Archive for Relationships

The Irreplaceable Dad: The Importance of Dads Stepping Up In Co-parenting and Moms Letting Them Do It

This article was originally posted in 2013.  We have received such a positive reaction that we are reposting it.  It was the subject of Shawn Weber’s upcoming interview on the Real Talk San Diego Facebook Live program on March 28 at 1:00 PM PDT.  Watch it here: https://www.facebook.com/yourwealthhour

Some dads aren’t so great

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Let me preface this post by noting that there are a lot of terrible fathers. Many of them are abusive, punitive and cruel. Many are irresponsible and fail to take their role as parent seriously. Some simply abandon and neglect their families. In such cases, it may very well be better for the kids if these dads weren’t around. Such men are not “fathers”. They are unworthy of the title. My heart goes out to their victims. But, there are good dads out there and in many cases, their role can be unnecessarily marginalized. I am only talking about the good dads in this post. Women, please don’t hate me.

Every time Father’s Day approaches, I find myself contemplating the role of a dad in the family- in particular, given my career as a family law attorney, the role of a dad in a post-divorce family. I grow increasingly frustrated with the term “single parent”, which is so often bantered about unnecessarily. We are told of how hard the single parent has to work. Often we are treated to images of single moms struggling to make ends meet with kids at home and a dad nowhere to be found or, at least, not involved. For many of my clients, that is the case. To be sure, there are a lot of dads out there who don’t step up.

Co-parenting is better when possible

In most cases, however, single parenting isn’t necessary. Co-parenting is the better way to go. After the demise of some marriages, one parent does everything possible to eliminate the other parent from the equation. I have heard moms say that they would be happy if their kids’ dad would just go away. Some even say they would prefer their ex-husbands to be dead. Such sentiment is surprisingly common. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

There are dads who check out and neglect their families, refusing to pay child support and refusing to take responsibility as fathers. There are dads who are abusive. It is only natural that a woman may feel uneasy about the man who beat her up. I am not talking about the bad apples here. However, there are many dads who do not deserve the level of scorn they receive.

Divorce can be nasty. When people get to my office, things are usually pretty bad. Folks don’t make the big decision to get a divorce unless they are very unhappy with their spouse. However, all too often, a wife can unnecessarily extend her hatred of her ex to his relationship with the children. These women, not realizing the damage they inflict on their children, will stop at nothing to minimize or even eliminate a dad’s involvement in the family. While they are very happy to maximize the child support they receive, they are relentless in removing dad from the parenting equation. This is not ok. Kids need their dad and although a wife’s experience of her ex-husband as a spouse may be less than perfect to say the least, this man still has an important role with the kids.

I have had a number of cases recently where a mother decides, for whatever reason, to relocate out of the state. These women have reasons for their decision to relocate. Sometimes the reasons are good. Many times they aren’t. Perhaps they are moving closer to family. Perhaps they feel they can get cheaper housing. Universally, they minimize the impact on the kids’ relationship with dad. They, wrongly, believe that they are the only important parent in their children’s lives.

What they fail to understand is that this man, with all of his imperfections, is still their kids’ dad. He is a part of them. They love him. Yes, they even need him. One prominent psychologist told me that the moving parent almost in every case fails to understand how devastating moving the kids away from the other parent can be. In family law, move-away cases are not about what is in the child’s best interest. Rather it is about minimizing detriment. It is rarely in the child’s best interest to move away. As participants in the legal process we are then asked to determine whether it messes the kids up more to lose their dad or to lose their mother. Judge’s hate these kinds of cases.

Dads matter to kids

I have seen grown, tough men weep openly in my office as they explain to me how hurt they are that the mother of their children cares so little for their contribution. One such parent lamented that with his wife moving, he would no longer be able to attend Cub Scout meetings or coach the soccer team. One father told me how upset he was that his son would miss out on campouts and fishing trips. Another dad told me how tragic it was that he and his daughter would miss their regular basketball scrimmages at the local park.

I have also seen children in pain that one of their parents is being cut out of their lives. One teenage boy told me that he misses his father terribly and doesn’t understand why his mother speaks negatively about him. He says, “He’s my dad. When she bad mouths him, it is like she is talking bad about me. It makes me cry. I don’t show her though; I just go in my room and punch my pillow.” Another twelve-year-old boy told me that while he loves his mom and understands that she had her reasons for leaving his father, he feels like a piece of him is missing. He said, “My uncles are great. But they are not my dad. Why can’t I just have my dad around.” Then with tears in his eyes he said, “I just wish I could still hang out with him.”

Dads, you need to step up

Not just to pick on the moms, I have had many mother’s complain that they wished that their ex-husbands would be more involved fathers. They try to encourage dad to participate, but he refuses. Sometimes dads just “check out” as parents after the divorce. This is not ok either. Dads, you need to step up.

I am a strong believer that it takes two genders to be most effective in parenting. To be sure, there may be someone out there who will take me to task and wrongly accuse me of sexism. I am just noting, that as much as we would like to say that there are no differences, men and women are, in fact, different. These differences, rather than seen as a way to divide families, should be embraced and celebrated. As a father of five children, my wife and I have had many conversations about how important we believe the gender differences are in our parenting. We each bring different parenting styles and different approaches to the table. These differences enrich our children and bring them balance.

father parent child

The best co-parenting I see is when both parents are deeply involved

While the parents may have deep and real differences that led to a divorce, they don’t show their children these differences. Rather they present a unified front to the kids. They both encourage a relationship with the other parent. They seek the other parent’s guidance and counsel about issues with the kids. The kids benefit greatly from having both parents as active and equally important parts of their lives.

(Just an aside, it is equally damaging when fathers eliminate mothers from the equation. But we are talking about dads here. We also see more cases where the dads get pushed out then the other way around. But the inverse does happen.)

So what is the lesson?

Moms, unless your ex is truly one of the bad apples I mentioned above, you should probably go out of your way to include him in the parenting of your kids. Remember, he is part of who they are as individuals. That is meaningful. Encourage him to be involved. Encourage your kids to reach out to him.

Dads, it’s time to step up if you haven’t already. You are vital and irreplaceable. You are more than a convenient source for child support. You are far more important than a mere sperm donor. Make SURE that your children know that you love them. Demonstrate your love by word and deed. Be responsible. Be involved. Tell your kids that you love them. Show an interest in their activities. Don’t give up. Don’t just blame your ex if you have a terrible relationship with your kids. Step up and take initiative. Those kids of yours are precious and they need you.  You are their father!

To both parents, minimize your conflict.

Spend less time fighting about stuff in court and more time working together in a mutually respectful manner. I encourage the use of mental health professionals, mediation or Collaborative Practice to help folks work together. I know the split up probably hurt. Now, be the grown-ups. Swallow your pride. Find a way, if at all possible, to work together for your kids.

mother and father co-parenting

 

Read also:

6 Tips for Successful Holiday Co-Parenting

3 Great Tips to Give Your Kids a Voice in Your California Divorce

Five Tips to Have a Miserable Divorce

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

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”.

 

Forgiveness During Divorce: A key to finding peace

You can control how angry and hurt you remain after your divorce.  Using principles of forgiveness during divorce will help you control divorce emotions and move on.

Let Go to find forgiveness during divorce

Almost every divorce involves a situation where somebody did someone wrong.  Or… at the very least, someone feels like someone did somebody wrong.  Sometimes I feel like I am living the B.J. Thomas song, “Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song”.

The reality is that divorce sucks.  It hurts a lot in fact.  As a California divorce mediator, I used to hide behind the excuse that California is a no-fault state and what happened to lead to the divorce is legally irrelevant.  But the no-fault concept misses the point that divorce is more than just a legal process; it’s a human experience.

Divorce Causes Real Pain:  The Need to Control Divorce Emotions

The parties to a divorce are real people with real pain.  Often a case just won’t settle until the parties can process their divorce emotions, hurt, and pain.

I don’t mean to minimize the pain of divorce emotions because I know it is very real.  However, one can find that place where a person can let go of the anger and hurt in order to move on.  Forgiveness during divorce and after really is possible.

Don’t Be a Monkey

Perhaps you have heard of the fable of the monkey trap.  Apparently, you can take a jar with an opening large enough to fit a monkey hand and fill the jar with cookies.  The monkey then comes along, inserts his hand through the opening to grab a cookie.  However, because his fist with the cookie is now larger than the opening to the jar, the monkey can’t remove his fist and is trapped.  Rather than rationally letting go of the cookie, the monkey will remain trapped indefinitely.

There is at least some truth to the story as shown by this video about a hunter capturing a baboon with a similar strategy:

Similar to the monkey who won’t let go, we tend to hold onto our grudges.  By holding onto our hurt and anger with a clenched fist, we can become trapped until we figure out to let go.  Similar to the monkey, it’s hard to escape a divorce situation without learning to also release the clenched fist.  A person might finish her divorce, but will still carry the pain into the post-divorce life and even into the next relationship.

Forgiveness during divorce is an important way to release anger.

Buddha said, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”  Anger and the search for revenge rarely help anything.  They certainly don’t bring peace.

If you find yourself consumed with anger when you think of your ex, consider letting go.  Make a conscious decision to forgive the other person.  Notice that I am not suggesting that you allow anyone to cause you harm again.   I simply suggest that forgiving and letting go of the anger will help to control divorce emotions.  It will go a long way to finding peace.

Remember, forgiveness during divorce is an exercise that only the injured person can control.  It does not require the wrongdoer to pay for what he did to you or to apologize. The other person does not even need to be sorry.  Your forgiving and letting go is entirely up to you.  It’s not easy, but it is completely within your control.

If you find forgiveness during divorce difficult to achieve and find that it gets in the way of moving on, consider discussing the issue with clergy or a mental health professional.  Until you can control divorce emotions and let go of the anger, you, like the monkey, will be stuck.

If you think forgiveness during a divorce is too hard, you are wrong.  It is reachable.  There are tons of examples in the world of people who forgave the unspeakable and made their lives better.  See the examples below:

See also:

How to Forgive and Why You Should: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2012/08/29/how-to-forgive-and-why-you-should

Man Exercises a Year of Forgiveness After a Drunk Driver Kills Wife, Two Children:  http://www.deseretnews.com/article/695239655/A-year-of-forgiveness.html?pg=all

Forgiveness: Letting go of grudges and bitterness: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/forgiveness/art-20047692

How much does it cost to go to divorce mediation?: https://weberdisputeresolution.com/divorce-mediation-cost/

Looking at the New Year Post Divorce

new year post divorce, new year's resolutions

Alas!  A New Year has come and gone again.  For most of my current clients, 2015 was a rough year.  It brought them the end of their marriages.  The year may have been filled with conflict with a former spouse over money, kids, etc.  Perhaps there were tears shed.  Maybe dreams were shattered.  Sound depressing?  It can be.   But 2015 is over, so there is an opportunity to build a new experience for the New Year post divorce.

Here are my suggestions for some words to consider when making your resolutions for the New Year post divorce.  This is in no way a comprehensive list.  It’s just some of my own thoughts.  Perhaps you have your own resolution ideas that you would like to share.  Here are mine:

Peace.

You got a divorce for a reason, right?  I’m sure things weren’t all butterflies and rainbows.  But now you are divorced. So take the opportunity to stop the fighting and discontinue the war with your ex.  If there is a legitimate legal concern that needs addressing, use mediation or Collaborative Practice instead of adversarial litigation to resolve those differences.  It’s a great opportunity to move on and find peace in the New Year post divorce.  A meditation or mindfulness practice can go a long way towards achieving some peace.

Co-Parenting.

Before your divorce, parenting may have been easier.  Post-divorce, you still have to interact with the person you divorced to raise your kids.  Your kids need you to get along.  There is a lot of evidence that continued parental conflict after the divorce is very harmful to children.  Resolve now to be the best co-parent you can be in the New Year post divorce.  Look for ways to be cooperative (even when the other parent doesn’t).  If you haven’t always been a leader in the child rearing arena, now is the time to step up to the plate and make a helpful contribution.  Be the grown up here and your kids will thank you.

Self-reliance.

Now that you are on your own, you don’t have the other person there to rely on.  This is a great opportunity to stand on your own two feet with your head held high.  Be your own person.  Be strong. Be self-assured. Be independent.

If you are receiving alimony, look for ways to be self-supporting so that you don’t need support anymore.  Meet with a vocational counselor to make new career goals.  Enroll in school or get trained, or retrained, in a field that you can be passionate about.

Plan for your future financial well-being.  Meet with a financial advisor to make sure you are using your money wisely.  Come up with a five year or ten year plan.  Meet with an estate planning attorney to make sure you have updated your will and estate plan.

Health.

Perhaps during 2015 you let the stress of the divorce affect your health.  Maybe you didn’t eat well.  Maybe you stopped going to the gym.  Maybe you weren’t sleeping well.  Perhaps you were depressed or angry causing your emotional well-being to suffer.  Resolve now to restore your health in the New Year post divorce.

Take the time to eat well and exercise.  Get good sleep.  Perhaps get your annual physical from your doctor and make a plan for your physical health.  Take care of your body and it will take care of you.

But don’t forget your emotional health either.  Divorce can be such a toxic and painful experience.  If you are struggling, meet with a therapist and work through the changes in your life resulting from your divorce.  Before you date, make sure that you work though any lingering issues you may have so that you can be your best self before you involve another person in your life.  I have noticed a clear correlation in my clients who sought post-divorce therapy and their level of happiness years later.

Forgiveness.

I know that “forgiveness” is a loaded word.  It’s easier said then done.  You may be hurt or angry with your former spouse.  As mentioned before, you got divorced for a reason.  However, you are divorced now.  It’s time to let it go.  The past is in the past.

Now keep in mind, I am not suggesting that you allow yourself to be abused if that is what happened before.  Keep in place whatever safety measure you have to make sure you can’t be hurt again.  I am just suggesting that it is time to move on from there.  Anger and hurt can be very damaging emotions.  Do what you can this year to forgive so that you can leave those terrible feelings behind you.  If you find you can’t do it alone (and most can’t) talk to someone.  Turn to a spiritual advisor or a mentor to help you leave the past in the past.

Don’t forget to forgive yourself.  Guilt has it’s place, but it can eat you up if you can’t get past it.  Perhaps you have serious regrets about how your marriage ended.  Rather than let the guilt consume you, find a way to learn from the experience, forgive everyone involved and move on.

 You have read my list of New Year’s Resolution words for the newly divorced.  What are some of your words?  I would love to read them!

Related links:

Five Tips to Reduce Your Stress in a Divorce that Most Attorneys Won’t Tell You

10 Essential New Year’s Resolutions for Your Divorce

12 New Year’s Resolutions for Divorced Moms

New Year’s Resolutions During Divorce

Top 10 Difficult New Year’s Resolutions for Divorced Parents

New Year’s resolutions, new year post divorce, new year’s divorce, san diego divorce attorney

Holidays After Divorce – Bring Peace on Earth to Your Kids

holidays after divorce

For many of my clients, the holidays after divorce can be a difficult time.

Many are keenly aware of the loss they have suffered as the result of their divorce and will go to great lengths to preserve a sense of family.  The changes to the family, for many, are in stark contrast to the ideal Norman Rockwell Holiday memories they want their kids to have.  People also, quite reasonably, want their children with them on those special days.  All of that is reasonable, but when the wish to have your kids with you on a special Holiday turns into conflict between you and your ex, your kids can suffer.

It’s a bit ironic that in this season when we are supposedly celebrating peace on earth, some of the greatest interfamily conflict can occur and if you’re not careful, your kids will be right in the middle of a holiday visitation disaster.  Here are just a few ideas about how to bring “Peace on Earth” to your kids for the holidays after divorce:

Consider Celebrating Some Part of the Holiday Together with Your Ex.

I know, you worked hard to get away from your former spouse, but your kids didn’t.  For their sake, consider putting the past behind you and let your kids open presents with both of their parents.  That said, if you just can’t be in the same room with the other parent without it devolving into a slug fest, then reconsider.  But if you both can keep it together long enough for the kids to have a nice holiday, you will have done something very kind for them.  This is the season of giving after all.

Coordinate Presents with the Other Parent.

Much of the holidays after divorce conflict we see is when the parents compete with each other over the present giving.  Don’t let that happen.  Rather, spend some time early coordinating the gift giving with the other parent.  Perhaps consider purchasing joint gifts. Don’t let something as beautiful as gift giving turn into an ugly competition.

Don’t Project Your Own Emotions About the Holidays After Divorce Onto Your Kids.

Holiday visitation stirs up all kinds of feelings and emotions.  Regret, guilt, anger, resentment, loneliness- these are feelings that can pop up in spades during the holidays.  However, if these are your emotions, they might not necessarily be what your kids are feeling.  We have a tendency to project our own feelings and frustrations onto others, when that is usually not appropriate.  Be aware of that and keep your expression of emotions in check.  Stay selfless and make the holidays about others and what their needs are.  Be mindful, that your kids’ needs will likely include time with the other parent.

Plan the Holiday Visitation and Travel Schedule Early.

Don’t just assume that your ex will be aware of or will cooperate in fulfilling your expectations for the perfect holiday with the kids.  Communicate early and plan ahead with your kids’ other parent to reduce confusion or frustration when the holiday comes around.  Don’t assume anything about the schedule.  Don’t wait until Thanksgiving to talk about the holidays.  Start talking and coordinating in July – or even earlier.  That way, when the holiday comes around, there will be no surprises.

In summary, the holidays after divorce can be a time when cherished memories are created.  However, they can also be a time of heartache and terrible memories if not done properly.  Don’t let problems with holiday visitation be a flashpoint for your kids to remember how badly you and your ex behaved.  Let it be “Peace on Earth” for your kids.  That means that you need to take responsibility to be a peacemaker with the other parent.

These are just a few ideas.  Maybe you have some ideas or tips.  Share them with me!

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Forgiveness During Divorce: A key to finding peace