Losing a job is a life changing event and can be made even more upsetting if you are responsible for paying child support every month. Many parents automatically assume that the loss of income means child support payments will stop until a new one is found, but the truth is that just because your circumstances have changed, doesn’t mean your child’s needs are altered in any way. Bills still need to be paid, food and clothing still need to be provided for. It can be tempting to allow yourself to wallow a bit in depression before dealing with this loss of work and any repercussions there might be, but the truth is the sooner you deal with your legal financial obligations to your offspring, the better for everyone involved.
Start by openly communicating with your former partner about your change in circumstances. Instead of approaching that person with a tone of “Oh My Gosh, I lost my job, I can’t pay child support until I get a new one!”, begin the conversation from a place of advice-seeking, for example, “John! I was let go from my company. How can I make the money I do have work for us? Is there anything we can agree to let go or postpone during this leaner time?” Hopefully, you are in a good enough place with your ex to have that conversation. Remember, this is about the well being of the kids, so any efforts to demonstrate your willingness to contribute is important AND noticeable. Throwing up your hands in defeat without coming to some sort of alternative plans helps no one and puts you in the position of seeming selfish.
Of course, many couples can’t communicate well despite the interests of the children, in which case getting your documents in order is a must before seeking legal approval from a judge to officially modify child support. You will need to provide all bank statements, bills, and most importantly, proof of your loss of income. Many times, companies provide a letter or memo of job termination that you can show the court, but if they choose to fire or let you go orally, ask for documentation on letterhead. If they are unable or refuse to accommodate you, write all details down carefully. As with all legal matters, the more documentation you can provide to support your claims, the better the chances for you to have the outcome you desire. Keep in mind that all your assets are considered when evaluating child support, and that includes property, retirement funds, and trusts. A judge is unlikely to believe you are unable to keep up with child support if you own multiple properties or received a generous severance package. Un-employment benefits claimed are also considered to be a form of income and will be tallied with your overall estate to re-assess what you are able to afford to pay on a monthly basis.
You must also report your change in employment status to your local child support office if support is being enforced through their office. This is the office you may already be sending your check to every month, and you can’t simply stop sending those payments without informing them, or you can make your situation worse. In California, the majority of child support cases go through the Child Support Services department in the county or region of residence, which act in the public interest and do not represent either side of a child support case. By bringing your issue directly to them they can create a “record of all child support payments, provide a neutral go-between for parents, and can help both parents avoid court and assist with navigating the child support system.”
The final point of all of this is to prepare yourself BEFORE you lose your job, by getting your records and finances in order and by knowing what to ask for if the worst thing happens in your career, which is that you are unable to make money doing it for however long it takes until you find another job. This way your kids still get their needs met and you don’t have to add “failure to provide” to the list of negatives that inevitably pile up when you are out of a job.
Whether you have a parenting plan in place throughout the year, or a custody agreement mandated by the family court, the arrival of summer, and the prolonged period of school vacation that accompanies that change of season means that a new arrangement may be in the best interests of the children as well as former spouses. Kids out of school means more time needed for supervision, more activities to be planned and more stress in an already stressful family dynamic. What is a parent to do when the summer comes, and it’s time to decide plans for what to do with the kids?
Ideally, while you are first going through the divorce process, you and your ex should be hammering out a plan to cover the kids’ custody for extended vacations - including those for summer and the weeks here and there throughout the year when school is out. At THAT time, both parties should create the parenting plan that will include specific guidelines for family vacations - including length of visitation, geographic limitations, and minimum advance notice of any trips to be taken. A good idea is to have two identical calendars for each spouse to take home after that first planning meeting, to be added to by both at any subsequent meetings when discussing dates in the future, that way both parents are equally apprised of upcoming plans. Paper calendars are more permanent and allow kids to see that parents are on the same page when going from one house and another. Communication is always essential for successful co-parenting, and beginning on the right foot can make the transition easier on everyone involved.
Regardless of what your custody agreement during the year is, this huge amount of time when kids are out of school can be tricky for anyone that has a job that requires a nine to five regular work-week. It may be that the best thing for the kids is summer school or camp because it can lead to their further enrichment. Studies have shown that kids that fill the summer month between school years with enrichment opportunities like reading programs, scholastic clubs, or learning camps are far more likely to retain what they have learned and excel into the new year. Camp, in particular, can have a favorable impact on a child’s social development, and if that camp is specialized based on a particular pastime (for instance horse-back riding camp, band camp, or computer programming camp) the child in question may be provided with an advance in a field of interest that could lead to a career. Since many summer camps offer day and sleep away options, children may even be able to keep to the original physical custody agreement without interruption.
What if neither parent is able to take the time off or can afford to pay for a sitter, daycare, or camp to mind the children for almost three months? The financial strain of suddenly having to care for school-age children not in school can be overwhelming even if all you really want to do is spend more time with your kids. Particularly, when the divorce and family restructure is fresh, it can be important for your children not to feel isolated from either parent. If either set of grandparents is located near you, and they are in good health, consider utilizing them for childcare - if not full-time, then certainly as a free supplement towards pricey daycare. Grandparents are usually a loving, responsible alternative to introducing your kids to yet ANOTHER new variable. They can surround the grandkids with family, tradition, and the stability which can be so important to kids in these troubled times.
Another variable to consider is the age of your children. Family vacation is always an opportunity for family bonding and memory making. The littlest littles benefit from spending as much time with each parent as possible, with a 50/50 schedule being the goal. Older kids will tell you to your face that they would rather be with their friends, but still need quality time with mom and dad despite their protests to the contrary. Whether these ideal arrangements are possible, considering time and finances, the quality of the time spent with each parent is the key. Little kids want to DO things with you, even if it’s just stirring a pot over a stove or painting a picture in front of cartoons, as long as it’s together. The older kids can actually help with the creation of those family plans, taking into consideration their own interests so that are participate with YOU, as opposed to sulking because they miss their friends.
Nobody is saying that making these arrangements is always easy. Putting aside acrimonious feelings towards a former spouse is an emotional challenge, but one best overcome by keeping those communication lines open and a certain flexibility while maintaining a sense of civility for the sake of nurturing healthy, happy little humans
Conflicts between two people always include two sets of facts that may or may not resemble each other. In the case of divorce, those facts are almost always influenced by emotion and personal bias. Outside of the privileged circles of the celebrities who can ‘Consciously Uncouple” without bias or ill-will, those of us in the real world often contend with some dramatic feelings when it comes to our ex and/or the entire divorce process. Sometimes, your marriage ends because someone cheats, and there is no way to reconcile a trusting relationship, so divorce becomes the only option. Sometimes there really is a wronged party. What should you do if that person is you? It seems easy enough for outsiders to say “take the high road” or push it all aside for the kids. That advise can seem a bitter pill when confronted by the reality you are living. Additionally, what happens when your ex behaves badly, and you have every reason to want to retaliate?!
If you have been cheated on, you would be among the 53% of Americans who divorce due to infidelity, according to various statistical analysis sites. That betrayal can have irreparable damage to your emotions, mental state, and even your perception of reality, never mind the decision to divorce as a result. Particularly, if you are blindsided by the cheating, you can feel like your entire life was based on lies, and question everything your spouse ever told you, and every event will become stained by this new realization. The legal end to your marriage only furthers this reality shift….because of this other person’s actions, YOUR life is irrevocably changed.
It WILL be tempting to blame the person your ex cheated with. Many a car has been keyed in the name of “you shouldn’t have messed with my man!” Ultimately, though, it is your ex wife or husband that is responsible for breaking their legal and spiritual vows. The person that you loved has betrayed you…and that can mean the responding heart-break can only find its outlet as pure, unreasonable fury. And that is natural. At first.
The truth is that you need to get good and mad when such an upheaval occurs. Fury has the wonderful benefit of burning away that deep sadness that comes with being lied to and replaced with another. Too much anger, and you run the risk of burning away everything else that is good in your life, including healthy relationships with your children, friends, and any future romantic opportunities. When you let that rage take over, you become that bitter person that no one wants to be around.
But, but, but…you have been done wrong! This can be equally galling when you consider that California is a no-fault state, so your ex’s egregious actions against you won’t be punished during legal proceedings, where in other states, infidelity can be grounds for a larger settlement towards the wronged party. Where is the justice?!, you may ask yourself.
The truth is, there is no justice when it comes to a broken heart. Those questions that you ask as a result of this treachery will never be answered in such a way as to bring you peace-Why doesn’t he/she love me? How could they lie to me? Why wasn’t I enough? What does that other person or persons have that I don’t? Knowing those answers will just lead to more, equally painful ones. At the end of the day, what you really want to know is how you, the injured party can ever trust or love again.
Taking the “high road” is never about making things better for the other person. As with forgiveness (which may never come, but we hope for your sake it does), being the better person is always going to get you more in terms of a happy result than bitterness and retribution. In fact, getting even just prolongs the hold that despair has on your entire life.
It won’t be easy, because nothing having to do with the heart and the head ever is. It won’t be fast, either. There are supposedly algorithms that tell you how long it should take to get over relationships, but mostly that is wishful thinking and wellness magazine bunk. Be sad, be mad, be sad again…whatever it takes. Know that any action you take to exact revenge will most likely prolong your agony, give your ex their own opportunities for legal recourse, and continue to paint you the unwitting dupe. Control the story you want told! Instead of letting people see you as the beaten victim of emotional perfidy, envision yourself as the triumphant phoenix arising from the ashes of a toxic marriage based on lies. Leave that other person out of the narrative altogether. Their power is over now. Say to yourself that you will be ok, because eventually that will be true.
One of the most painful aspects of separation, after a marriage of any length, but particularly after one that’s lasted years, is the effect it has on the extended family. Through the course of marriage, all manner of holidays and celebrations are observed with the various aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and grandparents that comprise the expanding branches of the family tree. This includes milestone like births, weddings, graduations, and funerals. If you have children with your ex, many of these people have provided a trustworthy source of babysitting. When a couple says I do, they are agreeing to accept each other’s relatives as their own, so when a couple says, “I don’t”, what happens to those ties?
This can be a complicated situation for all. If the divorce is a bitter one, it can almost seem more cut and dried…if more painful. Most families tend to fall in line behind their blood relative, particularly if that person is “in the right” or is the wronged party. People generally have ideas about what is considered appropriate behavior and circling the wagons around a wounded loved one is a natural inclination.
More difficult to navigate are the waters of a mutual, cordial divorce. The parties may not hold any ill will towards each other, but naturally desire to keep their families to themselves. This can be hard on the in-laws, who hopefully have accepted their kin’s spouse as a member of the family and developed the emotional ties that come with that. After all, wedded couples spend years advocating for that very acceptance of their spouse into the fold. For a family then to be expected to cut off all contact with the ex is made even more difficult because they had nothing to do with that decision! While you and your ex may have had months or even years to adjust to the idea that the marriage simply isn’t working, your families are still seeing them at barbecues and special family events, including them in on those long established inside jokes and accepting gifts and casseroles during times of trouble.
Adding children to the equation can make this already complicated situation into a heart-breaker, because extended family can be the most comforting aspect of their stable existence. Going to Grandma’s house at Christmas or Thanksgiving, having their Aunt watch them after school…these are important aspects of a kid’s life if they have come to expect them. However, the existence of children can put all future arrangements after divorce into crystal clear perspective. By removing the emotional reaction either ex-spouse may feel about themselves from consideration, the needs of the children become priority.
More precisely, if you consider what is the best thing for the kids, OF COURSE having a relationship with a group of people bonded by blood, love, and history is a good idea. Putting aside any of your own misery or pain associated with divorce, consider that the more people who love and protect your kid, the better. If the former in-laws bear you no ill will, even better. Maybe you can keep the weekly coffee appointment with your former sister-in-law to “discuss your kids” or choose to attend the graduation of a former nephew-by-marriage so that the cousins can be a part of the celebration!
As usual, the key to getting through this will be communication. The extended family will and should take their cues from you. So first, as with a custody agreement between you and your soon-to-be ex, sit down and talk about what is and is not acceptable…can the kids spend one holiday with your parents and the next with hers? Will your ex be dropping off the kids or staying with them? What happens if either of you have a new love interest? You need to be aware that how you all choose to go forward will give a clear message to your offspring as to how families operate. The message being that families will change their structure during divorce but will remain family regardless.
If there are no kids, and your divorce was contentious it might seem more respectful to you if your family cuts all ties with your former spouse. Again, keep in mind that they had NOTHING to do with your decision to separate, and they may have strong feelings for their former son or daughter-in-law. The end of that relationship will require a period of mourning. However, unless you have never gotten along with your family, it would not be appropriate for them to continue regular association with your ex without your permission. You are perfectly within your rights to ask blood relatives to cease communications, particularly if you have been cheated on or the victim of abuse of any kind. If your extended family chooses your former partner despite your feelings being known, the problem then goes beyond the usual aftermath of divorce towards something wrong with that entire family unit-whether its mere insensitivity to outright rejection of your place and importance within it. At that point, you may want to reconsider whether or not YOU want to associate with THEM.
We in California are often bombarded with the latest celebrity divorce gossip, and it can sometimes influence how we perceive the entire divorce process to be, because it seems like the tabloids make every juicy morsel in the process seem far more (or less) dramatic and upsetting than it really is. With some of these famous couplings lasting mere months, to the ones that break our hearts because we though they would stand the test of time, many of these stories fascinate us. When it come to your own legal separation or divorce, though, how feasible a goal is it to try to model such a personal situation after the rich and famous? Back in 2014, when actress Gwyneth Paltrow and musician Chris Martin announced their “Conscious Uncoupling”, the term inspired its share of satire and ridicule not because it seemed like a bad idea, but because it seems so out of touch for regular people with actual emotions and real-world grievances to achieve. Now that Ms. Paltrow is remarried and making the talk show circuits touting the happy state of her new marriage AND previous divorce along with a promised book on the subject, the American public is again forced to examine this complicated ideal.
If you ask the experts that commented on Paltrow’s Goop website, conscious uncoupling "brings wholeness to the spirits of both people who choose to recognize each other as their teacher." While THAT may seem a bit esoteric for most of us, what it really means is that former partners put aside blame in favor of effective co-parenting and/or emotional well-being.
The term, coined by relationship expert Katherine Woodward Thomas, whose five-week program of the same name promises to "release the trauma of a breakup, reclaim your power, and reinvent your life." Where it differs from other break-up scenarios is that the couple believes that they have both tried to work through problems in their relationship without success. The decision to end the relationship, whether a marriage or long-term relationship, is made by both parties with an agreement to cause the least amount of damage to themselves, their personal integrity, and their offspring. Sounds like a sound concept, doesn’t it? And if both parties are equally financially solvent with substantial resources and neither is rubbing a new love interest in the other’s face, it also seems like a viable option. The problem with “Conscious Uncoupling” as cited by celebrity, is that most of us don’t live like that. Also, and this is the kicker, most of us have some sort of feelings of despair or anger that we are just too exhausted or busy to deal with because the realities of separating one life into two leaves little time for anything else. What the proponents of “Conscious Uncoupling” may not have to deal with is the practical matters of that split. Where am I going to live? Who is going to pay for daycare or school for the kids? What about clothes and groceries, and will I even be able to afford my weekly yoga class? EVERYTHING is going to change, therapy may not be an option at first because things are so up in the air. You want to take care of your kids, and it may seem more realistic to you to make it easier for them by pretending to table resentments because that is all you can manage right now. Finally, if there has been infidelity or abuse of any kind, this concept can be an impossible pill to swallow for the aggrieved party.
Sure, “Conscious Uncoupling” works out if you have multiple homes, and various sources of income is coming in to both parties. In these cases, many of the common stressors of the average separated couple can be bypassed in favor of immediate attention to emotional adjustment. When you are talking about giant sprawling properties with different housing structures situated across the landscape, it isn’t such a hardship to consider staying on that property with your ex to co-parent when the chances are slim that you will run into each other. The same can be said for those “family vacations” that former Hollywood couples like Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner go on - new love interests in tow with the kids. Its difficult to imagine such a scenario involving regular folk who must worry about furnishing new apartments since they moved out of the joint home, much less enjoying tropical getaways in those first lean months/years of starting over.
Conscious Uncoupling is surely successful for the lucky few that have the time, finances, and lack of emotional distress. For everyone else, it’s probably best to call an experienced attorney…and they can hopefully recommend a good therapist.
Hopefully, in everyone’s life, they find that perfect someone that they are meant to be with. She, who is the other half of your soul. The man that really gets you is your best friend and your lover. You have found the answer to the question of your future, and you want to make it official. While we are all certain that life after the wedding is assured, none of us can see into the future as to what will be. Human beings grow and change, sometimes at different rates, and sometimes down different paths. So, before we enter into what is necessarily a legal agreement between two parties based on a set of circumstances that are bound to change, wouldn’t it be the smart thing to do to first sit down with an expert or two and discuss, in writing, what the expectations you BOTH have for this life you plan together? Heaven forbid the unthinkable happens, and you can no longer envision a future which includes the person you currently swear to love, honor and cherish until death, what happens after the marriage? Consult any legal expert, regardless of income or assets, and they will advise you to negotiate a prenuptial agreement that benefits BOTH parties in case things just don’t work out.
Prenuptial agreements are no longer a tool used by the wealthier spouse to ensure they aren’t being “taken advantage” of. Even for couples who start with nothing, the potential earnings and community property laws in California would behoove engaged couples of any tax bracket to discuss the future should the marriage be unsuccessful. In California, the dissolution of a marriage and the allocation of property is governed by the California Family Code. For those who are wise enough to consider a prenuptial agreement, a measure of control is kept between spouses as opposed to the State, over which you have no say. Because of this, it's wise that each party to hire a legal expert to represent them so that the final draft of the prenuptial agreement protects the interest of both parties.
Despite the clinical reputation of this sort of contract, sitting down with your future spouse to REALLY talk about your future should not be the romance killer its often made out to be by those stereotypical “fortune hunter” characters often depicted in movies (although they do exist). Having a frank and honest discussion about what you expect from marriage, what all your deal breakers are, and can ultimately be a way to strengthen your foundation. For one thing, the process requires full disclosure of all assets, debts, and financial situations and should involve discussion on how you will both handle your money and economic future. Money can be a significant stressor on a marriage, and better to find out your coping skills beforehand as well as develop a plan to deal with anything that may come up! Similarly, given the emotional and physical blissed-out state that many engaged couples exude, sitting with the lawyers to discuss what your ideas about children, child rearing, allocation of household chores, and even sexual responsibilities should entail can be quite eye-opening! After hashing out all these minute details, you will surely know your future spouse more thoroughly, and be able to make a more informed decision about your future without all those pesky pheromones clouding your judgment.
An argument can be made that having a substantial prenuptial agreement is similar to having flood insurance on your house. We all hope the flood never comes, but if it does, it pays to be covered. As the famous financial advisor Suze Orman shares, “As somebody who, in my second marriage, insisted on a prenuptial agreement, I can also testify that sometimes it is an act of love to chart the exit strategy before you enter the union, in order to make sure that not only you but your partner as well, knows that there will be no World War III should hearts and minds, for any sad reason, change.”
Just turn on the tv or internet broadcasts right now, and you can hardly escape the news that Jeff Bezos and his wife of 25 years, MacKenzie Bezos are getting divorced. Mr. Bezos is the genius behind Amazon and according to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index the wealthiest person on the planet, with a net worth of about $136 billion! However, because Jeff and MacKenzie reportedly don’t have a prenuptial agreement, this number could significantly decrease. Remember, Washington like California, is a community property state, meaning all assets could be split right down the middle when the couple finalizes their divorce.
As to whether you should hire an attorney or attorneys to handle your prenups, take a lesson from Steven Spielberg. Mr. Spielberg and his first wife, Amy Irving signed a prenup on the back of a napkin, and a judge agreed to award Ms. Irving $100 million because he decided that the “document” was invalid since she was not represented by an attorney.
While the motivation to enter into a prenuptial agreement is undoubtedly financially practical, the other benefits are of equal importance when we advise negotiating one. Ultimately, the affianced will have a greater understanding of communication and compromise, while establishing those financial practices that can put marriage at risk. In the end, knowing that a marriage will not end with acrimonious months or even years in court can relieve some of the stresses of the unknown, and encourage a more significant effort to make that marriage work.
If you are ready to tie the knot, you need to seriously consider the advantages of getting a prenuptial agreement. If you are already married and feel like you need to protect yourself and the assets that you brought into the marriage with a post-nuptial agreement, contact the Law Offices of Tracy Duell-Cazes, TDC Family Law, and schedule a free consultation. 408-267-4848.
It seems a cliché to write about resolutions in the new year, but when you have just ended a marriage, no matter how long it lasted, it can be helpful to use the new year as a starting point for some smart choices towards beginning your new life. Taking stock in all that happened in that past year, no matter how painful, will help you learn from those mistakes, heal from them, and make better decisions going forward.
It is never a good idea to wallow in misery, even when the something truly life-shattering has occurred. Bouts of clinical depression may be unavoidable after extreme change, even if that change is positive, because the brain is a mysterious organ that often deals with different kinds of stimuli in the same way. It is still wise to try to mitigate the impact of that adjustment by heeding the advice of mental health professionals, surrounding yourself with supportive loved ones, and engaging in various acts of self-care.
Staying positive means adapting a policy of “It could always be worse, but it WILL get better”. No one is saying don’t talk about the divorce, or your feelings of loss or lingering anger. But it is advisable to then turn the conversation (and thought patterns) to any other topic. When you are with those people you trust who are supporting you, its ok to lean on them…that’s what caring about someone entails…but also interest yourself sincerely in THEIR lives. Steer the conversation in a direction of positivity…What can I do for you? What can I plan? What can we look forward to? By focusing outside of yourself, you are reconnecting with your friends and family and most importantly, thinking beyond your own personal miserable past. It can be exhausting to constantly recount all the things that went wrong with your relationship and ultimately your life with your ex.
Letting go of past grievances
It is impossible to focus on your possible shiny future, if you are still bitter towards your ex…even if he or she totally deserves it. The thing about that is, even if the ex was abusive, a cheater, squandered all your money or stole your dog, your being unhappy and disgruntled towards everyone and everything does not get even, if there even is a way to do so. Imagining getting even can be a great exercise in creative thinking but spending too much time on those thoughts will bleed over into all you say and do. Honestly, your ex is not affected at all by your sniping bitterness, because they are gone. You and the people around you are the ones who will suffer, and if your ex returns your hatred, you may be playing right into their hands with your cynicism and visible hostility.
George Herbert famously said, “Living well is the best revenge.” If you think about it, allowing another person’s actions to change how you behave even after they are no longer sharing your life, is tolerating that person holding way too much power over you. Whether they want that power or not, no one else should be allowed to change who you are on a fundamental level, unless it’s for the better.
Should you decide to date, acting like a disillusioned cuckold will do nothing to help you keep the attention of a prospective mate. Again, no one is saying lie and fake being happy. You went through something, for some more painful than others. You should own that, but prove you bring more to the table than your past heartache. Faking happiness is counterproductive to truly BEING happy, which is the whole point, anyway.
Fill your life with plans.
Plan fun things. Plan interesting things. Plan to do things you really enjoy. Heck, plan to get out of bed, shower and go to the grocery store in something other than sweatpants! Whatever you put in your Outlook™ calendar, DO it!!! These plans are about setting small doable goals for your future, and every time you keep those plans, you are keeping a promise to yourself that life is getting better.
Sometimes things may get bad. You may choose to take a few days here and there to just be sad. You may break some of those plans to have those sad days, call a good friend and cry or yell about your ex. You are entitled, because it’s all part of healing. You must grieve properly in order to be able to one day have that big, beautiful future everyone deserves. Be kind to yourself. Be mindful not to let these slip-ups become all you know and are. Resolve that this is going to be a good year because you will do the work.
The New Year is fast approaching and for most of the world, this means a chance to jumpstart our lives on the right footing. New Year’s resolutions aside, bidding adieux to what may have been a painful year, filled with divorce and family reformulation, can be invigorating. On top of shedding all that sadness is the prospect of the possibility of experiencing NEW adventures. As humans, in constant search for connection, the search for a life partner can seem the most rewarding, exciting, and daunting adventure of all!
Are you ready for dating? Experts on the subject have differing opinions as to when it is appropriate to move on from a failed marriage. Heaven knows our loved ones give us plenty of encouragement to “get back on the horse”. For many couple friends, the sooner you find someone to round out the numbers for a dinner party, the better. What others advise, no matter how well meaning, there are many personal and complicated factors to consider when approaching a return to the dating scene.
The most sensible piece of advice, as described by WebMD columnist Lisa Fields, is to go by your own inner voice above and beyond all others. Everyone may be telling you it’s time to get out there, but for some of us, a grieving period is necessary. Depending on how long you were married, and what sort of divorce it was, you may need a longer period of adjustment just to get used to your new normal, much less the addition of someone else to the mix. Many people associate being in a relationship as being happy and successful, and they want that for you because they care, but it doesn’t mean it’s true. Finding out who you are outside of a long-term relationship can take time and is probably a good idea before engaging in another round of coupledom.
On the other hand, some people have checked out of the marriage long before the papers are signed. You may have felt for months or even years that you were done and just kept putting off ending it for convenience, or the kids, or for of the unknown. In this case, who could blame a person for itching to check out what’s out there. Actually, some will try to blame you if they think it’s too soon, but again, only you can determine when that right time is. Children should be considered, of course, but being respectful and discrete in your romantic endeavors will hopefully help to protect them from unnecessary discomfort until you have found someone serious enough to introduce into your lives.
One of the ways to tell whether you are ready to date is by examining your attitude. According to Dr. Dawn Michael, Ph.D., relationship expert and author, considering the type of date you would be able to offer is a good way to determine if you should be dating at all. If you can offer nothing beyond bitter stories about your ex and/or the divorce or can’t help being mopey and cranky about your lot in life, perhaps you might not be able to provide the best dating experience. In this article from AskMen.com, Dr. Michael advises, "A man is ready to date again when he has a good attitude about dating. When he's ready to have some fun and get out there and meet new people and be open. Dating with a bad attitude will only result in bad dates,". In other words, and valid for both men and women, would YOU want to date you?
Once you have determined that you are really prepared to get out there, and can claim to be jazzed about love and romance, and not just the physical aspects of a relationship, then you can begin to contemplate how to go about sorting through the many, many, MANY others in the same situation to find the one that is right for you.
In a previous post, we discussed getting through the holidays as a parent newly divorced with your children splitting time between yourself and your ex. You should also know that the difficultly of the holidays not only also extends to your ex, but also to your children. They are used to celebrating all together. The holidays have changed and so, too, have the traditions surrounding the holidays.
When it comes to traditions around the holidays, nobody likes change, least of all children who rely on those traditions to reinforce their versions of reality and stability.
This is not only difficult for young children, but also for older, or even adult children who are now adapting to this change in their lives.
If the kids look forward to visiting their maternal grandparents at Christmas only to find that their divorcing parents have arranged a different schedule for everyone, it could be quite unsettling.
For the little ones…
Focus on fun! Seriously, all those little rituals that you and your ex created throughout your marriage can be considered those ghosts of Christmas past. Some of them can be saved…making cookies, decorating a tree, watching Claymation holiday movies on Christmas eve. All are easy enough to replicate … but some of the minute details will have to be altered, and you better believe those kids will notice! Not using the special snowflake cookie cutter that you all bought on vacation one year? What about Grandma’s angel is always on top of the tree?
You can’t compete with that kind of history, so don’t even try. Please remember, you are not trying to “win” the holiday competition with your ex. You are trying to make the divorce easier on your children who love both of their parents and feel the change in family dynamics deeply. What you do want is to add some new little touches to some old traditions and some altogether new customs for those kids to remember.
In this spirit, may we suggest enlisting the help of your children in picking out these new additions to their holiday celebration? Taking a tot to the Holiday store to pick out new cookie cutters or special ornaments is a great way to get them invested in making this time work. Little Mandy is far more likely to look forward to making those cookies if she gets to use the sprinkles and snowflake shapes she picked out herself!
Similarly, getting a new angel for the tree is not about to compete with the one that has been in your former spouse’s family for generations, so just pick something else. Make it something different, fun, whimsical, and (the younger the child) sparkly!
Put every kind of thought you have about “taste” and “design” straight out of your mind and focus on what will merely make your children smile … or even giggle. When all else fails, laughter is what you are aiming for.
Adult Children…still children
Up until the time when they have families and children of their own, your adult children still share the same idealized memories of holidays past that the little ones do. The only difference is they have had a longer time to coat those recollections with the shiny, happy glaze of nostalgic goodness. They will rely on their parents to maintain those traditions.
Therefore, when divorce occurs, even though your “kids” have a car and mortgage payments, go on expensive vacations, and must find a place to house their pets, you will still have to deal with the emotional fallout.
They will be saddened when they think of all those great holidays of yore, sure that “nothing will ever be the same”. They may be resentful for how your divorce will affect them. If they take a selfish view of the situation as an adult, it may be time for a serious discussion. You have spent their entire lives shielding them from pain and uncomfortable situations, but it is time for them to realize that you must also take care of yourself. Sometimes that means making hard decisions that affect the whole family.
After the serious discussion, the final answer is the same as it was with the younger kids. It is time to make new traditions, however with adult kids, these traditions can be more adult in nature as well. Take a trip. Go on vacation. Get away for a few days and let that be the new tradition.
Making new traditions can be an exciting and necessary step to enjoying the holidays in the present. Make new memories to enjoy in the future. Turn this obstacle into an opportunity to start fresh. Start something new and when the holidays come around again, you will be excited for all of the new traditions you have created.
The holiday season, no matter the religion or culture, is always accompanied by unrealistic expectations of happiness and jocularity. Invariably, you are just setting yourself up for disappointment regardless of where or with whom you are celebrating, but when you are divorced and separated from your children, that anticipation can quickly morph into dread.
Pictures of drinking spiked eggnog alone under a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree may keep you up at night as the specter of merriment creeps closer. Don’t worry, though. You can do this…and maybe have a great Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year while you are at it .
If this is your first Holiday alone since the divorce or separation, the enhanced memories of the ghosts of Christmas past will do their best to make you believe that every moment was all Thomas Kincaid canvases depicting warm cider, and soft hugs and giggles of Christmas morning. You forget about the fights over who gets to open what first, disappointed whines about presents not received or can I eat my candy cane now!? Gone are the recollections of the mess that is the aftermath of the gift exchange, that special dinner, or the “wrapping party” from the night before. We are happy to be with our children, but all holidays are a LOT of work. Nobody is saying forget the good times, but acknowledging the down sides of any given occasion can lesson the sting of being the one NOT participating this year.
Whatever the custody agreement, maybe you got Thanksgiving and she got Hannukah or New Year’s, eventually it will be your turn to be the one making new traditions with your offspring. You want them to enjoy themselves, so encourage them to have fun at your ex’s too. No sensitive child that loves his parents can really enjoy themselves if they think one parent is home alone and miserable. Therefore, you owe it to them, as well as yourself and your new life, to have the best time possible.
The real key to getting through the holidays is planning. Some things are unavoidable, like illness or deaths in the family, but you should be on the same page with your ex that unless extreme emergency is involved, this schedule is set in stone. Stability is not only important to children, but adults need to know that they can count on something too, particularly considering the uncertainty of life after separation. The more time you have to plan ahead, the more likely you are to be able to get together with friends or relatives that may be visiting during that time. Or planning a trip to visit them! Maybe you can stay somewhere you went to as a kid with your sibling or visit a college roommate after twenty years of scheduling conflicts or missed chances. The more meaningful or fun the plans, the more likely you are to be able to satisfy that hole you are feeling from missing your kids.
Planning ahead also allows you and your ex to hammer out solid arrangements for when you may be able to call or Skype/FaceTime/video chat with the kids in a way that doesn’t make them feel bad or interrupt whatever plans the parent on duty has scheduled. Also, maybe one parent is on for Christmas, and the other for Christmas Eve. Leaving these preparations until the last minute increases the likelihood that something doesn’t work out, and someone is going to be disappointed.
Hopefully, there is family or friends around to spend this special time with, but that’s not always possible or feasible, depending on location or finances. This doesn’t give you permission to wallow. Remember, you don’t want your babies coming home to a parent that wears obvious signs of having been miserable and alone through the entire holiday. Instead, plan to practice self-care, so that you are a better parent and a better human. Someone who is healthy emotionally, MUST be a more engaged, stable parent than one battling to find their own footing in the new world of singlehood.
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