The American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers has published an outstanding book entitled: “Child Centered Residential Guidelines”. You can find it, view a copy online, and order a copy here.
I don’t say things like this lightly: in 20 years of working with families who are separating or divorcing, this is the best 50-page summary of kid’s issues, and especially age-appropriate contact schedules, that I have ever seen. The primary author, Dr. Robin M. Deutsch, Ph.D. is a nationally recognized expert on children, adolescents and divorce, and her experience shines through the pages of this book.
There are detailed model contact schedules with explanations for children in the following age groups:
24 months – 3 years
Pre-schoolers; 3 to 6 years
Early school-aged children; 6 to 9 years
Later school-aged children; 10 to 12 years
Early Adolescents, 13 to 15 years
Late Adolescents, 16 to 18 years
But, that’s not all. There are other topics that relate to parents’ actions around their kids’ contact, for example:
Additionally, a variety of special conditions that often arise are also discussed, including, Special Needs; Visitation Resistance; Never Married Parents; Domestic Violence; Substance Abuse/Mental Illness; Incarcerated Parents, Same Sex Parenting and Military Parenting.
If you are divorced, or going through a separation, you need to read this book!
Senior Policy Advisor
Q&A From the Judge's Bench™: Does it Reflect Poorly on the Mother in Court for Refusing to Have any Communication with the Stepmom?
Question from a Reader:
My partner and I currently have full custody of my stepdaughter and I am the primary caretaker as my partner is often at work. I speak with my stepdaughter's teacher regularly, I take her to after school activities, and sometimes doctors appointments. I recently reached out to the Bio Mom on a few occasions to update her with school information and a doctor’s appointment. I also try to open up communication by sending an email based around my step daughter's well-being and expressing some issues that were brought forward by her therapist. I view this as just trying to establish some form of a relationship, but we've recently received a letter from her lawyer, indicating that she will only communicate with my partner when it comes to her daughter. I respect that is her choice, I was just wondering if the Bio Mom’s refusal to communicate with me, would reflect poorly on her in court when it comes to our upcoming custody and child support case?
In my mediation practice, I often encounter cases in which very smart, very kind and otherwise rational people find themselves engaged in a divorce-related battle for reasons that would surprise someone who knew them outside of the situation.
Some of these cases involved matters that are truly worth fighting over, including such serious issues as domestic abuse or custody of children where one party is truly not a fit parent. More often, cases get hung up on a particular issue or set of issues and then the ill-feelings generated by that particular issue multiply and infect all of the other areas where the parties might otherwise have been able to come to an amicable agreement.
Let’s assume the following scenario, for the sake of discussion. You are in a long-term marriage, which for whatever reason has run its course. You and your spouse have successfully raised your kids, who are grown and gone. The high earning spouse is the principal of a modestly sized small business, with about $1m per year in gross revenues. Additionally, the parties have two family LLC’s that own rental properties. However, the higher earning spouse has reinvested all surplus income (in good years) in the business, and has only a small 401(k).
Let’s move to another topic in our series on the complexity of joint finances: that of marital versus non-marital property.
These terms are defined differently by each state and the rules are very different between “community property” states and “equitable distribution” states. The differences can be summarized in a couple key sentences. In community property states, unless there is a prenuptial agreement that says otherwise, when parties get married, any real estate or other property held by either party prior to the marriage gets transformed into joint property held by both of the partners.
While it is far form a universal rule, I think most people who see lots of separating or divorcing couples (Therapists, Accountants, Lawyers, Judges, etc.) would agree that while the underlying problems may be more subtle and hard to identify, there is usually a triggering event that pushes one or the other partner over the line from ambivalence to a decision to move on.
Over time, most households that are responsible with their money begin to accumulate long-term assets. These assets commonly fall into three categories; Real Estate, Regular Investments and Retirement Investments. If a couple is married and later decide to divorce, then a whole bunch of rules come into play, some created by courts as “common law” doctrines, others put in place by legislatures in the form of “statutes”, and yet others, in the form of IRS regulations and practices, governing tax treatment of gains and losses.
Census data makes it clear that fewer people are choosing legal marriage than they used to, or are putting it off until later in their lives. However, many people are living together, and gradually move into sharing their finances without ever crossing a clear legal line. Unless the unmarried partners have a written agreement governing their finances and what will happen if they break up, non-married joint finances are a train wreck waiting to happen. If Long Term Assets are involved, the wreck will likely be worse.
1 Adam 12, See the woman at 121 Spring Street…
In our city paper last week there was a bad story about a murder in a small local town. A man who lived alone out in the country subdivided his property, and then sold a second lot, retaining a common driveway. The neighbors had problem after problem with each other for years.
I don’t know from personal experience, but I’m told that anesthesiologists describe their jobs as a strange combination of having to be alert all the time, while things are routine and occasionally boring, then having to shift into crisis mode instantly when the routine things start to go sideways.
For a judge, trying cases is much the same. The points at which total concentration becomes necessary may be easily anticipated, as with the State’s key witness in a criminal case, or totally unexpected, when a party says something totally unanticipatedly right in the midst of pretty ordinary testimony. (Usually, when that happens, that party’s lawyer is hearing this interesting fact for the first time as well! It is an opportunity to observe how good that lawyer’s poker face is.
In many situations the options are black or white – should you stay with your current partner, or is it time to end the relationship? However, humans operate in a world of finely nuanced grays, and the answer to hard questions is often more complex than a single “yes” or “no”.
Other resources have always existed to help a single partner or a couple resolve these difficult questions. These alternatives include individual therapy, couples counseling or pastoral counseling. But each of these resources have a particular goal. For example; the individual therapist hopes to help you be comfortable with your own identity and, in order to do that, has to create a therapeutic alliance with you, necessarily excluding your partner’s interests. Similarly, couples counseling usually has the goal of a helping couple to communicate better in order to preserve their existing relationship.
But what, if like many of us, one or both of the parties is not even sure she or he wants to preserve the relationship? What if both parties are unsure whether it is worth investing the significant time, energy and openness that couples counseling needs to succeed? Often one party is “leaning in” to the relationship, while the other is “leaning out”, but both are uncertain.