Like many people, we have taken some of this time during the COVID pandemic to do some very important catching up on television. In one of the shows we have been watching, one of the storylines had to do with the death of a main character and the significant amount of money that was left as an inheritance to other characters.
The conflict being presented was that a person who inherited a large sum was about to be married and there was some concern that the fiancé could wind up with half of the inheritance. It is an understandable point given that California, where the show takes place, is a community property state and that the fiancé would be entitled to half of the marital assets.
While the point made for decent conflict which led to the inevitable cliché of “I love you and have no interest in the money,” the truth is that in this case, the woman who inherited the money really had nothing to worry about.
What is Community Property?
Community property is generally everything that is acquired during a marriage or domestic partnership. Community property includes everything from wages earned, to property, business interests, intellectual property, and even debt. In the event of a divorce, barring any pre or post nuptial agreement, all community property is divided equally.
There is an exception to the rule: Gifts or an Inheritance. Regardless of whether the inheritance is received before or after the wedding, a gift or inheritance that is given individually to a spouse remains separate property and is not subject to community property laws.
The Exception to the Exception
It would be too easy if it just ended there, but there are cases when an inheritance, which starts out as separate property can become community property. The exceptions have the very technical sounding names of Transmutation and Commingling.
Transmutation has nothing to do with any sort of spiritual awakening. Let’s say, for example, part of your inheritance includes a house. You and your spouse decide you are going to live in the house as your primary residence and you put your spouse’s name on the deed. Over the course of time, your spouse takes care of the house while you are working, you split the chores and all the expenses of maintaining the house. In the case of a divorce, it is quite likely that the house, even though it was initially part of inheritance, is now going to be considered community property if when and how your spouse’s name was added to the title met the requirements for transmutation.
If you receive an inheritance and place the money in a separate account in your name away from other family accounts, the money will remain separate property. However, if you place the money in an account you share with your spouse with other money, then the money is no longer separate property. If you put money from an account you share with your spouse into this separate account it also becomes Comingled and could no longer be separate property. By Commingling the funds you convert the money to community property. If you then divorce, if you claim the money is separate property the burden of proof is on you to convince the judge that the money is, indeed, separate property.
Keep good records
When it comes to an inheritance, you should maintain good records regarding the money showing you are the sole owner of the accounts in question, and you never intended to transfer ownership of the funds to your spouse. Make sure to keep the documents showing how you received the money and ALL of the periodic account statements for any financial accounts containing your separate property in a safe place, including back up electronic copies.
So, the two lessons here are that if you maintain an inheritance apart from other marital assets, it is considered to be separate property and not subject to community property laws, and second, you can’t believe anything you see on television.
California is a community property state. This means that during a divorce, all marital assets are divided between the spouses evenly. Asset distribution is a 50/50 proposition. It is essential to know that only marital assets are divided. It is possible to have separate assets even from time periods during the marriage, and these assets are not divided. For example, suppose one spouse owns property prior to the marriage or inherits property, which remains separate from other marital assets, in those cases, that property is considered separate and is not divided during a divorce.
If a spouse owns a business before the marriage, what is separate and what is marital property becomes difficult.
Whether a business is considered separate or marital property can be taken care of with a pre or post-nuptial agreement. For the contract to be honored during a divorce, both spouses have to enter into the agreement of their own free will with no sign of threat or coercion. The agreement must also be fair to both sides. A one-sided agreement can be set aside by the court as unconscionable. Both parties also need to have their own attorney advising/representing them in the preparation and execution of the agreement.
The first question asked is whether the business was started before or during the marriage. If the business was started during the marriage, then in most cases, the company will be considered a marital asset to be divided during a divorce.
For businesses that had been started before marriage, the question of marital property and separate property depends on the business itself. Thus, the main question becomes, did the company grow due to the talent, experience, and sweat equity of the spouse running the business, or did the business progress due to market forces with little to no dependence on the experience or sweat equity of the spouse?
Depending on the answer to this question, the courts will attribute the appropriate analysis to the business to determine what amount should be considered community property and what should be considered separate property.
These two analyses are known by Pereira or Van Camp (the shortened name of the cases that set forth the respective analyses.)
In the first example (Pereira), a business was started before the marriage, and the business has explicitly grown due to the talent and input from the spouse.
The Pereira analysis takes the value of the business at the time of the marriage and allows for an increase of value for every year of the marriage. To determine the growth in value, the court will calculate a reasonable rate of return multiplied by the number of years of marriage. That amount is allocated to the spouse as separate property. Anything above that amount is distributed as community property.
The Van Camp analysis is used when a business grows due to market forces rather than the talents of the spouse running the company. Van Camp is used when a business has grown due to the use of technology, investment in research and development, or market trends.
Under the Van Camp analysis, the court will determine a fair market salary (known as reasonable compensation) for the spouse, even if the spouse didn’t take a salary to that level. Anything above the fair market salary is determined to be separate property and is not subject to distribution. If the fully reasonable compensation was not paid during the marriage, that remaining amount is distributed as community property.
When is each analysis used?
Pereira is generally used for professional services such as doctors, lawyers, small retail establishments, or accountants. There is little to differentiate one company from another in these businesses except for how successful the owner is at growing the business. When it comes down to it, most accountants offer similar services. One accountant might be far more successful than another due to talent, education, certifications, or business networking, while another may scrape by. This sort of business grows in direct proportion to the effort put into the business.
Van Camp is used when business growth is based on anything other than the skills of the owner. Manufacturing, technology, or internet-based operations will grow based on market trends, new technology, or other market forces that are outside of the control of any one individual.
Pereira and Van Camp have been the examples used in divorce cases involving a business for over 100 years. The original Van Camp vs. Van Camp case was a divorce case in 1921. Pereira vs. Pereira was from 1909.
In 1914, Frank Van Camp started a seafood company which became an immediate commercial success. As the full-time manager of the company, he received a salary. It had been determined that everything above the compensation he received was separate property.
In 1900, Mr. Pereira was running a business with an initial investment of $15,500. He continued to work on and grow the company keeping the initial investment in the business. The court initially ruled that all profit above the initial investment should be considered community property. Mr. Pereira appealed the ruling as it did not take into account the increase in value of the initial investment. The appeals court agreed with Mr. Pereira and remanded the case for recalculation of the appropriate value of the business. Mrs. Pereira petitioned the court of appeals to amend the judgment by taking the initial investment and adding a 7% increase as the return on the investment. The Court of Appeals granted the request.
To this day, these two cases remain the precedents used when determining how much of business is allocated as separate property and how much is considered community property.
Was the divorce rate ever really 50%?
One of the most quoted statistics is that 1 in 2 marriages will end in divorce. While divorce rates are a difficult metric to gauge due to the differing laws and the number of jurisdictions in the country, the mythical number of 50% divorce rate was never true. So where did it come from?
The myth of the 50% divorce rate started after World War II when veterans came back from war, many of them got married very soon after their return. There were also a large number of people who got married before the war just before they shipped off to war.
As fast as the marriages were happening, they also started to end in divorce. Many of the marriages from before the war didn’t last through the war and many ended soon after. Even the marriages that took place soon after war after years of love letters the stress of war and the possibility of loss, started to break up rather quickly. The stress of returning to civilian life, the traumas of battle, and the realization of not really being in love all worked against this marriage boom.
The rate of divorce after World War II was found to be about 2% per year. Using wacky math that doesn’t hold up, estimates were that if marriages ended in divorce as a rate of 2% a year, by the 1970s, the divorce rate will be as high as 50%.
The truth is that math simply doesn’t work that way.
What is true is that divorce rates did, in fact, climb through the years and divorce did hit its peak in the 1970s and 1980s. Could that divorce rate track back to World War II? No. The 1960s was a turbulent time in the United States with the Vietnam War which led to similar promises of marriage after a soldier returned from their tour.
The late 60s also saw the summer of love and the free love movement, meant to shun traditional institutions like marriage and birth control. This movement created a direct line to the 1970s, which saw Roe v. Wade, the rise of the feminist movement, and the advent of the No-fault divorce, which started here in California in 1969 signed into law by then-Governor Ronald Reagan.
As No-fault divorce made its way through the United States, it made it easier for people to end their marriages without having to accuse or even stage an adultery or move to Nevada. While divorce rates did spike in the 1970s and 1980s, it never did reach the mythical rate of 50%, with 65% of marriages lasting until at least their 15th anniversary. This number doesn’t include marriages that ended with the death of a spouse prior to the 15-year mark.
In the 1990s, the divorce rate started to decline with about 70% of marriages making it to at least the 15-year milestone.
Moving into the 2000s, the divorce rate continued to decline, but then again, so did the marriage rate. People were waiting longer before getting married. Increased cost of living meant more people were focusing on work longer and non-marital relationships became more common.
While divorce rates differ based on demographics such as race, ethnicity, education level, and geography, overall divorce rates continue to fall.
Then COVID happened.
It has been assumed that long-term quarantine, being stuck together in close quarters would cause many marriages which would have otherwise lasted to break up. Since many courts were closed to new cases, only accepting emergencies such as cases involving abuse or cases where the safety and welfare of a child were at risk, it is hard to gauge how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact the divorce rate.
Now that courts are reopening across the country, we will see what the impact of the pandemic will be on marriages, custody, and support across the country.
Going through a divorce is a stressful process. We do what we can to remove as much stress as possible, but things often get difficult, especially when kids are involved. A recent news article on the ongoing Angelina Jolie – Brad Pitt divorce said that Ms. Jolie was not going to allow her kids to testify in the matter of figuring out custody of their children. This brings up a question that many people have about custody hearing: can children testify?
California State law does allow for children to express an opinion regarding custody. California Family Code § 3042 outlines when and how a child may express an opinion regarding custody.
Part (a) specifies:
If a child is of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference as to custody or visitation, the court shall consider, and give due weight to, the wishes of the child in making an order granting or modifying custody or visitation.
The “best interest” of a child is a common theme throughout divorce, especially in the area of child custody. “Best Interest” means “that all custody and visitation discussions and decisions are made with the ultimate goal of fostering and encouraging the child's happiness, security, mental health, and emotional development into young adulthood.”1
A judge will generally consider it in the child’s best interest to maintain a positive and loving relationship with both parents. Having a child testify or express an interest in one parent over another in open court can sometimes go against this standard.
Section 3042 goes on to say that if the court determines that it is against the best interest of the child to express an opinion, the court must find another way to make its determination regarding custody and the child’s preference.
One way a court may determine custody and visitation is through a Custody Evaluation. A Custody Evaluation is generally performed by a mental health professional such as a psychologist. The process, which could be a stressful process for parents, includes the psychologist interviewing each of the parents and the children. The purpose of the evaluation is to give sufficient information to the court so a decision can be made that ensures the needs of the children, including their preferences are being met as best as possible. The evaluation will pay attention to the parent’s skills, and conversely, the areas that are in need of improvement, along with the psychological needs of the children.
The evaluation process can take some time to complete and may involve several interviews with everyone involved. The evaluator will also observe each parent interacting with their children and may receive input from other adults who interact with the children, such as teachers or other health care providers.
The final result is a report presented to the judge with their findings along with recommendations related to custody and visitation.
The custody portion of a divorce is always very difficult, but it cannot be rushed and it must proceed in a way that the children are protected. It is always best when co-parents have a working relationship to make shared custody or visitation schedules easier on everyone. In cases where custody cannot be worked out through mediation or other alternative dispute resolution processes and the judge needs to make a final determination that has the potential of upsetting one, or even both parents, anger and animosity is a possibility.
We work with our clients to work through these issues and reiterate that regardless of how a person feels toward their ex-spouse, assuming there are no issues of abuse or mistreatment, the most important thing is, as they courts say, “the best interest of the children.”
If you have any questions or concerns about the process of determining child custody, visitation, or custody evaluations, please call our office at 408.267.8484.
1 - Focusing on the "Best Interests" of the Child - FindLaw
The good news is mask mandates are lifting and the world may finally be on its way to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This means schools, daycares, and camps will begin opening their doors, and kids will finally be able to interact with others in their peer groups. Perhaps more difficult to grapple with, the return to regular custody agreements may mean a return to the tension that accompanied negotiating and maintaining those arrangements pre-pandemic.
May we suggest using this time as a jumping off point for a new beginning? We have all been cut off from so many things in everyday life that we took for granted before 2020. Grandparents have not seen their grandkids for entire growth cycles, at this point-which for some means those beloved faces have been rendered unrecognizable by the passage of time! These relationships will consequently have to be rebuilt from scratch.
Similarly, everyone’s friendships have been strained by enforced distancing. Even with web meetings and video calling, adults and kids alike are missing the reinforcement of face to face, real life interactions. These relationships foster our feelings of connection, as well as reinforce our image of ourselves.
The benefits of re-establishing a set, yet flexible routine going forward far outweigh any lingering resentments that might have existed when the agreements on custody we first hammered out. This does not just benefit the children, but both parents will also profit emotionally from being able to schedule times away from offspring. These benefits include:
A lot of discussion has been going on since the start of the pandemic as to the importance of self-care. Being trapped in a house with young kids without a break makes that idea something of a pipedream. Mental health issues have been on a pronounced increase during prolonged quarantine, weight has been gained as families eat for comfort, not to mention the riot of exposed roots and bushy beards that have cropped up on all those Zoom meetings. Celebrate your reinstated alone time by getting a haircut, massage, or pedicure. You will feel like yourself again, and that’s going to be better for your relationship with your kids in the long run,
For everyone in the family, the end of COVID restrictions means a chance to strengthen familial relationships and important friendships. If you didn’t see as much of your kids in the past year, it is finally time to make new great memories in person! This means hugs for kids, hugs for mom and dad, and hugs for Grandma and Grandpa! So much affection is conveyed by a simple touch, and so much connection is forged by shared experiences- there really is no substitute for either. If the 2020/21 years have taught us anything, it is to get those embraces in while you can as much as you can. You never know what will happen down the road.
This has truly been a harrowing time for most people in the U.S. and around the world. Whether loved ones were infected, deaths suffered, or families merely kept apart, we now find ourselves living in an altered reality. When so much has been endured, many will take this opportunity to reevaluate what is important for the happy, successful life of the family. This can mean putting aside past grievances with a former spouse in favor of keeping the kids physically and mentally healthy. Whether those past gripes still have baring or not, how they effect you can change when faced with these other issues that are in fact life altering. Kids need this routine, both as a return to normalcy and to be able to put these previous trials behind them. That custody/visitation promises are being adhered to again will be a clear green light to children to relax a little as the world goes on. Remember, cordial participation to those legal accords benefit the overall health of your offspring and you. If you really believe that is not the case, it may be time to consult with your attorney.
As we pass the one-year mark of the extreme circumstances surrounding the COVID pandemic, many relationships are feeling the strain of prolonged isolation, in addition to mental health fissures that can (and are) lead to a marked uptick in domestic violence. It is difficult to say how big of a surge is happening because many choose not to report incidents to law enforcement—this too, because of COVID.
Before we are all vaccinated, or enough of us are to facilitate the “herd immunity” that permits the population to mingle again, many are holding tight to the “bubble” of acquaintances our local government has deemed appropriate to spend time with. This diminishing of points of contact, and therefore support, is one factor, but what if the entirety of the limited people you are in contact with are related in some way to your abuser? It can often take a LOT of prodding from loved ones and friends before a person, man, or woman, will come forward even to consider leaving an abusive situation. However, signs of abuse are often subtle and hard to notice through phone calls or web meetings. Consequently, if a person is not comfortable reaching out for support, they become even more isolated-many believing that there are no options for them other than to endure the ongoing abuse. After all, where can they go if they are not living in that “bubble”? Who can they turn to if their regular emotional support has become less available? Most health care professionals received training to spot domestic abuse signs—but victims aren’t seeing their doctors in person either!
According to data collected in surveys of nearly 400 adults for ten weeks beginning in April 2020, it has been suggested that more services and communication are needed so that even front-line health and food bank workers, for example — rather than only social workers, doctors, and therapists — can spot the signs and ask clients questions about potential intimate partner violence.
“The pandemic, like other kinds of disasters, exacerbates the social and livelihood stresses and circumstances that we know lead to intimate partner violence,” says Clare Cannon, assistant professor of social and environmental justice in the Department of Human Ecology and the lead author of the study. She explained that increased social isolation during COVID-19 had created an environment where victims and aggressors, or potential aggressors in a relationship, cannot easily separate themselves from each other. The extra stress also can cause mental health issues, increasing individuals’ perceived pressure and reactions to stress through violence and other means.
In California, awareness of domestic violence as a public health crisis is on the rise, as shown by a statewide study of 1918 adults conducted by the Blue Shield of California Foundation. In this study, “9 in 10 Californians feel domestic violence is a serious problem and two-thirds consider domestic violence to be a public issue that should be addressed by all of us.”
The benefit of studies like these is that we are given a more precise understanding of what solutions can be moving forward. According to Jacquie Marroguin, director of programs at California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, “One of the things we’ve been able to do in the field is intervention and prevention. Moving forward, we know we are looking at a new normal. And that means finding out what these services look like. All of these things serve to keep us all safer and in a better place.”
What we can glean from all the data is that the distribution of knowledge can alleviate many problems. In many cases, the thing that keeps victims quiet is not so much fear of their abusers, though that is a factor, but more the perception of being alone in their maltreatment with no way out.
Marriage is ideally a partnership in which two people share the load of responsibilities- physical, emotional, or financial. Whatever agreed-upon roles these partners take on-whether it be as the primary breadwinner or the caretaker of home and kids, these spouses are supposed to be equals at the end of the day.
Divorce happens when the partnership no longer works, often because one or both partners have changed what they can or are willing to contribute to the marriage as a whole. Whether the parent giving childcare wants to return to work, someone loses a job, or the rules that governed a married couple have changed for any number of reasons, the partnership is unable to function as it did.
Just because a couple is separating does not mean that their business together has entirely concluded. How does one ensure that a former partner is pulling their agreed-upon weight when the relationship is no longer a motivation for participation?
In the previous entry we wrote in 2016, Vocational Evaluation was explained in legal and technical detail so that a client of ours might know what is entailed to pursue such a course of action. We would like to explore what might drive a person to request a spouse or former spouse's vocational evaluation.
Divorce is an inconvenience at the best of times. Still, most can agree that it can also be time-consuming, costly, and emotionally draining in the long run, particularly when contentious. When everything is finalized, you would hope that circumstances and the commitment of all parties allow for adherence to divorce agreements, especially as it pertains to spousal and child support. Unfortunately, many issues can alter a person's ability (or willingness) to contribute as they have initially agreed financially.
During the past year, many people have lost their jobs and cannot find new ones, which has made it challenging for some to keep up with alimony and child support. Unfortunately, even with most people cutting back on extracurriculars, there are still necessary expenses that must be paid.
Sometimes, a person may suspect that their ex is not making enough effort to find employment, out of spite or laziness. He or she may claim that they are unable to work due to injury or lack of qualifications in a lucrative field, but you may suspect otherwise. Maybe they do not feel like you need or deserve the agreed-upon amount of support, so they seem to be dragging their feet about providing it.
Rather than rail against your former mate, avoid anger and suspicion by consulting your legal representative, who can file for a Vocational Evaluation involving your ex.
The purpose of the Vocational Evaluation is "To assess current and/or future employability and wage-earning capacity for the court. It can include the presentation of a vocational plan outlining specific details as to how the person will return to the job market (e.g., training time, cost, appropriate programs, entry/ceiling earnings upon plan completion, and job availability)."
A Vocational Evaluation is a tool that can also be helpful to a person who is amenable to going back to work. The process allows the subject to learn more about themselves from a vocational perspective, expand occupational knowledge, and learn about different careers that fit their specific needs, aptitudes, and interests.
Essentially, the process of Vocational Evaluation can be beneficial to both parties. It allows an impartial professional to weigh in on a solution to an individual's employability without the personal experiences, biases, and motivations that might otherwise color any suggestions for resolution.
See our previous post on Vocational Evaluations.
There really is an app for everything.
California has been a No-Fault divorce state for about 50 years. Nevada had been known as the divorce capital of the United States since the early 1900s, but California was the first to pass No-Fault divorce legislation. With the passing of No-fault divorce in New York in 2010, all 50 states are now, for the most part, No-fault divorce states.
One of the main benefits of No-fault was to lower the temperature of the divorce process, make the process less expensive, less emotionally draining, and allow spouses to maintain some level of relationship so they can continue to be co-parents to their minor children.
No-fault divorces also took away the ability of a spouse to use the accusation of adultery, cruelty or abuse as a negotiating tactic, which could be embarrassing, especially if a spouse is a public figure, which in California is a distinct possibility.
No-fault attempts to keep the process civil and protect the children from additional stress or embarrassment which could come with parents being divorced.
A common theme in divorce is to do whatever is in the best interest of the children. Even after a divorce, parents of minor children still have to work together to raise the children.
Anything you can do to keep communications open with your ex-spouse and remain civil is helpful. With cell phones and mobile technology being so ubiquitous, it is no surprise there are apps that can help you manage your post-divorce life.
Co-Parenting apps range in functionality. Some apps are fairly simple shared calendars spouses can use to keep track of parenting time days, pick-ups, drop-off, and any events or activities that each parent is going to be attending or responsible for.
Other apps go deeper and are specifically designed for divorced co-parents. An app like WeParent or Talking Parents help you to not only manage schedules, but also shared documents, appointments, expenses, and custody, or Parenting time schedules. There is also a messaging function to help keep the lines of communication open.
Keeping lines of communications open is really only half of the challenge. The other half is to keep communication civil. An addon to an app called OurFamilyWizard includes a Tone Meter, which like a spellchecker on your computer will monitor your tone in messages being sent and warn you if the tone is confrontational or can possibly lead to an argument. This app also allows each parent to add accounts to other people who they would require assistance from, such as grandparents or even mediators or therapists.
Not every divorce ends with parents being able to work together. Every case is unique and every case has its own details that need to be taken into consideration. However, when spouses are able to make the transition to co-parents, it is helpful to be able to use current technology to make everyone’s life that much easier. The internet is for more than cat videos and Bernie Sanders memes.
Use the internet how it was designed to be used: to make communication easier, open, and stress-free.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor.
If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.
It is a common thing to hear that a couple has stayed in an unhappy marriage “for the children.” The ironic part is that of all age groups, when it comes to divorce, young children often have it easier than older children and even adult children.
Couples with teenagers or adult children have the attitude that adults and teens are more mature so they can handle difficult life events better than a young child. The truth is that adult children of a divorcing couple are often devastated by the news and can affect them to the level of it impacting their own lives and causing trust issues that can eventually even lead to their own divorce. For adults, the revelation of their parent’s divorce is a tough pill to swallow. As adults, a divorcing parent might even share more information regarding the decision to divorce. This can lead to a bombshell of a revelation such as, “your father and I have not gotten along for the last 20 years.”
They may even tell the adult child they stayed together for the sake of their younger self. This will cause the adult child to go back to a life previously well remembered and think that their entire life was based on a lie. Since the adult was told the parents stayed together “for the sake of the children” the adult may even develop a deep sense of responsibility for contributing to their parent’s unhappy life.
When things are not good at home where there are young children, parents will try to shield their kids from the truth of their reality. Even if parents do divorce, the news is brought to the young child in a very careful manner filled with reassurances of love for them, and that things will be fine and it is most definitely not their fault. This same protection is often not used for teenagers, and rarely used for adults.
While we have discussed the ramifications of divorce on adult children in the past, we want to take a look at the impact of divorce on teenagers. Even in the best of circumstances, the teenage years is an extremely difficult and awkward time. Teens are dealing with school, being forced to make decisions about college and courses which may decide the path their lives will take. They are also dealing with the everyday issues of being a teen. Things like dating, trying to figure out who they are, and dealing with puberty and raging hormones, and all the changes associated with growing up can put a level of stress and pressure on a teenager that is internally unbearable.
As a teenager, parents will look at their children as being more mature and will discuss their issues, such as a pending divorce in a more open way thinking their age and maturity will allow them to take this unpleasant news in stride.
In actuality, about 25% of teenagers will experience physical or emotional problems related to the changes caused by divorce.
As a parent, it is important to recognize the signs that your teenage children are not dealing with your divorce as well as you would have hoped.
Some of these signs may include:
For some teenagers the news of their parent’s divorce might be the proverbial bridge too far. The news can cause an emotional break and can even lead to suicidal ideations and even attempts to take their own lives.
The best way to deal with your teenager during a divorce is to remember what it was like to be a teenager yourself. You do not want to talk to your teen as if they are a toddler, but you also do not want to give them the raw, unfiltered details of your failed marriage. Children of any age still require reassurance and still require some level of protection from the full truth about their parents and their flaws.
Teenagers might act out and it is important to maintain a level of discipline and not let them run rampant because you feel they deserve to let off steam from hearing bad news. Teenagers still need, and even desire structure in their lives. This does not change because you have decided to get divorced. That structure is even more important.
Be present for your children. Talk with them and ask them about how they feel and take a genuine interest in their answers and their interests. Don’t dismiss their feelings, because even if they do not fully understand the situation, being dismissed in such a way can lead to additional stress and anxiety and lead them to think you are not interested in their feelings.
Encourage your teenager to speak to a counselor at school or enlist the professional help of a therapist. Teenagers are going to want to talk to their friends. This is an important part if their development, but if the only voices they are hearing are that of other teens who have potentially made their own poor decisions, it could lead to more serious issues down the road.
Nobody ever gets married with the vision of a future filled with divorce, and no one ever has children with the idea that they will not legally be able to spend every moments of those kids’ life with them, and that is how it should be. We can only hope that everyone who gets married and has children does so with the best of intentions, and if divorce occurs, we can only hope that all parties make plans to handle it with as much grace and optimism. What no one could ever have imagined in their wildest dreams was how the Global Pandemic would disrupt all those well-intentioned plans.
As we are still in the thick of it, we have missed almost all the big holidays with our extended families, which is hard enough. Christmas without Grandma’s hugs seems a travesty! But what if stay at home orders or quarantine prevents parents from seeing their kids!? Sure, it’s painful for the divorced parents, but without care taken-this time can cause damage to those relationships with our kids we work so hard to create and maintain.
Fortunately, this didn’t happen before we were connected by the internet, personal computers, and smart phones that utilize the technology of both. Imagine a toddler going nine months without hearing his mom or dad’s voice had this happened “back in the day”, like even 15 years ago! The kid would have trouble recognizing the necessarily absentee parent, and that parent would have missed so many milestones of growth! With so many negatives associated with social media and internet obsession, the silver lining is that at LAST those things are finally making themselves useful by providing real, meaningful connection between families.
Most parents have had to be at least partially responsible for the education of the kids while school was mandatorily closed. Because of that, everyone has really had to step up to the plate about learning to use video-calling and teleconferencing. A lot of school systems have even provided the kids with the tablets or laptops to do this with! Once you learn how to connect your kids with online classes and set up learning programs, it becomes so much easier to set up video calling between dearly missed loved ones—or parents that aren’t able to see their kids during the pandemic.
This needs to be a real priority for the custodial parent, and it can seem rough on top of all the other stuff you are being burdened during the global crises. What, you have to keep the kids alive, healthy, fed AND educated plus find time in the day to make sure your ex can facetime or Zoom them? This without scheduling in shower and bathroom breaks for yourself? The answer, for everyone’s sake is yes! If you want healthy kids with stable relationships and an appreciation of family, then both parents need to get on board the virtual train on the regular.
No one needs to go into how valuable setting up a structured routine is for children, because we have already done so in blogs past. Parenting experts agree that since the routine of school and custody, and playdates, and after school activities have ground to a halt, kids are floundering in the “new normal” to find acceptable ways to be. Setting up education time and play time is certainly important but establishing a regular call time for face-to-face talks with a parent they are not seeing enough of is another way of establishing that routine. Make it clear they can call at any time—but that these regular video appointments will be happening regardless, even if it’s just to check in, every day. It will become something everyone can look forward to, including parent on duty. That could be the time they schedule that shower!
This is also a useful tool around the holidays, where we idealize the concept of familial togetherness. In years past, relatives from out of the area would call on the day of the holiday and the phone would get passed around so that everyone would get a chance to say a few words. NOW, literally everyone and their uncle can join one of these video calls/conferences and enjoy a toast and a story while looking at the faces of their loved ones. It has been made so easy, that even grandma can do it! By being creative, you might be able to arrange for everyone to open presents at the same time or enjoy the same cookies so that you can make new memories that aren’t about how far apart we are—but what we can share together because technology has allowed us to.