable Divorce.”  We also covered topics like emotions, Collaborative Divorce and divorce mediation. Be sure to leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Five Tips to Have a Miserable Divorce

Why “Fair” is the F-Word in Divorce Negotiations

Great post with tips for couples planning cohabitation

couple moving in for cohabitation

Our friends at ClosetBox just posted a great piece with 8 expert tips for couples thinking of living together.  The author, Brittany Anas, was kind enough to include my expert tip, which was to be sure and have a cohabitation agreement.  At least in California, the family code does nothing for non-married partners.  When there is a break-up, couples are treated like business partners in a civil dispute.  A cohabitation agreement goes a long way to help define expectations before moving in together.  That way,  if things don’t work out, there’s a plan.  It’s easy to prepare and can save a lot of heartache down the road.

Other tips for the ideal cohabitation included having a discussion prior to moving in, taking inventory of the stuff, choosing a theme for decor, creating personal space and splurging on the king-size mattress.  Thanks to ClosetBox and Brittany for a great post.

Read the article here.

Need an attorney to
prepare your cohabitation agreement?
Give us a call for a free 15-minute
telephone consultation at 858-410-0144.

 

Read Also:

FAQ: What is the purpose of a prenuptial agreement?

Prenuptial Agreements Are on the Rise, And More Women Are Requesting Them

The Prenuptial Agreement in California—Dotting the “i’s” and crossing the “t’s”.

 

How can I obtain a marriage annulment in California?

annulment or nullity of marriage

What’s the difference between a divorce and an annulment?

I often have a potential client call me and say that he or she wants a marriage annulment. Often the request is based on confusion about the differences between an annulment and a divorce. The differences are profound and I will attempt to lay them out here.

Dissolution of Marriage

First, a divorce is a dissolution of a marriage. In other words, we take a marriage that existed and terminate it. We speak in terms of “length of the marriage” being the period between the date of marriage and the date of separation. To get a divorce in California, a person must have lived within the State of California for six months and the county of residence for at least three months before filing. There is also a six-month waiting period from when the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is served before the divorce can be granted. With divorce come the issues of spousal support (or alimony) and division of community property.

Annulment

In contrast, if the court grants an annulment (or nullity), it is as if the marriage never existed. Crucially, a person does not need to meet the residency requirements. There is no six-month waiting period before the annulment is granted. Because the marriage never technically existed, issues of spousal support and community property typically (with some exceptions that I won’t get into here) fall by the wayside.

There are strict requirements for getting an annulment in California.

To get an annulment in California, the Court requires that there are specific “grounds”.  The available grounds for a nullity are:

  • The marriage was incestuous. (Cal. Fam. § 2200);
  • The marriage was bigamous (Cal. Fam. § 2201);
  • One of the parties was below the age of consent at the time of marriage (Cal. Fam. §2210(a));
  • One of the parties had a prior existing marriage to another person believed to be dead, but isn’t (Cal. Fam. §2210(b));
  • A party was of unsound mind at the time of marriage (Cal. Fam. §2210(c));
  • A party obtained the consent marry by fraud (Cal. Fam. §2210(d);
  • A party obtained the consent to marry by force (Cal. Fam. §2210(e); or
  • Either party was, at the time of marriage, physically incapable of entering into the marriage state, and that incapacity continues and appears to be incurable. (Cal. Fam. §2210(f)).

A party seeking an annulment must prove that one of the above grounds is met.  Otherwise, the court won’t grant the nullity and the party will need to seek a divorce.

Read More:

My Appearance on “Smarter San Diego” to Talk About Divorce Mediation

Forgiveness During Divorce: A key to finding peace

How much does it cost to go to divorce mediation?

Divorce Mediation: Why patience with your spouse is so important

 

cartoon diagram about patience and the difference between the plan and the reality of achieving success

In my divorce mediation career, I’ve learned over the years that people approach divorce from different places.  Sometimes people want the divorce very badly and are happy to get started.  Others are devastated by the breakup.

 

It’s not uncommon for a couple in the process of their separation to move at different speeds.  One party may be ready to move quickly while the other spouse may be having a terrible time and may need to move more slowly.  In my experience, the divorce mediation will only move as quickly as the slowest person.  That can be very frustrating to the spouse who wants it over with.  My best advice is to take your time and give the other person the time and space he or she needs.

Divorce can feel like a death.

In her seminal work, on Death and Dying, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross describes the “Five Stages of Grief”.  They are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.  Divorce professionals have learned to spot these very same stages and patterns when people face the loss of their marriage during a divorce.  (See The Emotional Stages of Divorce: What to Expect During and After the Divorce ProcessThe Emotional Stages of Divorce: What to Expect During and After the Divorce Process)  We’ve learned that people are unable to effectively deal with the present issues of the divorce without reaching the point of acceptance that the divorce is happening.  But to get to acceptance, people first need to travel through the other four grief stages.  That can take some time.  If you’ve sat with your decision to divorce for awhile before breaking it to your spouse, it is likely that you went through the five stages of grief on your own before reaching your own point of acceptance.  Your spouse, who may be just learning of your intention to divorce is late to the grief cycle.  You’ll need to afford him or her some patience and time to work through it.

If you’ve been sitting with your decision to divorce for awhile before breaking it to your spouse, it is likely that you went through the five stages of grief on your own before reaching your own point of acceptance.  Your spouse, who may be just learning of your intention to divorce is late to the grief cycle.  You’ll need to afford him or her some patience and time to work through it.

Forcing a person to complete a divorce case before completing the grief process can be problematic.

First, a rushed agreement is rarely followed.

The person who is rushed will resent the process and will likely make efforts to undermine or to revise the agreement.  Worse, a party who agreed under duress would have grounds to set aside the settlement altogether.  It is better to take the time to get the settlement right so that there is buy-in from both parties.

Second, pushing the slower party often has the opposite of the intended effect.

If you own a dog, you may very well know the behavior that happens when you try to pull on a dog’s leash.  The dog will tug in the opposite direction or may even stubbornly stop moving or sit down.  In divorce mediation, trying to rush a party often has the same effect.  The slower spouse who is rushed may even slow down more.

Third, not allowing the slower spouse room to accept and deal emotionally with the divorce mediation process can lead the pushed spouse to choose more aggressive and expense processes such as divorce litigation.

Trust me, the wheels of justice at court will turn even slower.  So it’s best to work with your spouse to try to reach consensus.  But if that consensus doesn’t come overnight, it’s not the end of the world.  Letting your spouse have the time in a safe space to deliberate, review financials and consult with a lawyer is best even for the faster spouse because pushing a person too hard can lead to a much slower court process.

In Divorce Mediation, Slower is Faster.

So be patient and compassionate towards your soon-to-be ex.  Let him or her have time to deal with the emotional pain of the breakup.  Don’t push so hard that he or she slows down or worse, chooses to litigate.  Sometimes slower is, in fact, faster.

See also these related posts:

Can I Be Divorced Yesterday? Or is Slower Faster? by Shawn Skillin, Esq.

We don’t get along very well. How can we possibly mediate our divorce?

Five Tips to Have a Miserable Divorce

Human Side of Divorcing