Building the right parenting plan

When you divorce and there are children involved, you and your ex will have formal arrangements regarding how you will raise and support them.  Going from parenting intuitively together to following a legal document when it comes to your kids can feel uncomfortable and be frustrating.  However, by building the right parenting plan, you can avoid unnecessary conflict and help make separate parenting functional for your family.

Wisconsin Parenting Plans

In Wisconsin, the law requires that when a parent petitions for joint or sole custody, he or she must file a parenting plan with the court.  If the other parent does not file their own plan within 60 days, they will have waived their right to object.  The plan will describe details such as:

  • What kind of custody the parent is seeking;
  • Where the parent is living and intends to be for the next two years;
  • Information about the parent’s employment and work hours;
  • Proposed child care plans;
  • Where the child will go to school;
  • What doctor or health care facility will provide medical care for the child;
  • How the child’s medical expenses will be paid;
  • What the child’s religious commitment will be, if any;
  • Who will make decisions about the child’s education, medical care, choice of child care providers and extracurricular activities;
  • How the holidays will be divided;
  • What the child’s summer schedule will be;
  • Whether and how the child will be able to contact the other parent when the child has physical placement with the parent providing the parenting plan, and what electronic communication, if any, the parent is seeking; and
  • Child support.

Consider Future Issues

Although this seems like a comprehensive list which should cover anything which may come up with your child, there can be unforeseen problems and expenses.  For instance, if your child develops a serious medical condition or has an injury, he or she could require expensive treatment and care.  There could also be costs for things such as extracurricular events, camps, and college applications and preparation courses.  Some less obvious issues can also be costly, such as deciding which parent will be required to pick up and drop off the children for visits.  This could become a problem for the obligated parent later if the other parent were to move out of town.  Without clear language in the plan, the obligated parent may end up being responsible for travel expenses for the children’s visits.

The Limits of Child Support

Wisconsin child support essentially ends when a child turns 18 or 19 and is enrolled in high school or its equivalent.  Parents are not obligated to pay longer even when their child has a disability. College expenses are not part of a parent’s child support obligation either.  If you believe your child is going to need additional support when they become an adult or want to ensure they have help with paying for college, you should consider negotiating these terms into your parenting plan.

Be Flexible When You Can

Even the most well-thought-out parenting plan may miss the mark on occasion.  At times like this, how parents react can have a major impact on everyone involved.  For instance, when it comes to sharing time, one weekend may work better for your ex or your child may have a special event which conflicts with your time together.  In this situation, you could demand that your child and the other parent stick to the schedule, but it might be better to be accommodating when you are able.  By showing flexibility, you can help promote a more positive relationship with your ex and reduce stress on your children. 

At First Look Family Law, Attorney and mediator Karyn Youso has extensive experience helping clients consider the different aspects of parenting plans and prepare for the future.  Contact us today to take a “first look” and discuss your next steps.

I think my ex is turning my kids against me: What are my options?

After divorce, parents and children have to go through the difficult transition from sharing a home to being in separate spaces and lives.  While each parent is building his or her post-divorce relationship with their children, it can be hard for the kids to adjust.  Ideally, parents will cooperate and maintain boundaries and refrain from making inappropriate or negative comments around their kids.  However, sometimes divorce can bring out the worst in parents causing them to make poor choices such as bad-mouthing each other or even asking the children to pick sides.  When one parent tries to turn children against the other the effects can be extremely harmful but, there are steps you can take to protect your kids and relationship.

Parental Alienation

When a parent is deliberately trying to interfere with their child’s relationship this behavior is often referred to as parental alienation.  The parent may make false accusations against the other parent, say disparaging things to the child about them, blame the parent for any problems, or even interfere with parenting time and access.  When a parent tries to manipulate their child into rejecting the other parent, it can be extremely damaging to the child and his or relationship with both parents. 

Wisconsin statutes allow the court to examine multiple aspects of the parents’ and childrens’ lives when deciding custody and placement.  The law presumes that joint decision-making and child placement are in the child’s best interest.  However, when one parent is alienating the child from the other, the court may find that the child should have less contact with that parent.  Additionally, under Wisconsin law when a parent deliberately interferes with the other parent’s custodial rights and access, it can be considered a criminal offense. 

When to Act

In many cases, parental alienation is something which gradually builds up over time.  It could begin with a parent’s occasional negative or passive aggressive comment.  Over time, the parent may go so far as to condition his or her love on the child’s willingness to refuse to see the other parent.   The secretive nature of the behavior makes it hard for the other parent to know before the situation and parental behavior has become destructive. By the time it gets to this point, your child could be in psychological crisis. 

If you believe it is possible that your children are being manipulated, consider your reasons.  Have they made unusual comments? Have you noticed a change in behavior or are they refusing to see you?  When you talk to your kids, listen for any mention of the other parent making improper comments. If you hear something disturbing, try not to react, but continue to provide a safe space for them to communicate their thoughts and feelings.  Depending on what you hear, you may need to get them in to see a therapist.  You may also need to contact a family law attorney. You and your counsel can go over your observations and evaluate the situation.  

Parental alienation is serious and can be detrimental to your children and your relationship with them.  Attorney Karyn Youso understands the parenting issues which can come up after divorce and can help you understand your options and explore potential solutions.  Call us today to set up a consultation so we can take a “first look” at your situation, talk about what steps you can take to protect your relationship with your children.

What to Expect After Divorce

Depending on the circumstances, a divorce can either be  relatively short or a long drawn out process.  Some spouses do what they can to end things amicably, while others are hostile and adversarial through every stage.  Once the divorce is over, both people are left to get on with their lives.  While every divorce is as unique as those involved, there are some things which can be expected when the case is finally over.

You May Not be Done with Court

Ideally, once you have completed your divorce all of your issues will be settled, and you can walk away from the experience and begin your new life.  However, when there are lingering matters such as transferring title to vehicles, changing deeds, and exchanging property, you may have to continue talking with your ex to make sure everything is completed.  Further, when spousal maintenance or child support is in place, you could have to return to court to make changes or resolve disagreements.

Parenting is Forever

For parents, the end of the divorce does not end their relationship.  You and your ex will be involved with one another by sharing custody and managing child support until your children are grown.  After the children reach adulthood, you will probably continue to see your ex at family events,  and may still be negotiating holiday schedules with one another.   As your relationship shifts from being a married couple to divorced parents, you are going to have to adjust to your new dynamic and find ways to cooperate with one another.

Grieving is Normal

While some divorces are more comfortable than others, when a marriage ends, it is a significant loss.  You may have been ready to leave the relationship, but that does not change the fact that the dream you had about spending your life with your former partner is now gone.  Experiencing grief is a normal reaction to divorce, and it is essential to recognize and accept your emotions and take time to honor them.  You should practice self-compassion and release any expectation regarding how long your grieving process should take.

Divorce will have a profound impact on your life, but you will get through the experience and recover.  Attorney Karyn Youso has extensive family law experience and can help you examine your circumstances and determine what resources you may need when beginning your new life.  Please contact us to schedule a consultation and help you take a “first look” at your options.

 

 

Planning for Your Child’s Mental Health Care During Divorce

Parenting a child with a significant mental health issue can be stressful and trying.  Often, attending to their needs can mean seeing numerous specialists and even watching them endure multiple hospitalizations.   There can also be challenges which come with making sure that they get the right accommodations at school.  When the family is going through a divorce, parents will have to consider the right ways to make sure their child’s needs will be met today and in the future.

Child Custody and Placement

In Wisconsin, child custody means a parent’s ability to make decisions regarding their kids.  The law presumes that joint legal custody is in the best interest of a child.  The decision-making authority will include deciding about medical and mental health treatment for the child.  If parents are on the same page regarding their child’s care, this may not present a problem.  However, when they disagree, there could be problems ensuring that their child gets the treatment they need.  Further, one parent may be more informed and better equipped to make therapeutic choices. During divorce, it will be critical for parents to explore this issue and develop ways to resolve disputes efficiently.

Child placement refers to the parent’s right to have their child physically with them and make routine decisions about their care. Wisconsin law favors a placement schedule which allows a child to have frequent contact with both parents.  However, when a child has a mental health condition, their placement schedule may need to be planned to support their well-being.  For instance, if structure and routine are important to keep the child’s symptoms under control, the child may need to be in one parent’s home during the school week while seeing the other parent on the weekend.

Child Support

Wisconsin courts follow guidelines when establishing child support which takes numerous factors into consideration including a child’s health.  As parents are negotiating their divorce, they will need to be mindful of the expenses associated with their child’s mental health condition and treatment.  Child support in Wisconsin ends when a child turns 18 or is 19 if they are still in primary or high school.  The law does not obligate a parent to pay support after this point.  The fact that the child may not be able to live independently because of their condition does not impact the limit on child support.  However, parents can develop agreements between themselves to continue support into the child’s adulthood.

Making sure your child will have what they need to be healthy is vital.  Attorney Karyn Youso has experience helping families develop creative and comprehensive solutions for their children.  Contact us for a consultation so we can take a “first look” at your case and figure out what needs to happen next.

Divorcing a Partner who has Borderline or any other Personality Disorder

When a relationship is ending it can bring out hostility and anger on both sides.  While some negative behaviors and comments may occur, there can be situations where one partner’s conduct is indicative of a deeper mental health issue.  When you are divorcing an individual who has borderline or another personality disorder, their condition may intensify conflict and prolong the process.

What is a Personality Disorder?

According to the Mayo Clinic, a personality disorder is a type of mental disorder which involves having a rigid and unhealthy thinking pattern and dysfunctional behavior. An individual with this type of condition typically has problems perceiving and relating to situations and other people.  Often, this will cause significant problems with interpersonal relationships at work, home, and in school.  The individual usually develops the condition in their teens or early adulthood and has difficulty recognizing that they share responsibility for their conflicts.

Borderline personality is a disorder which involves an individual having symptoms such as an unstable or fragile self-image, extreme and unpredictable mood changes, intense or chaotic relationships, manipulative and risky behaviors, extreme fear of being alone or abandoned, and episodic rage.   Those with disorders such as narcissistic and anti-social personality typically are unable to empathize with others.

Leaving Someone with a Personality Disorder

While every situation is different, if you are dealing with someone who has a personality disorder which is not being treated, once you initiate the divorce you can expect that the stress of the situation will exacerbate some of their symptoms.  If the individual has a borderline personality disorder for example, feelings of being abandoned by their spouse  can be extremely triggering and may cause them to act out.  This can include rage or manipulation.   Symptoms of other types of disorders may be destructive and include retaliation.

Maintain Boundaries

During a divorce there will be numerous conversations and exchanges between you and your former partner.  During each interaction, you will need to remain on your guard for manipulative or other dysfunctional behavior.  By setting and maintaining boundaries, you can help protect yourself and your case.   For example, your ex may ask you to come to their place to talk about the divorce with the true intent of trying to control or trick you.  Insist that all communication go through your attorney or that you speak with them about non-case issues with a witness present and in a public place.

Getting out of a marriage with a partner who is suffering from a personality disorder can be a long road and often the other party will do everything they can to create chaos and drag the case out.   By setting and keeping limits, you can help make the process easier.  You should also exercise self-care and attend to your own emotions during this difficult time.

Attorney Karyn Youso has extensive family law experience and understands the issues which can arise when a partner has a personality disorder.  Contact us today to schedule a consultation to take a “first look” at your situation.

If I divorce will I lose my bond with my children?

When your marriage is just not working, and you have children, you can find yourself at a difficult crossroad.  If you stay, your kids could grow up in the same home with you but also watching you and your spouse in an unhappy and even conflictual relationship.  If you leave, you could end up seeing your kids less and be less involved in their daily lives.  In this situation you may fear that divorce will mean losing your connection and bond with your children.

Child Placement

Wisconsin law favors child placement or custody arrangements which allow both parents frequent contact with their children.  Every family is different, but generally, kids need stability and consistency to thrive.  What this looks like as far as a placement schedule can vary from family to family depending on the age of the kids and living arrangements of the parents post-divorce.  Many parents seek 50/50 placement (called substantially shared placement) in an effort to maximize their time with their children.  This could mean sharing the kids every few days, or from week to week.  These types of arrangements work best when there is amicability and flexibility, and can otherwise be hard on children when there is not.  Younger children may be better served in a primary placement situation, in which one parent has more time during the school year to minimize the back and forths, and the other parent gets more time in the summer to even out those lost days.  Again, flexibility is key, since all things child-related can vary from day to day.

Maintaining Connection

When you cannot be with your children, it can feel as if they are worlds away.  Kids grow up fast, and even the most minute life experiences can seem major in your eyes.  While having your scheduled time together cannot substitute for sharing everyday experiences, you can make being together meaningful.  Although children love their electronic devices, and this is a great way of staying in touch when you are apart, when they use them too much during visits you can miss out on valuable time together.  When you are with them, try to make your experience about being interactive with one another.  You could engage in activities such as going for a hike or playing a board game.  Another way to connect is by setting a rule of no electronics during meals.   By making an effort to connect, you can help strengthen your bond.

Time Apart

While you may not have a choice about being away from your kids, you can develop ways to remain in contact.  For instance, you could have regular facetime, skype, text, or calls with one another.  You could also send a subscription item to your child such as a book of the month which can serve as a reminder that you are thinking of them.  If they are not reading age, you could read to them over a video call.

Being There Whenever Possible

When your children have extracurricular events, school parties, ceremonies, or other activities, there may be numerous opportunities to see them even when it is not your placement time.  If your schedule allows, you could volunteer in the classroom or to coach his or her sports team.   Being involved will not only give you more time with your child but shows them that you are interested in their lives and committed to being there for important moments.  This will make a huge difference in the eyes of your child.

Adjusting to life with your children on a schedule is not easy, but there are ways you can support your relationship and maintain your bond with one another.  Attorney and mediator Karyn Youso has extensive experience helping clients evaluate their placement schedules and plan for the future.  Contact us today to take a “first look” at your situation.

 

What to Expect After Divorce

Depending on the circumstances, a divorce can either be relatively short or a long drawn out process.  Some spouses do what they can to end things amicably, while others are hostile and adversarial through every stage.  Once the divorce is over, both people are left to get on with their lives.  While every divorce is as unique as those involved, there are some things which can be expected when the case is finally over.

You May Not be Done with Court

Ideally, once you have completed your divorce all of your issues will be settled, and you can walk away from the experience and begin your new life.  However, when there are lingering matters such as transferring title to vehicles, changing deeds, and exchanging property, you may have to continue talking with your ex to make sure everything is completed.  Further, when spousal maintenance or child support is in place, you could have to return to court to make changes or resolve disagreements.

Parenting is Forever

For parents, the end of the divorce does not end their relationship.  You and your ex will be involved with one another by sharing custody and managing child support until your children are grown.  After the children reach adulthood, you will probably continue to see your ex at family events,  and may still be negotiating holiday schedules with one another.   As your relationship shifts from being a married couple to divorced parents, you are going to have to adjust to your new dynamic and find ways to cooperate with one another.

Grieving is Normal

While some divorces are more comfortable than others, when a marriage ends, it is a significant loss.  You may have been ready to leave the relationship, but that does not change the fact that the dream you had about spending your life with your former partner is now gone.  Experiencing grief is a normal reaction to divorce, and it is essential to recognize and accept your emotions and take time to honor them.  You should practice self-compassion and release any expectation regarding how long your grieving process should take.

Divorce will have a profound impact on your life, but you will get through the experience and recover.  Attorney Karyn Youso has extensive family law experience and can help you examine your circumstances and determine what resources you may need when beginning your new life.  Please contact us to schedule a consultation and help you take a “first look” at your options.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

After you end your relationship with someone who is a narcissist, it can take years to recover from the emotional damage.  When you have children with the individual, the antagonism and drama you may have thought you left behind in your marriage is likely to continue on through your parenting relationship.  Trying to co-parent when the other parent is a narcissist is not an easy task.  However, by taking certain steps, you can help minimize conflict and stress when it comes to your kids.

Narcissist

The American Psychiatry Association defines someone who has narcissistic personality disorder as having a pattern of need for admiration and lack of empathy for others. The individual may have “a grandiose sense of self-importance, a sense of entitlement, take advantage of others or lack empathy.”  When interacting, a person with this condition may be easily offended and often express rage and belittle others.

Stay Calm and Neutral

A narcissistic parent may believe that they are correct about everything to do with the children.  They are also adept at pushing your buttons and will try to keep you engaged in conflict.  You cannot realistically expect the other parent to interact reasonably or fairly with you.  However, you can keep your contact to a minimum and maintain neutrality whenever possible.

Maintain Boundaries and Stability

When your children have placement time with the other parent, you may have to accept that you can’t control what happens.  You can, however, maintain boundaries and consistency in your own home.  Despite the other parent’s behavior, you want your children to know that your home is a safe and stable place in which they know what to expect.

Follow the Plan

During your divorce, you and your ex will have probably have carefully crafted a parenting plan which sets out the rules and parameters on how you are going to share decisions and time with your children.  Hopefully, you spent time developing a very detailed  plan with some idea of how the other parent may behave.  Follow the plan and maintain boundaries when your ex tries to deviate from the terms. Remember, if your ex is trying to move things around it is probably so they can exploit the situation for his or her benefit.  A narcissist wants conflict and chaos, so the less emotional you are during the interaction and exchanges, the better.

Show Empathy and Love

When it comes to being empathetic, narcissists are at a severe disadvantage.   Your children need to know that a parent cares about their well-being and feelings.  Be sure to express empathy when they are with you and focus on making sure they feel loved, supported, and understood in your home.  Additionally, do what you can to avoid disparaging your ex around your children.  If your kids need to talk about the other parent, you may want to consider helping them find a therapist.

Raising children with a narcissist is probably always going to be problematic, but by controlling your own conduct, making your home a healthy space, and refraining from unnecessary interactions with your ex, you can help minimize the stress for you and your children.

Attorney Karyn Youso has experience helping clients create effective parenting plans and understands what it is like when one parent is a narcissist. Call us, and we can talk about your goals and help you take a “first look” at your situation and consider your options.

Planning for Your Child’s Mental Health Care During Divorce

Parenting a child with a significant mental health issue can be stressful and trying.  Often, attending to their needs can mean seeing numerous specialists and even watching them endure multiple hospitalizations.   There can also be challenges which come with making sure that they get the right accommodations at school.  When the family is going through a divorce, parents will have to consider the right ways to make sure their child’s needs will be met today and in the future.

Child Custody and Placement

In Wisconsin, child custody means a parent’s ability to make decisions regarding their kids.  The law presumes that joint legal custody is in the best interest of a child.  The decision-making authority will include deciding about medical and mental health treatment for the child.  If parents are on the same page regarding their child’s care, this may not present a problem.  However, when they disagree, there could be problems ensuring that their child gets the treatment they need.  Further, one parent may be more informed and better equipped to make therapeutic choices. During divorce, it will be critical for parents to explore this issue and develop ways to resolve disputes efficiently.

Child placement refers to the parent’s right to have their child physically with them and make routine decisions about their care. Wisconsin law favors a placement schedule which allows a child to have frequent contact with both parents.  However, when a child has a mental health condition, their placement schedule may need to be planned to support their well-being.  For instance, if structure and routine are important to keep the child’s symptoms under control, the child may need to be in one parent’s home during the school week while seeing the other parent on the weekend.

Child Support

Wisconsin courts follow guidelines when establishing child support which takes numerous factors into consideration including a child’s health.  As parents are negotiating their divorce, they will need to be mindful of the expenses associated with their child’s mental health condition and treatment.  Child support in Wisconsin ends when a child turns 18 or is 19 if they are still in primary or high school.  The law does not obligate a parent to pay support after this point.  The fact that the child may not be able to live independently because of their condition does not impact the limit on child support.  However, parents can develop agreements between themselves to continue support into the child’s adulthood.

Making sure your child will have what they need to be healthy is vital.  Attorney Karyn Youso has experience helping families develop creative and comprehensive solutions for their children.  Contact us for a consultation so we can take a “first look” at your case and figure out what needs to happen next.

 

 

 

 

If I divorce will I lose my bond with my children?

When your marriage is just not working, and you have children, you can find yourself at a difficult crossroad.  If you stay, your kids could grow up in the same home with you but also watching you and your spouse in an unhappy and even conflictual relationship.  If you leave, you could end up seeing your kids less and be less involved in their daily lives.  In this situation you may fear that divorce will mean losing your connection and bond with your children.

Child Placement

Wisconsin law favors child placement or custody arrangements which allow both parents frequent contact with their children.  Every family is different, but generally, kids need stability and consistency to thrive.  What this looks like as far as a placement schedule can vary from family to family depending on the age of the kids and living arrangements of the parents post-divorce.  Many parents seek 50/50 placement (called substantially shared placement) in an effort to maximize their time with their children.  This could mean sharing the kids every few days, or from week to week.  These types of arrangements work best when there is amicability and flexibility, and can otherwise be hard on children when there is not.  Younger children may be better served in a primary placement situation, in which one parent has more time during the school year to minimize the back and forths, and the other parent gets more time in the summer to even out those lost days.  Again, flexibility is key, since all things child-related can vary from day to day.

Maintaining Connection

When you cannot be with your children, it can feel as if they are worlds away.  Kids grow up fast, and even the most minute life experiences can seem major in your eyes.  While having your scheduled time together cannot substitute for sharing everyday experiences, you can make being together meaningful.  Although children love their electronic devices, and this is a great way of staying in touch when you are apart, when they use them too much during visits you can miss out on valuable time together.  When you are with them, try to make your experience about being interactive with one another.  You could engage in activities such as going for a hike or playing a board game.  Another way to connect is by setting a rule of no electronics during meals.   By making an effort to connect, you can help strengthen your bond.

Time Apart

While you may not have a choice about being away from your kids, you can develop ways to remain in contact.  For instance, you could have regular face time, Skype, text, or calls with one another.  You could also send a subscription item to your child such as a book of the month which can serve as a reminder that you are thinking of them.  If they are not reading age, you could read to them over a video call.

Being There Whenever Possible

When your children have extracurricular events, school parties,ceremonies, or other activities, there may be numerous opportunities to see them even when it is not your placement time.  If your schedule allows, you could volunteer in the classroom or to coach his or her sports team.   Being involved will not only give you more time with your child but shows them that you are interested in their lives and committed to being there for important moments.  This will make a huge difference in the eyes of your child.

Adjusting to life with your children on a schedule is not easy, but there are ways you can support your relationship and maintain your bond with one another.  Attorney and mediator Karyn Youso has extensive experience helping clients evaluate their placement schedules and plan for the future.  Contact us today to take a “first look” at your situation.

My Spouse is Having an Affair: What are my Options?

Any type of deception during a marriage can create a crack in its foundation.  However, when the dishonesty is about an affair, the consequences can be devastating for the innocent spouse.  After experiencing the initial shock of learning your spouse is being unfaithful, you may be overwhelmed and confused about what options are available to you now.

Depending on your situation you may not be able to conceive of leaving the marriage.  After sharing a life with your spouse it can be hard to accept that everything you have meant to each other can suddenly end because of their infidelity. You may believe that the affair is a symptom of problems between you and that it is possible to repair your relationship.  However, you may also have no choice but to acknowledge that the marriage is over.

If you are headed for divorce, you may want to file on the basis that your spouse has been unfaithful.  While the affair may be the reason your marriage is ending, Wisconsin is a “no-fault” divorce state.  This means that blame is not a legal reason you can ask the court to allow you to divorce.  However, this does not mean your spouse’s infidelity will not matter during your divorce.

Although Wisconsin law does not require that parties file for divorce based on fault, when there has been an affair, this fact could impact how the couple’s assets and debts are divided.  For example, if your spouse used marital property to pay his or her extramarital partner’s living expenses or to buy lavish gifts for them, the court could consider this and decide to give you more property.  Additionally, although the court cannot directly consider infidelity when deciding to award spousal maintenance, it could be relevant if it appears the affair placed you at a financial disadvantage.

If you and your spouse have kids, the affair could also be considered in connection with child custody and placement.  This typically will be a factor if there is evidence that the unfaithful spouse has hurt your children through their behavior or that exposure to the unfaithful spouse and his or extramarital partner would be harmful to your children.

Discovering that your partner is unfaithful can be a devastating and painful experience which can leave you not knowing what to do next.  We understand what you are going through and can help.   Call us, and we can talk about your goals and help you take a “first look” at your situation and consider your options.

 

Step-children and ending your relationship

Becoming a step-parent, especially to young children, can mean taking on an important role in their lives and having a special connection.  If your marriage to their parent ends in divorce, your future relationship with these children can be uncertain.

Legal Relationship

Step-parents do not have legal rights to their step-children which means they can’t ask for custody during divorce.  The only exception is when the step-parent has legally adopted their step-child.  Wisconsin law does, however, allow step-parents to petition for reasonable visitation with their step-children as long as it is in the child’s best interest.   When the step-parents can prove that they have a bond with the child and that the child would be harmed by losing contact with them, a court may be inclined to grant visitation.

Agreements with the Parent

Most divorces will end in a settlement between the parties.  Coming up with your own agreement means having the flexibility and freedom to include terms which a court would not put in its order.  When it comes to step-children, the parent and step-parent could include an agreement about visitation and even future step-parent support.  As long as the court is satisfied that these terms are in the children’s best interest, the parent and step-parent can agree to them.

The Step-parent Relationship

Transitioning into the role of former step-parent can be difficult for both you and your step-children.  While you were once a parent figure and shared a home, you now live somewhere else and may or may not have regular contact with the children.  If you are remaining in their lives, it is important to maintain boundaries when it comes to their parent.  For instance, you would not want to ask them questions about their parent’s new relationship.  Your connection with the children needs to be about you and them and not about keeping tabs on their mother or father.  If you do not expect to have ongoing contact, you and the other parent should work together to help the kids as they adjust to seeing you less.

Ideally, if you have a positive relationship with your step-children, their parent will see the importance of allowing them to continue to see you.  However, it may also be that the children and their parent need to move on with their lives without you.  By working with their parent, you can make decisions which support the children.

Attorney Karyn Youso has extensive family law experience and understands the impact that divorce can have on family relationships.  Contact us today to schedule a consultation to take a “first look” at your situation and go through your options.

Extended Family Relationships and Divorce

In many cases, being part of a family is not just about your spouse but will also involve their siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even their grandparents.  Going through a divorce will mean ending your relationship with your partner, but when you have children, these extended family members can still be connected to you through your kids.

Extended family members can be part of precious childhood memories.  These people are often there for important moments and are central to celebrating family holidays.  When parents split up, the focus stays on their relationships with their children and not necessarily on other members of the family.  However, children need reassurance that their parent’s divorce does not have to mean losing their other family connections or traditions.

After the divorce, you may be saddened or even relieved that you will not be seeing certain members of your ex’s family often or at all.  However, part of making sure that your children do not lose their connection to cherished relatives is helping them attend significant events and maintain contact.   While your former partner will have the responsibility of making sure his or her family can see your kids, there will be times when you have child placement time and may need to coordinate visits.  You are your former partner could discuss family events and visits and come up with a plan for your children.

Another way in which you can help foster your children’s relationship with the family is to make sure you or your ex let them know about your child’s special events such as school activities, extracurricular performances, and awards ceremonies.  Making this gesture will help ensure that important people in your child’s life can be there for them.  It also shows your child that even though his or her parents are divorced, they have not lost their extended family.

Including extended family after divorce can be critical to your child’s well-being.  However, if your child’s extended family behaves negatively, you may have to take steps to limit their contact.  For instance, if your child’s aunt says unkind things about you to your child when they are at a family function, you may have to reconsider this relationship.  In that case, you may want to ask your former partner to address the issue with their relative and make clear that this kind of behavior is unacceptable.

For children, the need for family connection will not end when their parents’ divorce and in some cases, it may even make these relationships more important.  When you and your former partner can work together to make sure your children have the benefit of relationships with their extended family, you can help create a more secure and loving environment for them.

Ending a marriage and maintaining healthy and appropriate family relationships can be complex Attorney Karyn Youso has extensive experience as a family law attorney and can help you examine your situation and consider your next steps.  Contact us today to schedule a consultation, and let us take a “first look” at your circumstances.

Creating a Workable Parenting Agreement

Communication and cooperation between parents are essential to effective parenting.  When everyone lives in the same home, parents often regularly relay information and coordinate responses to issues concerning his or her children.  After a divorce, parents have to adjust to communicating and parenting from separate residences.   Fortunately, there are ways to move past the negative emotions connected to divorce and engender a positive co-parenting relationship through your parenting agreement.

Establish Ground Rules

After your divorce, you and your former spouse will be required to observe the terms of the parenting plan.  This plan will have set rules regarding decision-making, who will have time with the child according to a specific schedule, and other matters.  While having these terms memorialize in a tangible document is an excellent way to resolve ambiguities and understand how issues will be decided, the plan cannot create a cooperative atmosphere without assistance from you and your former partner.  Taking time to develop concrete rules for how you will communicate with one another and maintain a functional and collaborative atmosphere for your children will benefit everyone.

Choose a Collaborative Divorce Model

The way in which you choose to manage your divorce will affect your children today and in the future.  When parents opt to divorce using a non-adversarial model which allows the parties to be cooperative, the process can be less stressful for both parents and children.  A Collaborative divorce is a process in which the parties can work together amicably with the assistance of trained professionals to find solutions in divorce which benefit everyone while staying out of court.  When you choose to divorce using a Collaborative approach, it sets the tone for a future co-parenting relationship and a parenting plan which is based on cooperation rather than conflict.

Show Respect for One Another

While it may seem that being respectful is a basic co-parenting premise, parents sometimes struggle to remain civil with one another when it comes to parenting issues.  Divorce is an intensely emotional process which impacts almost every aspect of a person’s life.  After it is over, strong emotions will still be present and may cause parents to have justifiable animosity towards one another.  These feelings will not change the fact that they are responsible for parenting their children together.  Remember, children are ever-watchful of their parents’ conduct towards each other and can interpret negative behavior between parents as being their fault.  It is incumbent upon the parents to find a way to set these feelings aside for the good of their children and future relationship with each other.  By showing mutual respect while implementing your parenting plan terms, you both will provide reassurance to your children and build a more positive co-parenting dynamic.

Utilize Family-Centered Resources

It is emotionally jarring to go from being a unified family to living separate lives.  As such, it can be difficult to create a dynamic which supports everyone’s well-being and fosters positive co-parenting.  The family may benefit from going through counseling together during this transition to your plan terms.  There are also support groups for divorced parents and children of divorced parents which could assist in providing support during this time.  Emotional healing is necessary for everyone after divorce.  By using family-centered therapeutic resources, the family can work towards achieving a positive relationship with one another as they implement their parenting plan.

Positive co-parenting begins with creating a parenting plan which is mindful of the needs of the children and parents.  We have knowledge and experience is helping families collaboratively develop plans which support the parent-child relationship and effective co-parenting.  We are here to take a “first look” to help you figure out where to start.  Please, contact us to schedule a consultation.

Signs Your Child May Need a Therapist

As much as a parent tries to insulate their child during a divorce, they cannot keep them from experiencing some of the negative emotions which occur when a family goes through this drastic change. When there is a conflict between a child’s parents, they often experience stress and confusion about where to go for comfort and support.  With this support, the child can obtain assistance in managing their emotions and developing positive coping mechanisms. In this circumstance, a child therapist may be helpful in assisting your child in processing their emotions and adjusting to their new situation.   Here are some signs that your child may need a therapist:

Children, especially those who are young, sometimes experience insecurity when being away from a parent. When parents are divorcing their anxiety and need for stability may increase in response to the changes in their home environment and family dynamic. If a child is having an unusually hard time separating from their parent and this does not improve over a significant period of time, they may need the support of a therapist.

Another indication that your child may be struggling is when they have a noticeable change in their personality traits which does not shift after a significant period of time.  For instance, if your child is ordinarily excited about an extracurricular activity and spending time with friends but suddenly refuses to attend events or socialize, they may be having a difficult time.  If the change in behavior does not improve over a prolonged period connecting them with a counselor may offer them the tools they need to manage their emotions.

Younger children who are unable to verbalize their emotions entirely may have tantrums or outbursts when they become frustrated.  However, when the child cannot be soothed after an unusually long fit, there may be something wrong.  If this behavior continues, the child may be showing signs that he or she is in crisis and in need of therapeutic intervention.  Another sign that a small child needs support is when they emotionally regress to an earlier stage of development.  For example, a child who has been using the restroom independently and without accidents may begin wetting their bed, or an older child may start up an old thumb sucking habit.  These behaviors may only be a temporary response to the situation but, if they continue, your child may benefit from talking with someone.

Unfortunately, there are times when children become self-abusive as a means of coping with their negative emotions.  The child may engage in harmful acts such as cutting themselves or otherwise hurting their bodies.  They may also begin making comments about their own feelings of low self-worth or even not wanting to live.  Children can also become physically aggressive and violent toward others in response to their feelings.  If your child is exhibiting any of these signs, it is critical that you procure mental health assistance for them as soon as possible.

When children are struggling with their emotions, it is vital that they have the support they require. We understand the toll divorce can take on families and are here to help. Call us today to set up a consultation so we can talk about your family’s needs.  Let us take a “first look,” and set you on the right path.

Divorce and Mental Health

When an individual has a psychiatric condition and is not able to consistently manage their symptoms, the marital relationship can become strained.   Sometimes, the stress created by this circumstance can prove to be too much for the marriage to survive.  When mental health issues are part of a divorce, there can be added considerations.

For many, divorce is one of the most stressful experiences they will have in their life.  Further, this process can evoke feelings of sadness, anger, grief, and anxiety.   An individual who has a serious mental health condition may experience increased symptoms in times of intense negative emotions such as those which arise in a divorce.  Therefore, a spouse could become symptomatic when faced with the painful feelings which come during the ending of their marriage.  Depending on the individual’s condition and the degree of conflict between the parties, the person could become unreasonable in their demands and irrational.  When the couple is unable to communicate effectively, it can make it impossible to engage in productive or meaningful negotiations.  If the situations does not change, it may be appropriate to take the case before the court.

In Wisconsin, as in most other states, the court must make decisions regarding custody and child placement which are in the best interest of the child.  This evaluation is conducted through the court’s examination of both parents and their ability to provide the child with a safe environment.  If a parent has a mental illness but has demonstrated stability and safe behavior around their child, a court may be inclined to order that the parent have the same custodial and placement rights as the other parent.  However, if the parent has a known history of violent, unsafe, or abusive conduct due to their mental illness symptoms or otherwise, a court may determine that limited contact and decision-making is in the child’s best interest.

Mental health issues and divorce can be complex.  Attorney Karyn Youso has experience assisting clients through divorce and finding the right resources and solutions when mental health issues are present.  Contact us today to schedule a consultation, and let us take a “first look.”

Co-parenting and the Hostile Ex

After parents divorce, ideally they will be able to get past their negative feelings towards one another and focus on caring for their children.  Unfortunately, many parents struggle with getting along with each another and can find themselves at odds over even minor decisions.   This problem can be exacerbated when one partner is overtly antagonistic with the other.  Fortunately, even when your ex is hostile, there are ways in which you can help reduce conflict in the co-parenting relationship.

Keep Your Children Away from the Conflict

Although you cannot control how your former partner chooses to behave, you can take action to keep your children from being exposed to their negativity when they are with you.  By not speaking ill of the other parent or placing your children in the position of having to take sides, you can create a secure and safe environment for them.  However, if your ex is making comments which are harmful to your children either in or outside of your presence, you may need to discuss their conduct with counsel.

Find Ways to Communicate

Although you and your former partner may not like one another when you have shared custody and placement of children, you are going to have to communicate with one another.   If one parent is unable to appropriately and respectfully communicate with the other, it may be necessary to use a third-party communication service to facilitate conversations.  Using this kind of tool allows all discussions to be completed through a separate server in a neutral environment.  Using this resource may cause the hostile parent to be more thoughtful and careful in the use of their words and provide a safe place for the other parent to receive and give necessary information.

Set Limits and Keep them in Place

When one party is aggressive with the other, this behavior could be part of an old and ongoing pattern in their relationship.  Perhaps the hostile parent is accustomed to being forceful with their ex to get their way.   The other parent is going to have to set clear and distinct boundaries with their former partner and maintain them.  Otherwise, the hostile partner will get the impression that their behavior does not have consequences.  By being assertive and consistent, the non-hostile parent may build a healthier dynamic to help put a stop to unacceptable conduct.

Consider Family Therapy

Family therapy can be a vital resource to both parents and children following a divorce.  Although the parents are no longer married, seeing a family counselor can be an effective means of identifying the source of the hostility in the coparenting relationship.  This process may also help the hostile parent see the impact of their behavior on his or her children.   If the aggressive parent is unwilling to see someone, it may help you to talk with a counselor about your situation and identify healthy coping mechanisms.

Hostility in the co-parenting relationship can be difficult.   Attorney Karyn Youso has extensive experience as a family law attorney and can help you examine your situation and consider your next steps.  Contact us today to schedule a consultation, and let us take a “first look.”

 

 

 

Protecting Your Children During and After Divorce

A parent going through a divorce may face not only the grief of their marriage ending and the stress of dividing property and debts but also the worry of safeguarding their children during the process.  Although it may not be possible to entirely shield your children from the emotional fallout of divorce, there are steps you can take to minimize the impact it will have on them.

You and Your Former Partner

To reduce the stress divorce can place on the children it is vital to take action to limit conflict between you and your former partner.  An important place to begin is by agreeing not to disparage the other parent in the presence of the children. This includes making comments about one another to friends or family when the children are within earshot.  Even while your children may seem to be preoccupied or otherwise engaged, they are usually listening to what you are saying.  When children hear negative comments about their parents, they can internalize the criticism. Further, although you are no longer married your children are depending on you both to be respectful to one another and provide reassurance that you love them and that they are not the reason for your marriage ending.  When you both are cooperative and courteous, you can provide the support and the sense of stability they need.

Be Prepared for Reactions

When parents divorce, family dynamics and their children’s perceptions of themselves and the family will change significantly.  Like their parents, children are going to have to adjust to living under extremely different conditions.  Children may respond to these changes in a variety of ways.  For example, a younger child may be confused and stressed by the changes to their life and routine and may respond by having behavioral issues.  Older children may have a cognitive awareness of what is happening but may still feel they are to blame for the situation.  It is important to be watchful for signs of conflict and anxiety and to be ready to talk with your children or get them appropriate support to assist them as they work through their emotions.

Consider a Non-Adversarial Process

How you choose to conduct your divorce will have a significant impact on your children both during the divorce and into the future.  Electing to use a non-adversarial divorce process is often the least stressful for children and parents as it is rooted in cooperation between the parties.  For example, using divorce mediation to reach agreement in a case allows the parties to avoid antagonistic court hearings and resolve their differences in a manner which is suited to the needs of the individuals involved.   Those who decide to proceed through a Collaborative Divorce are committing to being open and cooperative as they try to reach a peaceful resolution with the support of trained professionals outside the litigation process.  This process allows the parties to reach amicable solutions that consider the well-being of everyone in the family.  By choosing to divorce cooperatively, you can reduce interpersonal conflict and make decisions for the good of your entire family.

Everyone in the family including the children will be affected by the changes which come with ending a marriage.  However, there are ways to protect your children during and after divorce.  We have experience helping families through this process and can provide guidance and support for you during this time.  We are here to help.   Please contact us to schedule a consultation.

 

 

When Sole Custody May be Necessary

Ideally, divorced parents will be able to share their parenting time and decision-making concerning their children cooperatively.  While parents being able to work together constructively is a positive goal, there are situations when it is better that one parent has primary placement and authority.  When a parent has sole custody and placement, the other will not have the power to determine visitation or make important parenting decisions.  Here are some important facts to know about sole custody.

Custody and Placement

Sole custody means that one parent has the exclusive right to make decisions regarding their child about educational issues, medical treatment, and psychological care.  Having physical placement refers to when your child resides with you, and you make those day to day life decisions.

Sole Custody and Placement

 Wisconsin law favors parenting plans which allow parents frequent and ongoing contact with their children and shared decision-making.  Joint custody is actually presumed to be in a child’s best interest in Wisconsin.  However, an unfortunate truth is that are some parents who are or have the potential to be a danger to their children.  The reasons can range from obvious threats such as a history of spousal battery or child neglect or abuse to issues with drug/alcohol addiction or serious unresolved mental health issues.  When a parent has been violent, the court is going to be extremely cautious when it comes to allowing them to make decisions for or have unsupervised contact with their child, or requiring the non-violent spouse to have to work with them on decision-making.  The result could be a court order which names one parent as primary placement custodian and with the power to make all major decisions.  Depending on the situation, the other parent’s visits may even have to be monitored by an approved third party, or not even be permitted at all.

A parent’s struggle with addiction may also be a basis for sole custody and placement.  This is because substance dependence can impair a parent’s judgment and ability to provide safety for their child. While the source of the addiction may be an illegal drug, in many instances the abused substance is alcohol or a prescription drug.  A parent’s recent alcohol or drug abuse could be so serious as to limit or preclude their custody or placement.

Another basis for sole custody and placement may be a parent’s mental health. While a parent’s psychological or psychiatric diagnosis is not a reason in and of itself to grant the other parent exclusive authority or physical placement, when the affected parent’s symptoms impact their parenting, sole custody may be appropriate.  For example, a parent may have a mental illness which requires medication management due to their symptoms of extreme and volatile behaviors which could endanger themselves or others. If the parent has a history of non-compliance with their medication regimen and displays ongoing symptoms, sole custody may be warranted.

Cooperative and collaborative parenting and joint custody are usually the best results for families after divorce.  But when children may be exposed to danger by a parent’s conduct, it is critical that their legal and physical placement be arranged in a manner which is in their best interests.

Our office helps clients examine custody matters and finds ways to work toward custody agreements which protect children and support their well-being.  We understand and can help. Please call us today to set up a time to meet.

 

Grandparent Visitation

A child’s relationship with their grandparent can be one of the most cherished connections in their life.  Ideally, grandparents will be a vital part of their grandchildren’s lives while serving as a support to their parents. Unfortunately, changes in the family can sometimes mean that grandparents will no longer be able to experience visits with their grandchild as before.  When a family goes through divorce, separation, or death, grandparents may find themselves being denied access to their grandchildren.  However, Wisconsin grandparents do have legal remedies which may help them see their grandchildren.

Wisconsin Law on Grandparent Visitation

Wisconsin, like many other states, is protective of parents’ rights to deny others access to their children.  However, Wisconsin law permits grandparents, great-grandparents, and certain other individuals to ask the family court to allow them to have visitation with a child.  Grandparents may be awarded “reasonable visitation rights” with their grandchild provided the parents have notice of a hearing on the matter and the grandparents demonstrate that:

  • The child’s parents are not married, are divorced or separated, or one parent had died.
  • If the grandparent filing the petition is the paternal grandparent, paternity has been determined, meaning that the father of the child has been legally established.
  • The child has not been adopted
  • The grandparent has maintained a relationship with the child or has attempted to maintain a relationship with the child but has been prevented from doing so by at least one of the parents.
  • The grandparent is not likely to act in a manner that is contrary to decisions that are made by a parent, related to the child’s physical, emotional, educational or spiritual welfare.
  • The visitation is in the best interest of the child.

Typically, the court will appoint a Guardian ad Litem to the case in order to act in the best interest of the child. The Guardian ad Litem will talk with the grandparents, the parents, and if of a suitable age, the child, to gather information and form an option about whether visitation is in the child’s best interest.  If the grandparent petitioning for visitation has met the requisite criteria and the Guardian ad Litem recommends visits, the court may grant them visitation despite the parents’ opposition.

The court has the discretion to determine what constitutes “reasonable visitation,” but when grandparents and children have a close relationship which has been disrupted due to divorce, separation or death, it is probable that the court will order that consistent contact take place.

The disruption of the grandchild-grandparent relationship can be devastating to both parties.  When their connection is interrupted during a divorce, it can undermine the child’s sense of stability and support during a confusing and frightening time.  However, there can be situations which warrant keeping grandparents away from grandchildren to safeguard their well-being.

Deciding how to manage family relationships during a divorce can be challenging.  We have experience and understand the issues and laws surrounding grandparent access and can help you determine your next steps.  Please contact us online or by phone if we may be of assistance.

 

 

International Travel After Divorce

After a divorce, parents, and children have to adjust to spending time together according to a placement schedule. One way for families to enjoy their parenting time is by taking vacations together.  Although embarking on a trip may have once been a simple matter of choosing a destination and making reservations, doing so after divorce is more complicated.  Further, making these travel arrangements with children can become even more complex when one parent wants to take the children out of the country. When a divorced parent plans to travel internationally with their children, there are numerous factors to consider.

Child Passports

United States citizens are required to have a valid passport for international travel. For a child get a passport they must apply in person with one or both parents along with evidence of parentage (usually a birth certificate).  If the parents share custody of the child, it is preferred that both parents be present, but one can appear as long as the absent parent completes a specific consent form, has it notarized, and gives it the other parent to present at the time of application.  If the other parent cannot be located, there is another form which the applying parent can present to seek approval of the child’s passport. Passports for children under sixteen are only valid for five years.  To renew a passport for a child under sixteen, the parent or parents must go through the same initial application process for the child to reapply.

Although there are certainly procedures in place to get a passport for a child, sometimes parents will not be able to agree on where the other parent can travel with their child.  In these cases, a passport will not be issued by the United States Passport office without the objecting parent’s consent.

Disagreements about International Travel

When parents who share custody cannot agree regarding the matter of getting their child a passport, it is probable that at some point they will end up bringing the issue before the court.  Depending on the objections provided by the disagreeing parent, the court will either order that the passport be permitted or that neither parent will be permitted to obtain one.  When a parent refuses to consent to a passport but does not have a valid reason, the court is likely to side with the other parent.  However, if the objecting parent can demonstrate that traveling out of the country with the other parent presents a risk to the child, such as a threat that the child will not be returned to the United States, the court may side with the disagreeing parent.  The court may also order that any existing passports be held in trust pending the outcome of the dispute or order that they be held in the custody of a particular party.

Ideally, agreements regarding travel will be negotiated between the parties during the divorce process and be explicitly stated in their final order.  Anticipating possible international travel and coming to an agreement beforehand can help you avoid having to return to court and ensure that your future travel plans can be made without unnecessary conflict.

Understanding how international travel will take place after divorce involves carefully examining your situation and various aspect of the law.   An experienced family law attorney can provide you with the guidance you need as you decide how to plan for your family’s future visits abroad. We have extensive experience in assisting our clients in understanding how to prepare for future family travel.  Call us today to set up a consultation so we can talk about your next steps.