Advice for Communication as We Embark on a New School Year
As our children begin this new school year with new backpacks and new shoes, let's commit to communicating in a new and fresh way. In cases where discussions between parents are often strained and the conflict high, forgoing phone calls for text and email has been a big help to many parents. For those families who have difficulty pinning the other parent down or whose voice conversations end unpleasantly or are often mired in matters unrelated to the original subject of the discussion, a communication plan can be extremely effective. Try drafting a communication agreement that lays out ground rules and expectations. You can even write it as a Stipulation, file it with the Court and have it made a Court order. I was in a mediation session recently and the mediator passed out the guidelines below:
1. Our primary mode of communication shall be via e-mail
2. Each of us shall respond to an e-mail within 24 hours
3. If the situation requires a response within less than 24 hours, we shall communicate via telephone. In such a circumstance, one shall respond to a voice mail message from the other as soon as possible
We shall utilize the following guidelines in our communication:
1. Be respectful – refrain from name calling, accusations, assumptions about other parent's feelings, motives, etc.
2. The subject of all discussions is limited to the children
3. Address one issue at a time
4. Focus on the present and future, as opposed to the past
5. Make requests, not demands
6. Be clear, direct, concise, and to the point
7. Don't interrupt each other
8. Listen to, acknowledge and try to understand the other person's perspective even though you may not agree
9. Avoid becoming polarized over who is "right" and who is "wrong"
(Guidelines reprinted courtesy of Arnie Swart of Arnold Swartz and Associates)
These are thoughtful and tested methods but do not hesitate to modify them to fit your situation. For example, if you text instead of email/call, substitute in texting.
As always, if we can help, call me. Wishing you all the best as you and your family embark on this exciting time.
Tips For Good Fathers in Bad Custody Disputes
Written By April D. Jones, Esq. © 2010, All Rights Reserved
Divorces are sad and hard on everybody in the family. This is especially true in historically “traditional" households where Mom primarily stays home with the kids and cares for the house and the dog, picks the curtains, sets the play dates, makes the dental appointments, makes the lunches, and volunteers at the school – while Dad works long hours to pay for the house, the dog, the curtains, the braces, the groceries, the play dates, the private school, etc.
In this family model, Dad relies on Mom to update him on the days’ happenings. She fills him in on the kids’ schedule and needs; she tells him everything from “how it went at the orthodontist" to the size of the new shoes she just bought for their toddler. Armed with his update, Dad comes home from work, tells the toddler how pretty her new sparkly shoes are and makes her squeal while he tickles her and tells her what a big girl she is. He then asks his middle-schooler how the orthodontist visit went and they both laugh when she smiles to show him her new lime and orange rubber band combo. Sound familiar?
This division of labor works amazingly well when the parenting team is intact; when each team member knows his role and plays his position. However, when the team splits up and a divorce and custody battle ensues…yikes! Now Mom claims she has done everything for the children and Dad has done nothing. She tells her attorney that Dad never takes the kids to the doctor for their check-ups, doesn’t know their teachers and only ever cooks pancakes (and only on Pancake Sundays). Sure the kids adore him and think he’s an awesome Dad but Mom says that’s because of how she worked to keep him in the know. Without her (and he is, in fact, without her now), he knows nothing about the kids. How can he care for them? He works all the time…and so on and so on.
This situation is not insurmountable. In fact, with a little effort and purpose, you can change the situation easily and forever. What you can’t do when a custody battle is brewing is “Nothing”. You must recognize that divorce changes the roles for everybody. Mom will most likely have to get a job and figure out how to balance working and being a single parent. Dad has to figure out how to balance working and being a single parent. Here are some steps that will help protect your parental rights and bring you up to speed on your children at the same time:
Get familiar with your children’s schools:
This can be done at any time. Start tomorrow if you can.
Know the name of your child's teachers.
Visit your child's school.
Meet with their teacher.
Arrange to meet the teacher monthly if your child needs additional attention and you want to stay abreast of the child’s progress.
Know how they are doing in school. Are they turning in homework? Are they doing well? How are they getting along with the other kids? Do they seem happy or sad or quiet now that things are changing at home? Let the teacher know that they can call you at any time and that you are 100 percent interested in how your child is doing.
Sign up to be a chaperone on a field trip – just one if it's not really your thing or you don't have time. It gives the teachers a chance to know you in a more child-centered social setting and gives you an opportunity to shine as a parent to both the teachers and your child.
Make sure the school has your address and contact information, if it has changed.
Make sure you are on the emergency contact list.
Make sure you are set up in their system to get report cards, notices, etc.
Get Familiar with Your Child's Medical Providers:
Know the name and location of your child’s doctor, dentist, therapist, etc.
Try to attend routine checkups, if you can. If Mom is still the primary scheduler, ask her to schedule the annual check-ups at a time when you can both attend.
For appointments that occur during your parenting time, plan to take them to the visits yourself as often as you can.
Purpose to introduce yourself to all of their providers, even if they do not have check-ups in the near future.
Let their providers know they can contact you at any time and that you are 100 percent interested in how your child is doing.
If your child has ongoing scheduled treatments, ask questions and get up-to-date on the treatment plan and follow your child’s progress.
Make sure the medical provider has your address and contact information, if it has changed.
Make sure you are on the emergency contact list.
Make sure you are set up in their system to get appointment notices, etc.
Some medical providers do not like to be involved in bitter custody battles so keep them out of the fighting. You just want to be an informed, involved Dad. You don’t need to bad-mouth Mom to do this. Just be your best you!
Participate in Extracurricular Activities:
Know what activities the children are signed up for.
Meet the coaches and the ballet teachers and the tutors.
Take your children to practices that occur during your parenting time.
Attend their activities, games and performances, whether they occur during your parenting time or not. This is an awesome opportunity to see your kid outside of your regular parenting time and enjoy their football games or their recitals. To avoid the tension between you and Mom, introduce yourself to other lone Dad’s at the games and still cheer your child on. By doing this you communicate that your child STILL has his or her two biggest fans and that you are both still on their team!
April D. Jones is a family law attorney with over 19 years' experience practicing law. She is licensed in both Colorado and California. She practices family law exclusively and is committed to educating her clients. For more information about how April D. Jones and Jones Law Firm, P.C. can help you with your family law matters, call (303) 799-8155 or visit their website at www.apriljoneslaw.com.
The Harsh Realities of Parental Alienation Written By April D. Jones, Esq. © 2010, All Rights Reserved.
In child custody cases including folks who have been divorced for years, too often one parent belittles, criticizes, shuts out or verbally destroys the other parent in the eyes of their children. This is done for a myriad of reasons: to punish an ex-spouse that YOU hate, to gain sympathy and support from your child (not their role by the way), to try and get more child support (not worth ruining your kids) or because the alienating parent thinks the children "belong" to them, i.e. "my son" or "my daughter".
As a family law lawyer with 19 years' experience, I have seen far more than my share of parental alienation. Trust me; it's the children who pay the price in the long run. Try and remember that your child is NOT your therapist or your BFF and that when you are reaming your "Ex" you are talking about the other half of your child. You are destroying their impression of their "Father" or "Mother".
I have seen adorable graham cracker-fisted 4 year olds turn into the angriest 14 year olds and even angrier (and guilt ridden) 24 year olds after years of living with the spin doctor alienator. Please don't do this to your children. If you have to divorce, purpose to divorce with dignity.
For more articles on children and divorce by family law attorney April D. Jones, see our blogs at www.apriljoneslaw.com and
April D. Jones is a family law attorney with over 19 years' experience practicing law. She is licensed in both Colorado and California. She practices family law exclusively and is committed to educating her clients. For more information about how April D. Jones and Jones Law Firm, PC can help you with your family law matters, call (303) 799-8155 highlighting, or visit their website at www.apriljoneslaw.com.
Helping Children Cope With Divorce
Helping Your Children Cope With the Pain of Divorce: The Importance of Having Fun
By April D. Jones, Attorney At Law
Children coping with their families being broken are often under more pressure than their parents realize. Everyone talks about how resilient children are but it can be a resilience obtained at the price of fun and whimsy and light heartedness. What appears to be resilience is often a defense mechanism that can essentially cost children much of their innocence and youthfulness.
This is especially true when children have to navigate between bitter, angry, fearful or just plain sad parents who are mourning the death of the dreams they once had for themselves. These children have to be resilient when Mom is too sad or tired to do laundry and cook because she's coping with her new full time job and battling depression. The children have to be resilient when Dad is too silent and too frustrated with his new single parent duties that include being both the provider and the listener. Parents in this situation should not assume that children will cope on their own. They still need the attention of each parent, they still need to laugh and feel heard. They need to know that they are still special to each parent. Purposely taking time out for fun and relaxation is a must for families (the children and the adults) in the transition phases of divorce.
"Board Games Central" at www.boardgamecentral.com is a really neat site that I love recommending to clients in transition. The site has all the traditional board games we grew up with plus tons of other interesting games and party ideas. Games are great for kids and adults who need to relax and have fun. If you or someone you know is experiencing rough times, consider getting a new board game and spending time with your children and/or friends laughing out loud. It will be good for you. One idea is to get together with another mother/daughter or father/son team and plan a dinner mystery party for 3-5 other parent/child pairs. Teen girls love the "teen idol mystery party" dinner mystery game. The advantage of co-hosting a party is that you can let your friend do most of the work so you and your child can concentrate on enjoying yourselves and each other.
April D. Jones is a family law attorney with over 19 years' experience practicing law. She is licensed in both Colorado
. She practices family law exclusively and is committed to educating her clients on areas of family law. In addition to her private practice, she teaches courses on mediation and child and family investigation and is the author of a family law column in Shine Magazine. She also writes articles for Divorce Magazine. Her family law column "Ask Attorney April" was featured in the Denver Weekly News.