Friday, September 30, 2011

The morning commute blues

Photo by Carla Fisher, M.D.

Figuring out custody schedules, transportation and coordinating packing your children's clothes for custody time with the other parent certainly does not even enter the minds of people contemplating having children.  However, back and forth between parents's houses, morning commutes that change depending on the parental custody day and packing bags become the norm for some children.

You might not be able to change the custody situation - either you are not getting back together with the other parent or the current schedule is here to stay for the foreseeable future.  Perhaps the time has come to make the best of a bad situation so that your children's lives can be made a bit more manageable.

Helpful custody suggestions:

(1) Savor that morning commute time (or any commute time).  Sometimes a car ends up being the absolute best place to have a sincere, thoughtful conversation with your children.  Why?  Because the issue of eye contact is avoided and kids (and adults) can sometimes use this opportunity to communicate without negative verbal cues.  I remember one case where my client insisted that the other parent provide all of the transportation.  I advised her against it as she not only lost control of some of the comings and goings of her child, she also missed out on some great one on one time with a chance to speak with him without all of the distractions of home.  (Of course, your car also has to be a distraction free zone meaning no videos, video games, cell phones or other attention diverting gadgets.)

(2) Generally speaking, I think it is usually a great idea for the receiving parent to pick up.  That way, you control the time when your child will be home -- no more waiting at the front door - wondering why the other parent is late.  Additionally, picking up your child from the other parent's home gives you an opportunity to simply ask, "how was the visit" in a non-threatening, natural and chatty manner.  Once the child returns to your home, he/she will want to begin to immediately settle back in and move on.  This does not mean you should be an investigator, interrogator or sleuth about what goes on between your child and the other parent. However, you should do everything you can to keep the lines of communication open and let your child know that they can speak freely about whatever is going on in their lives.

(3)  Try to have duplicates of the basics, if you can afford it.  This can cut down on the packing that your child has to do between households and help she or he feel as if they truly have two homes -- they are just not visiting two houses.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

School form shenanigans

Back to school time produces paperwork and lots of it. Permission slips, calendars, instructions, emergency contact forms and to-do lists travel home with children to be read, filed, reviewed, filled out and returned by parents. Are you the custodial parent who is tempted leave your ex’s name off of every school information form as a not so subtle message that he or she lost their significance in your child’s life? Or are you the non-custodial parent who wants to be involved yet is thwarted at every turn by a custodial parent who ignores your existence?

For the custodial parent:

DO include the other parent’s name on all forms. If there are special circumstances, such as the individual lives too far away or is rarely involved, note that on the form. However, simply leaving the person’s name off the form or substituting someone else’s name, such as your current paramour or spouse, will only make more problems for you in the end. If you want to include a step-parent on the form, add them on but do not substitute them for the actual parent.

DO provide the other parent with information necessary at the beginning of the school year, such as websites, teacher’s names, calendars and other information having to do with the school year. If the school allows double notification such that all communication will go to both parents, opt for that. This way, you will not feel throughout the school year that it is your job to continue to update the other parent. Once they have the information, it will be up to them to follow through.

DO not badmouth the other parent to the teacher, school administrator or other parents. You will only end up looking less than honorable. The other parent’s action or inaction will speak for itself and does not need your editorial comment.

For the non-custodial parent:

DO contact the school in the beginning of the year and get to know your child’s teachers, even if you cannot attend the back to school night or other school events. Letting the teachers know who you are and your contact information will go a long way in thwarting the custodial parent from excluding you from your child’s academic life.

DO get familiar with the school’s website, calendars and procedures. Most of this information is available online and if it is not, simply contact the school. Understand your child’s daily schedule, vacation days and early dismissals. You will be a more involved parent if you can speak knowledgeably to your child about their school experience.

DO not be passive and simply wait for the school or the custodial parent to contact you and spoonfeed you information about your child’s academic endeavors. It is your job as a parent to be involved and seek out the information.

Your child will benefit.

Iron out these details at the beginning of every school year. Parents who cooperate will be better resources for their child who can then concentrate on being a good student.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Helpful Tip Tuesday

Today is Tuesday and every Tuesday we like to post a tip that will help you to handle your legal issues.

Beware of text messaging. While forms of communications such as Facebook, Twitter, text messaging and email can open up ways for people to interact positively, too often in divorce situations, these tools are used as weapons. Think very carefully before you lash out against your soon to be ex-spouse or you could be explaining those nasty test messages in court.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hot off the press.

Elizabeth A. Bokermann, Esquire, associate attorney at the Law Offices of Linda A. Kerns LLC recently wrote an article entitled "Avoiding the 'Smile and Nod' - Making Legal Terms of Art More Accessible to Your Clients."  The article was published on the front page of the Summer/Fall 2011 issue of Pennsylvania Bar Association Young Laywers Division's At Issue Newsletter.  To read the article, click here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Helpful Tip Tuesday

Today is Tuesday and every Tuesday we like to post a tip that will help you to handle your legal issues.

Divorce is painful. Whether the divorce was mutual or initiated by only one of you, a divorce often involves unhappiness. Unwinding the financial issues can be excruciating while you are still raw from the dissolution of the relationship. Parents must address the arrangements for their children which can be fraught with heated battles and uncertainty. Both spouses face life altering transitions. Consider consulting with a qualified therapist to help guide you through the emotional upheaval and roller coaster of issues.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Helpful Tip Tuesday

Today is Tuesday and every Tuesday we like to post a tip that will help you to handle your legal issues.

Beware of free divorce advice. Friends and family members often provide their opinions on your divorce. While usually well-intentioned, this advice may not be accurate. Your marriage was unique and your divorce will be too. While other people’s stories, perspectives and strategies can help you become better informed, remember that, like snowflakes, no two divorces are alike. You will need to decide what is best for your particular situation. Consider paying for a comprehensive consultation with an attorney experienced in divorce law in the county in which you live.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11

We salute the firefighters who ran towards the burning buildings while the victims were running out, the first responders who worked so bravely to rescue the victims, the Ground Zero workers who identified the remains, our armed forces who continue to fight so valiantly to keep us safe, law enforcement professionals who remain on alert, all of those who have lost their lives defending our country and all of the victims of the horrific terror attacks, as well as the survivors who continue to feel the pain of their loved ones lost to unspeakable violence.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Thought of the Day

"Unkindness almost always stands for the displeasure that one has in oneself."

- Adrienne Monnier

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Helpful Tip Tuesday

Today is Tuesday and every Tuesday we like to post a tip that will help you to handle your legal issues.

If you are going through a divorce, obtain a credit report on yourself. A credit report can alert you to accounts or debts of which you may not be aware. It can also serve as a road map for the loose ends that you need to tie up in your divorce. Go to to learn how to order your report. Remember, your credit report is just one piece of the puzzle - there may be other debts out there. But this is a great place to start.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

The ugly side of custody battles

We have all heard sad rumors of the nasty and bitter actions of parents dueling for custody.  Unfortunately, this ugliness may have reared its head in the worst sort of way for a Pennsylvania family.  You can read more about their story here.