Divorce can be one of the most challenging things that anyone experiences. And for a child, the impact can be life-changing. At Schneider Law Firm, P.C., parents often ask us how to help their kids cope with divorce. We work hard to help them resolve issues while minimizing the impact and making things easier for their children.
Take Care of Yourself
Divorce often comes with worry about finances, changes to the family schedule and overall conflict. It can take a toll on even the healthiest parent. To help your kids cope, make sure that you are managing your own stress appropriately. That way, you’ll be there for them when they need you.
Keep the Details of Divorce Away From the Kids
It’s also important to keep the details of your divorce between you, your ex, your lawyers and the court. Your children don’t need to know exactly who said what, especially when a divorce is heated—like when infidelity was involved.
To keep your divorce just between adults:
Keep letters, emails or text messages locked up or password-protected. Older kids may be curious about exactly what’s going on, and they’ll seek out details that you may not want them to know.
Talk about the details outside of your home. Kids are often listening when you think they aren’t. It’s a good practice to have divorce-related conversations with your friends outside of the home. Just because the TV is on or the child is in the next room does not mean that they’re protected from hearing things that could be hurtful.
Avoid fighting in front of the kids. At the beginning of the divorce, agree with your spouse that you won’t fight in front of the kids. Parenting-time handoffs should be about working together to co-parent effectively.
Do not badmouth your ex, no matter how tempting it may be. Even when you really want to say something negative, hold back. Vent to your therapist, supportive friends and family members instead. Nasty comments can have a great and unintended impact on a child.
Let Your Kids Know That It’s Okay to Feel However They Feel
Some kids react to divorce right away. Others deny that they’re having any feelings, often as a way to attempt to hold onto “normalcy.” Regardless of how your child reacts to the divorce, remind them that they can always come to you to talk about how they feel. For very young children, you might have to put words to their feelings. For example, “it sounds like you feel sad that things have changed.”
Also, be prepared for and open to however your children feel. It’s not uncommon for children to feel relieved, happy and excited about the future when their parents divorce. Discuss positive emotions just as you would negative ones. These feelings are just as valid.
Talk With an Attorney About Divorce and Your Child
If you’d like help reducing the impact of a divorce on your child, start by calling the Arlington office of the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., at 817-799-7125 . Consultations with our attorneys are confidential.
Let’s assume a typical family unit: husband, wife, two kids, and a dog. The family lives in a nice, middle-class neighborhood in Arlington and Mansfield, Texas, with a home, two cars, and a few 401(k) retirement accounts from various career roles over the years.
The divorce goes relatively smoothly. There are issues and disagreements to resolve, but the divorce is amicable. The parties agree to do what’s best for the children—to keep a sense of family continuity after the divorce, even though the family will no longer live under one roof. And they agree on issues like spousal support, which for two years the ex-husband pays on time and in full when due.
But then a mishap: the ex-husband is hurt on the job and can no longer afford to pay the same amount of spousal support, at least temporarily. What happens next?
Everything Changes but Change Itself
To quote or paraphrase the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, everything changes but change itself. In other words, we can depend on at least that in life. The circumstances that held during the divorce, at the time the decree was entered and the divorce finalized, may not continue to hold in the months and years afterward.
People get remarried. They have children. They go back to school. They find new jobs, out of town or even out of state. They get sick or injured, experience financial difficulty, and can no longer comply with the terms of the divorce decree, as described in our hypothetical scenario above.
What are your options when life happens?
Court orders are enforceable against the respective parties. Judges expect the parties to abide by the terms set forth in those orders, from how much you pay in spousal support to the specific, day-to-day responsibilities related to parenting, as outlined in custody and visitation agreements. That said, the law recognizes Heraclitus’s remarks about change and allows for post-divorce modifications in some circumstances.
Here are a few additional (and common) examples:
As the children get older and more independent, their wants and needs will change.
When an ex-spouse remarries, his or her financial needs may change.
If an ex-spouse suffers a long-term disability and loss of income, his or her ability to pay spousal support will change.
No Court Order Is Permanent
Based in Arlington, the attorneys of Schneider Law Firm, P.C., help our clients adjust to life after divorce in changing circumstances. For a confidential consultation, call 1-817-799-7125 today.
Researchers have done many, many studies on the relationship between love and money. Not surprisingly, they have found that financial issues are a great source of stress in marriages and one of the leading factors in divorce. Here are three key things that studies have revealed about finances and divorce.
1. Money Is the Leading Cause of Stress in Relationships
A survey done by SunTrust Bank revealed that money was the leading cause of stress in 35 percent of relationships. That stress is pervasive. In a separate study, The American Psychological Association found almost 75 percent of Americans are experiencing financial stress at least some of the time, and nearly 25 percent are feeling extreme financial stress. So, if you and your partner are arguing over money, know you’re not alone.
2. When Wives Earn More than Husbands, Divorce Is More Likely
It’s increasingly common for wives to earn more than their husbands. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the wife earns more than the husband in 38 percent of marriages. While the gender of the household’s primary breadwinner is changing, studies indicate that couples may be up against social and cultural forces that are slower to change. Some research suggests that couples are at higher risk of divorcing when the male partner earns less than the female partner. A study done by Harvard professor Alexandra Killewald reports that the risk of divorce is nearly 33% higher when a husband isn’t working full-time. There could be many reasons for this, including the effort it takes a woman to shatter the glass ceiling, marital dynamics and social pressure. For example, a separate study done by the Pew Research Center found that about 40 percent of Americans believe it’s extremely important for a father to provide income for his children, but just 25 percent said the same of mothers.
3. Arguing About Money Is the Number One Predictor of Divorce
A 2018 study of 4500 couples published in the journal Family Relationships found that financial disagreements predicted divorce more strongly than any other common sources of disagreement, like how much time a couple spends together or how the household tasks are divided. The authors concluded that arguing about money–especially early in the relationship–could be the number one predictor of divorce. Of course, arguing about money does not always mean you’ll divorce. But if you and your partner are involved in a financial dispute and you are considering a divorce, working with the right lawyer is the best way to protect your interests. Start by calling the Arlington office of the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., at 817-799-7125. Consultations are confidential.
We at the Schneider Law firm understand the difficulties associated with shared custody agreements, especially for families that live in different states.
This insightful article from the New York Times addresses one of the many issues of interstate familial arrangements – child air travel. In its current state, the American Air Travel industry lacks a system designed to care for children unaccustomed to advocating for themselves. “Because there are no Transportation Department regulations regarding travel by unaccompanied minors, airlines create their own policies, beginning with who can fly, which is why experts emphasize the importance of educating children before they embark on a trip.”
Although many American carriers offer services for children designated solo fliers like select seats and airline escorts on and off the plane, and to connecting gates, there is no uniform system in place. While most airlines consider solo fliers from the ages of 5 to 15 as unaccompanied minors, the age limits and the additional fees associated with unaccompanied minors varies from carrier to carrier. Additionally, different fees and services may apply to multiple children traveling together. For example, children that travel together are usually promised a seat close to the front of the plane and airline agents will often escort minors to their seats, again when they deplane, and to connecting gates. Despite the services offered, not all flights are available to children traveling alone and many carriers limit younger children to nonstop or direct flights.
Parents of departing children with government-issued identification can obtain a pass that allows them to escort their child to the gate. The pass, which may be obtained at the check-in desk, may require them to stay at the airport until the plane has taken off, and most experts advise doing so in case the plane experiences a mechanical problem or delay and must return to the terminal. Likewise, most airlines will similarly issue a gate pass to the person designated to pick up the child, allowing the person to meet the child at the arrival gate.
Travel experts have recommended that parents prepare their children for flight as they would themselves, including sending them off with identification such as a birth certificate or a passport. Parents are also advised to pack a water bottle to fill after passing through security; some form of entertainment, like books or a tablet computer with an extra battery booster; a fleece or sweater for chilly flights; and food.
Experts also suggest that in the lead-up to the flight, parents should position it as an adventure to ease anxieties. Parents should involve their children in planning flights to make them feel empowered and excited. Finally, just because children can fly solo doesn’t mean all of them should.
If you have any questions or concerns as it pertains to [Texas Family Law], feel free to contact us at (817) 755-1852.
As a young lawyer I made MANY mistakes…still do if I’m being honest. One of the biggest mistakes I made was in how I conducted my cross examinations. Like an excited puppy waiting at the door, I would mentally work myself into a tizzy as I listened to the direct examination of opposing witnesses. The anticipation of attack would build in my head. The words “I pass the witness” coming from opposing counsel’s mouth were like the starting bell at the dog track. Unfortunately, like the greyhounds, I would seldom catch the rabbit.
Over time, I have come to learn that great cross examinations have similar attributes. Subtlety, focus, and control come to mind most frequently. Most importantly, great cross examinations require a plan to “box in” the witness with patient questioning so that the witness has nowhere to run when the haymakers are thrown.
Here is a great example of patient “boxing in” questioning from the timeless book The Art of Cross Examination (4th Edition) by Francis Wellman:
The issue was the forgery of a will; the proponent was a man of high respectability and good social standing, who had an indirect interest to a large amount, if the will, as offered, was allowed to be probated. Samuel Warren, the author of “Ten Thousand a Year,” conducted the cross-examination.
Warren (placing his thumb over the seal and holding up the will). “I understand you to say you saw the testator sign this instrument?”
Witness. “I did.”
Warren. “And did you sign it at his request, as subscribing witness?’
Witness. “I did.”
Warren. “Was it sealed with red or black wax?”
Witness. “With red wax.”
Warren. “Did you see him seal it with red wax?”
Witness. “I did.”
Warren. “Where was the testator when he signed and sealed this will?”
Witness. “In his bed.”
Warren. “Pray, how long a piece of red wax did he use?”
Witness. “About three inches long.”
Warren. “And who gave the testator this piece of wax?”
Witness. “I did.”
Warren. “Where did you get it?”
Witness. “From the drawer of his desk.”
Warren. “How did he melt that piece of wax?”
Witness. “With a candle.”
Warren. “Where did the candle come from?”
Witness. “I got it out of a cupboard in the room.”
Warren. “How long should you say the candle was?”
Witness. “Perhaps four or five inches long.”
Warren. “Do you remember who lit the candle?”
Witness. “I did.”
Warren. “What did you light it with?”
Witness. “Why, with a match.”
Warren. “Where did you get the match?”
Witness. “On the mantel-shelf in the room.”
Here Mr. Warren paused, and fixing his eye upon the witness, he again held up the will, his thumb still resting upon the seal, and said in a solemn, measured tone:
Warren. “Now, sir, upon your solemn oath, you saw the testator sign this will he signed it in his bed at his request you signed it as a subscribing witness you saw him seal it. It was with red wax he sealed it a piece of wax about three inches long he lit the wax with a piece of candle which you procured from a cupboard you lit the candle with a match which you found on a mantel-shelf?”
Witness. “I did.”
Warren. “Once more, sir upon your solemn oath, you did?”
Witness. “I did.”
Warren. “My lord, you will observe this will is sealed with a wafer!”
The extreme patience illustrated in Wellman’s example was the key to “boxing in” the witness. Imagine the response the witness would have given had Mr. Warren barreled straight into his line of attack:
Mr. Warren: Sir, you said on direct that the will was signed and sealed with red wax.
Witness: Yes, sir.
Mr. Warren: Yet we see hear it actually is sealed with a wafer, correct?
Witness: You know, you are correct. The sealing was so unimportant I must have forgotten how it was done. I just remember us sitting around the table and he signed it and that was that.
The size of the wax stick, its location, where the matches were and who lit them all seem to be very trivial matters. So trivial, in fact, the witness saw no harm in fabricating the answers. He must have thought “Who would know?” But by building up the surrounding circumstances and committing the witness to a single precise version of events, Mr. Warren was able to “box in” his witness. How now could the witness claim that he merely forgot the type of seal when he just firmly committed with such great detail to the circumstances surrounding the sealing of the will?
Certainly such dramatic events such as the above illustration are few and far between in the daily practice of law. But the same technique can be used in depositions, family law temporary hearings, and evidentiary hearings in criminal cases.
Take, for example, a recent jury trial in which my client was accused of causing bodily injury to his wife. On the stand the complainant alleged that the entire matter started when my client punched her in the face unprovoked. Despite her contention that she had a bruise and redness under her eye for “days” after, the police report contained no mention of any marks to her face the night of the incident despite noting in great detail several abrasions on her arms. During the reporting officer’s direct testimony by the prosecution, he surprised me (and I think the prosecutor) by mentioning that he now remembers (some 15 months later) that there was, in fact, “red puffiness” under the complainant’s eye the night of the alleged incident that looked like she had been hit.
Here is how we were able to “box in” the officer and show that his sudden recollection was less than credible:
Defense: Officer, you said you have been with the force for seven years?
Defense: And before that you were in the academy?
Defense: And like any school the police academy has interesting parts and not interesting parts, correct?
Officer: That’s true.
Defense: And for all the time you spent shooting guns and practicing defense techniques you spent twice as much time in a class room learning things like radio codes, constitutional law, and report writing, isn’t that true?
Officer: That’s true.
Defense: And while the classroom stuff was not near as fun you recognize then and certainly recognize now that things like report writing are critically important, correct?
Defense: In fact, you testified that domestic disturbance calls are one of the most frequent calls you have to make, correct?
Defense: You said you have made over a hundred domestic disturbance calls?
Officer: At least.
Defense: And over time those calls and the facts of those calls and the people involved can start to run together, correct.
Defense: So when you get called to court on a case, some 15 months later, that written report may be the only trustworthy way for you to remember what happened on a particular night, wouldn’t you agree?
Officer: I don’t know about “only trustworthy” way, but yes it does help.
Defense: I’ve read your report in this case. Is that a copy in front of you?
Defense: And I will tell you officer it is a well written report.
Defense: Does it surprise you that some of the reports your fellow officers write can be quite confusing?
Defense: It appears to me that you must have paid close attention when they were covering report writing in the academy. You were clear to note things like demeanor, location, names, times…everything a solid report requires, isn’t that correct?
Officer: I tried.
Defense: They taught you in the academy how it was important to write all the critical facts in the report, correct?
Defense: That is for your benefit if you are ever called to testify, correct?
Defense: And for your benefit if you are ever questioned by your superiors for decisions you made?
Officer: I guess
Defense: And it is also important for the government prosecutors, so they know the strengths of the case and how to proceed?
Officer: You would have to ask them.
Defense: In fact, in probably about 95% of your case the report is the only communication between you and the prosecuting attorney?
Officer: What do you mean?
Defense: In most cases, the arrested citizen is dealt with in the court system without you ever talking to a prosecuting attorney?
Officer: I guess that’s right.
Defense: Back to this case officer, you followed all yoour training in writing this report?
Defense: You even had [the complainant] fill out a written statement correct?
Defense: And this was after you interviewed her?
Defense: And you interviewed her in the living room?
Defense: It was not dark in there was it?
Defense: Then you filled out the family violence packet forms and were careful to note on the diagrams everywhere [the complainant] had injuries correct?
Defense: And that included the abrasions and red marks on her arm and the scrape on her knee, correct?
Defense: And then, after my client was arrested by you, you completed a sworn probable cause affidavit for the local judge to review, isn’t that right?
Defense: And in that sworn affidavit you wrote again about the injuries you observed, the demeanor of those involved, and what everyone at the scene told you, correct?
Defense: And this was a separate document from your report?
Defense: But like your report it was done the night you arrested my client?
Defense: In fact, within an hour or so of leaving the scene?
Officer: Maybe two.
Defense: When it was fresh on your mind?
Defense: Before you were called to any other domestic disturbances?
Defense: And you wrote the complainant was crying?
Defense: And you wrote she said they struggled over a cell phone?
Defense: And you wrote she admitted pushing my client?
Defense: And you wrote my client was wearing a Romo jersey?
Defense: And you wrote he asked to get a jacket because it was cold?
Defense: And you wrote that you noticed a chair knocked over?
Defense: And you wrote that she said she thought my client had been having an affair?
Defense: And you wrote that you could smell a faint odor alcohol on my client’s breath and you saw, and I’m quoting, “a Bud Light tall boy” that was still “cold to the touch.” Correct?
Defense: And you wrote that there was a Samsung Nexus phone with the case removed on the table, correct?
Defense: You wrote that you observed abrasions and marks on her arm and the scrape on her knee, correct?
Defense: You wrote that [complainant] said my client hit her in the face.
Officer: Yes, sir.
Defense: And you also wrote that my client denied that and said [complainant] actually pushed and grabbed him when he was trying to leave.
Officer: That is what he said.
Defense: You wrote with great detail like you were trained correct?
Defense: Yet nowhere in this report did you ever write that you observed “red puffiness” under [the complainants] eye?
Officer: No, I did not.
Defense: And you didn’t note it on the diagram of the injuries?
Defense: And you didn’t put it in your sworn affidavit?
Defense: Three times you noted the injuries you observed and in none of those three did you mention “red puffiness” to the face or any other injury to the face did you?
Officer: I guess not.
Clearly I still have much to learn from Mr. Warren’s example. Nevertheless, by being patient with the questioning of an adverse witness, we were able to “box in” the officer such that it would be extremely difficult for him to retreat to the “honest mistake” position so many “professional” witnesses rely upon when confronted with inconsistency between the testimony and the facts. In my example, the jury was left wondering how such an important detail, if true, could have been missed by the officer. I mean, even the mean old defense attorney admitted it was not a sloppy report that appeared hastily written.
By contrast, if I were to have approached the new evidence of injury with bluster or indignation (or worse by accusing the officer of outright of fabrication) it would have been much more difficult to establish through the officer that his training and otherwise solid report writing were compelling evidence that the failure to contemporaneously note the injury wasn’t an “honest mistake’ in report writing but rather was likely a false memory (or outright fabrication) developed in the time since.
As a final note (which we will discuss later in this series) it is important when cross examining to know when to STOP. So often we see lawyers lose all they have gained by executing a great “box in” cross with a dreaded “how” or “why” question. For the love of the spirit of Daniel Webster please JUST STOP. You as the story teller can provide the answer as to WHY in closing arguments.
Crushing the Cross Examination
Part Two: Proceed with Caution!
To be continued…..
P. Micheal Schneider is the President and Managing Attorney at the Schneider Law Firm, PC in Fort Worth Texas. The firm practices exclusively Family Law and Criminal Defense. Micheal Schneider has been named a Texas Super Lawyer by his peers as published in the Texas Monthly Magazine and has been named a Top Attorney six times by his peers in Fort Worth, TX Magazine.