Divorce Fears

By Thea Cameron, Lawyer

Separation and Divorce: these words bring up feelings of pain, disappointment, fear, and uncertainty.   Are you worried about the way this will impact your children, and what the financial implications will be - How will my children cope? Can I afford to stay in the home?  This is normal.  You don’t want to be the next casualty of divorce.

I have seen firsthand many families destroyed by a messy divorce. It especially saddens me to see kids caught in the middle.

The good news is that there is a way for couples to “divorce with dignity”.   By using Collaborative Practice you will keep your personal life out of court.  How?  Simply put, everyone involved agrees to negotiate outside of court.  Family counsellors and financial specialists give you the tools to make lasting decisions unique to your family.  In this way, Collaborative Practice enables you to avoid the stress, expense, animosity and unpredictability of court.   The lawyers at Galbraith Family Law are trained in this process and are committed to helping you resolve your issues quickly, effectively and with the least amount of pain possible. We give you the information and support you need to find your way to a resolution.

Written by Thea Cameron, a lawyer at Galbraith Family Law. Here is Thea's profile. To book a consultation with Thea, please go to our website.

 

Reducing Family Conflict

 “We don’t agree on much, but we want to protect the kids”

By Toni Nieuwhof

Does this sound familiar?  Parental conflict in a family may be high whether you’re separating, living separate and apart under the same roof, or working through conflict as a married couple.  And it comes as no surprise to you that the emotional health and well-being of your children is affected by out-of-control conflict under any of the above scenarios. 

Depending on the personalities of you and your spouse, and the norms of the families you grew up in, it may be difficult to hold yourselves back from arguments- gone- bad – from mud-slinging, name-calling and other forms of verbal attack.  Both of you may have perfectly rational reasons for the positions you’re defending.  The problem is that as you battle it out, the children at are risk of being saddled with emotional harm that will impact their lives, now and even as adults.

How do you protect the kids when you’re in the middle of conflict with your spouse?  There is no one answer to this question, but you may find the following suggestions helpful;

1.  Make a mutual commitment to behavior change:

To make a commitment means that you both acknowledge the problem as being real.  No more denial or excuses.  You both commit to each other to protect the children.  As a sign of the level of your commitment to your kids, you may want to write out your agreement and your strategies, and date and sign it, to refer back to if and when the going gets tough.

2.  Get professional advice:

Often people resist the idea of having a marriage counsellor or other family professional involved in their personal affairs.  They see it as a sign of weakness or of mental health issues.  Let’s face it – human nature being what it is, and dysfunctional relationships surfacing in virtually every extended family – professionals who are trained to help people overcome emotional struggles and to diagnose unhealthy emotional responses and communication patterns can be extremely helpful.  The ability to seek help from someone who is specially trained, and to be teachable in the sense of applying what that professional teaches, is a life skill and an important strength.

3.  Agree to disagree – then get help:

There are some issues you may honestly disagree on, and in and of itself, having various viewpoints can be helpful.  When conflict leads us to refine a course of action and improve it, the conflict is proven to be positive. But the conflict process, if handled poorly, may be damaging to each other and the kids.  Perhaps you’ve reached an impasse on a financial matter or a behavior issue of a child.  If you cannot agree on the course of action and the conflict deteriorates into a yelling match, then recognize the issue.  It is okay to agree to disagree.  Focus on the ‘attacking’ the problem but not each other.  Seek out a third party whose opinion you both respect, and look for solutions with that person.   If you have to pay for an appointment with an advisor to help the two of you agree on a course of action, look at it as a wise investment.

4.  Physically separate the kids from the conflict:

If you find other measures haven’t worked to contain conflict and an argument is inevitable, at least be mindful of protecting the kids.  Mutually agree that you will keep your voices low (if you can manage this!) and go to another room.  Get a babysitter and take the dispute away from home. Go somewhere they cannot hear you.  Don’t assume kids are asleep when they are in bed.

5.  Continue to support each other in front of your kids

Research shows that children are better off with healthy relationships with, and respect for, both parents.  Anything you say that denigrates the other parent in front of your kids may negatively impact their relationship with that parent.  In extreme cases, it may cause the kids to turn against or reject the other parent. When you hurt the other parent, you are hurting your kids.  You have to ask yourself – do you want that?  If the answer is ‘yes’, then see number 2 above.

6.  Clear space in your life for problem-solving and self-care

People are only designed to carry a day’s worth of problems at a time.  If you can identify several problems needing your attention, then you’ll need to look at your calendar going forward to ensure you have time to deal with them.  Be sure to build in time to care for yourself as well. Take care of the three basics – diet, sleep and exercise.  It’s important to build a little bit of ‘awesome’ into your day, especially when you’re dealing with tough, emotional issues.  Make sure you have a few friends or family members who you can share your experiences with as you work to resolve the conflict.

Written by Toni Nieuwhof, a lawyer at Galbraith Family Law. Here is Toni's profile. To book a consultation with Toni, please go to our website. 

Custody: Sole, Parallel, Shared, Split - What Does It Mean?

Are you confused by the different types of custody? You are not alone.  Most people find the terms confusing. 

Many people think joint custody means the children spend equal time with both parents. Actually it means that the parents make decisions together. It has nothing to do with the amount of time the children spend with each parent. Day-to-day decisions are made by the parent in whose care the children are at the time. Major decisions such as those affecting the children's health, recreational activities, religious training and education are made together. For example, the parents do not discuss daily homework assignments but they should discuss whether to change the children's school. 

Effective co-parents discuss problems with the children's education, milestones, upcoming assignments and events. The degree of communication is up to you.

Sole custody means that one parent makes the major decisions. Of course, consultation with the other parent is usually wise as it keeps both parents feeling involved but if the parents cannot speak to each other respectfully, it may be limited. The other parent has a right to information about the children from all educators, health care providers and others involved in the children's lives.

Parallel custody is another type of decision making. In parallel custody the decision making is divided between the parents. For example, one parent may make the health care and educational decisions whereas the other parent may make the recreational activity and religious decisions. The purpose of parallel custody is to minimize the need for the parents to communicate but to keep both highly involved in the parenting. In reality, I'm not sure if it works. Sounds awkward or artificial somehow.

Shared custody is not about the decision making process but rather is based on the children's schedule: the children are with each parent about equal time. This can have implications on the amount of child support paid. To learn more about the impact on child support read this article.

Are you confused yet? One more term to go.

In split custody arrangements each parent has at least one child in their primary care and they usually have access to the other children who reside primarily with the other parent. Often the arrangement is that the children are together on weekends alternating between their parents' homes but they live separately during the week with one or more with each parent.

These legal terms are important but what is more important is that you and your ex find a way to parent peacefully, keeping the best interests of the children paramount.

Deciding Whether to Vaccinate for H1N1

We are experiencing a pandemic of H1N1 influenza worldwide. As a result, governments around the world are asking everyone H1N1 vaccineto become vaccinated. Kysa Crusco of New Hampshire has recently done an excellent blog about this issue from an American perspective.

Parents everywhere are wondering  "should I vaccinate my child?"  My own opinion is that the benefits to yourself and society far outweigh the risks. I believe you should bare the long lines and get it done.

I recommend you read more about the issue. The Simcoe County Health Unit has an excellent website with information about clinics in the Barrie area and other information about the issue. I especially like the fact sheet. The Government of Canada also has a great website with information about H1N1 too.

I believe that all of us should become vaccinated, not only to protect ourselves from illness but to minimize the spread of the virus to other people, some of whom might die from it. I feel it is my obligation to the Canadian society to be immunized even though the likelihood of a serious bout of flu is minimal. In fact, I believe so strongly about this issue, I have given my staff up to five hours off work with pay so that they can get their H1N1 vaccination shot, should they choose to do so.

That's my opinion but vaccination is voluntary. You have to decide for yourself and your children whether to get vaccinated.

If you are separated or divorced, you should consult with your ex spouse before making this type of decision. That is, if your ex has any involvement in the children's lives and you can discuss issues without a battle.

I always remind my clients ACBD: "Always Consult Before Deciding".

If you share joint custody with your ex, you have an obligation to make all major decisions affecting your children together. This includes major medical decisions.

Whether to vaccinate your child is a "major decision" requiring you to discuss it  and decide with your co-parent, if you share joint custody. 

I suggest you call or email your ex and offer these links so your ex can become informed too. Avoid it becoming a power struggle. Stick to the facts and the best interests of your children.

Even if you don't share joint custody, it is a good idea to consult with your ex before proceeding so that your ex spouse feels involved. Your children benefit from having two involved parents and participation in decision-making helps make a parent feel involved.

If you believe that consulting with your ex will lead to a battle and you have sole custody, you can make the decision alone. It is important to minimize conflict, for your children's sake, so avoid the conversation.

Now... go wash your hands and try to stay healthy!