Category Archives: Children & Divorce

Mediation and the Children

Mediation and the Children Using mediation can be an effective alternative to long drawn out divorce litigation, especially when it comes to matters involving the children. Parents are given the chance to work together and create a parenting plan that … Continue reading

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Dividing the Holidays

With Thanksgiving upon us, divorced or divorcing families are now thinking about how they are going to spend and share the holidays this year. Which house? Who gets the kids? Who buys which gifts? At Westfield Mediation, LLC, our divorce … Continue reading

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How A Custody Case Can Be Lost In 7 Easy Steps

By Jacqueline Harounian, Esq
Law Partner at Wisselman, Harounian & Associates, PC

As a family law attorney who regularly represents mothers and fathers in contested divorce trials, Jacqueline Harounian has very some straightforward advice for parents going through divorce, and who are contemplating a custody action.

From the outset, it is important for mothers and fathers to recognize that married parents of minor children start out with joint custody rights. This means that both parents have equal rights to their children, and the same right to pursue custody of their children in their divorce case. In a world where many households contain two working parents, and many fathers play an active role in raising their children, the presumption that mothers will automatically get custody no longer exists. In fact statistics show that fathers, who seek custody of their children, are awarded custody 50% of the time. Custody laws are gender neutral, and this means that when the facts of a given case are applied to the governing law, a court may determine that it is in the best interests of the child to live primarily with the father, not the mother.

Here is a list of the seven most common pitfalls of parties going through custody actions. If you want to lose your custody case, here is the way to do it. If you want to win custody, steer clear of the following:

  1. Not being the primary caretaker: In most households, one parent is most responsible for caring for the children’s basic needs — the so called primary caretaker. The parent who is the most involved in the children’s daily lives usually has the edge in a custody case. Therefore, if you are not putting in the time to do homework with your child, feeding, bathing, reading, taking him or her to the bus stop, you are at a disadvantage in a custody case. There is no better way to lose custody than to demonstrate to a judge that you are simply not engaged in raising your child.
  2. Not being involved in your child’s schedule and activities: Do you know the names of your child’s teachers? Have you ever supervised your child on a play date or taken your child to the doctor? Do you regularly attend school conferences and school events? If the answer to these is “no”, then it is an indication that someone else (i.e. the other parent) is the primary caretaker, not you.
  3. Alcohol, drugs, or other “parental fitness” issues: A parent who even casually partakes in abuse of alcohol and/or drugs will have a problem in winning custody. Most judges will take allegations of substance abuse seriously, and these allegations will be investigated thoroughly via random testing, psychological evaluations, and interviews. If you have an issue with substance abuse, then seek treatment for it immediately. If you are the perpetrator of domestic violence or abuse (which often goes hand in hand with alcohol use), this also pretty much guarantees that you will lose custody.
  4. Leaving a paper trail that will hang you in Court: Thanks to new technology, virtually every custody trial features the submission of evidence that can be used to portray the other parent in a very damaging light. Sometimes the continue reading
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Telling the Kids About the Divorce

Probably one of the hardest things a divorcing couple will have to do is tell the children. When parents decide to divorce it is only fair to be honest with the children. Depending on the family dynamics and the ages of the children some may already be well aware that there are problems, while others may not have a clue about what is going on.

Ideally it is best to gather together as a family to tell the children of an impending divorce or separation. There are a few reasons for doing it this way. First it presents a united front. It shows the children that even though you are getting divorced you still both love them and are united in your responsibility to them. It also allows an opportunity for the children to ask questions and get answers from both parents.

Even in the best of situations divorce is not easy, but if handled correctly parents can make the transition less stressful for the children and therefore themselves.

More information on Telling the Children

A great tool for younger children is the Sesame Workshop Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce tool.

According to their website “Divorce is one of the most common major transitions in children’s lives, with 40 percent of all children experiencing the divorce of their parents. With Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce, Sesame Street has created much-needed resources for families with young children ( ages 2 to 8 ) as they encounter the tough transitions that come with divorce.”

This tool is the collaboration of a national group of clinical psychologists and educators

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Child Support

What exactly is child support? Child support is the financial contribution from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent towards the expenses of raising the child. Every child is entitled to be supported by both parents until they reach the … Continue reading

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Mother’s Day is coming…don’t let it get you down

With Mother’s Day quickly approaching I think back to when my daughter was young and I can’t help but smile.   You see even when my ex and I were together he couldn’t be bothered with Mother’s Day so my expectations … Continue reading

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