Reducing Your Children’s Screen Time

Written August 5th, 2014
Categories: Divorce

ID-100189110As a parent of a modern child or teenager, you know it’s not easy for children growing up in today’s media-saturated world.  Although children are involved in school, friends, and activities, today’s kids are never far from their cell phones, computers, TVs, tablets, or video game consoles.  That can add to a lot of distractions and interference to shared family time.  The following are some suggestions to reduce the screen time for your children without generating a great deal of stress:

  1. Watch your own screen habits.  Although your children may not seem to pay attention to anything you say or do, you are still their most important role model.  So you can’t tell him or her to cut back on TV time, e-mail, or texts if you’re watching endless hours of television, texting while you’re driving, or eating dinner with your smartphone on the table.  If you set household screen time rules, then you need to follow them yourself; 
  2. Remind your children to limit screen usage.  Banning electronics completely in our modern age isn’t realistic.  However, it is important to let your children know you’re paying attention to how much time they are on a screen.  Sometimes you need to give them a gentle reminder like “Hey, I think you’ve used enough technology for now – it’s time to go and do something else.”  Children in this day and age are born into a digital world.  It’s up to us to remind them that there is an unplugged world;
  3. Encourage activities that involve exercise or socializing.  Look for activities and clubs that engage your child socially and/or athletically, so they will get out and be with other people.  If you can’t convince your child to join you at social events, suggest activities related to his or her interests that involve other kids in school, church groups, volunteer work, or a local athletic group, church athletic leagues or local rec leagues;
  4. Creating screen rules together may be more likely to get your child’s buy-in if you come up with screen time rules as a family.  Together you can write up a contract that outlines clear house rules with rewards and agreed-upon punishments.  The following are some suggestions for rules to implement together:
    a.  No texting during meals, either at home or at a restaurant.
    b.  No TV during meals.
    c.  No TV until after homework and chores are done.
    d.  The computer stays in a public room in the home.
    e.  No TVs in the bedroom.
  5. Be conscientious of age-appropriateness.  What’s okay for an 8-year old isn’t okay for a 4-year old.  Use your judgment and consult media reviews.
  6. Keep media out of your children’s bedrooms.  It is much easier to exercise control when your child is within view.  So that means keeping video games, the television, and the computer in a common area where you can keep an eye on things.

Don’t expect that your children will be excited and greet you with open arms regarding your attempts to reduce their screen time.  Keep at it and you should see some improvements.  And don’t be surprised if you start reducing your own screen time usage.

Can a Grandparent Obtain Custody of a Grandchild in Florida?

Written July 30th, 2014
Categories: Divorce, Divorce Time Sharing

Divorce GrandparentAlthough Florida has statutes dealing with grandparent custody and grandparent visitation, those statutes have been declared to be unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court.  Consequently, many grandparents in Florida are often discouraged from attempting to obtain custody of their grandchildren, even when their grandchildren are suffering under dire circumstances.  However, experienced attorneys from Jupiter to Wellington and throughout Palm Beach County know that there are – under limited circumstances – grandparents in Florida who can obtain custody and/or timesharing/visitation with their grandchildren.

The court is ultimately tasked with determining an arrangement that is in the best interest of the children, while also taking into consideration the rights of a parent to raise their children. With a case-by-case determination, it is important to understand the necessary steps to take for your particular situation as well as all the factors that go into the judge’s decision.

 

Situation #1: The parents are deceased or unavailable because of incarceration or hospitalization.

In this situation, the grandparents need only show that they are fit to care for the child in order to qualify for custody.

 

Situation #2: The children are taken away from the parents.

When children are removed from a home by social services or law enforcement, the law requires that adult relatives of the children be contacted and be considered to have temporary custody and given an opportunity to participate in care decisions made for the children. In this situation, grandparents may be given the chance to care for the children, either through or independent of the foster care system.

 

Situation #3: Suing for custody.

Grandparents who have reason to believe that their grandchildren should be removed from the custody of their parents and wish to obtain custody through the court system must establish certain criteria including

That they have standing (they have the right to seek court action in the first place). This may be proven if:

  • The grandparents have been responsible for the care of the grandchildren for an extended time, particularly if parents fail to remain involved with their children or provide financial support for them.
  • They can establish abuse or that the parent is unfit. They must show that some behavior of the parent(s), including violence, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, mental or physical inability to care for the child, or sexual conduct that directly impacts the child, present a physical or psychological danger or threat to the child’s well being.

That grandparent custody is in the best interest of the child. Criteria the court uses includes:

  • the grandparent’s willingness to allow the child continued contact with parents
  • the emotional relationship between the child and grandparents
  • the ability of the grandparents to care for the child’s daily needs
  • the effect of change on the child
  • the permanency and stability of the proposed home
  • the moral fitness of the grandparents
  • their mental and physical health
  • the child’s school and other records
  • the reasonable preference of the child
  • any history of child abuse or violence

 

With a child’s future at risk, it is important that grandparents engage a lawyer with extensive expertise in the area of custody before moving forward with legal action. We at The Law Firm of Charles D. Jamieson, P.A. are experienced in consulting and representing grandparents in obtaining timesharing and/or custody of their grandchildren.  Even though Florida provides limited circumstances, creative litigation can oftentimes provide grandchildren their best opportunity for growing up in a safe, nurturing environment – in the homes of their grandparents.  Please contact us for a consultation at our office or over the telephone.

Can a Grandparent Obtain Custody of a Grandchild in Florida?

Should You Have a Social Media Prenup to Protect You During Your Divorce?

Written July 16th, 2014
Categories: Divorce

ID-100138412People who live in Jupiter, Wellington and elsewhere in Palm Beach County, know that social media is here to stay. However, the idea of social media merely as a form of communication and entertainment is clearly outdated. It is now evident that the power of social media can extend into everything from impacting career success to damaging reputations to disrupting marriages.

According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, more than 80 percent of divorce attorneys say the involvement of social networking in divorce proceedings is on the rise.

In response to its evolvement, more and more couples are signing “social media prenups” before tying the knot.

What is a “social media prenup”?
A “social media prenup” is a clause in a prenuptial agreement that states very clearly what each spouse is allowed to put online and what consequences will occur if the rules are broken. A typical social media clause states that a spouse will not post nude, embarrassing or professionally damaging content to social media platforms.

Are “social media prenups” just for celebrities or high-profile couples?
No. “Social media prenups” are often beneficial for people who have a business built upon their personal brand- whether it’s an interior designer or an attorney. Negative social media can result in job loss and the loss of their livelihood.

What are the penalties for violating the social media clause?
The penalties are established by the couple, but are typically monetary. The actual amount set depends on a person’s wealth, but at least one New York divorce attorney reports that she typically uses $50,000 per post or tweet for clients making below $5 million.

What are the benefits of a “social media prenup”?
Some argue that a “social media prenup” helps couples identify areas where they are never going to compromise by establishing boundaries of what will always be off limits and remain private. By understanding and clearly knowing what is appropriate behavior and the consequences for acting inappropriately, it allows the couple to feel more secure and to be more relaxed.

Additionally, it can steer individuals away from the lure of retaliation/lashing out after a divorce by motiving a certain type of behavior. While ugliness can erupt during the dissolution of marriage, it is better to keep it off the internet.

 

Image courtesy of Michal Marcol/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Legal Requirements for Summer Travel With Children

Written June 11th, 2014
Categories: Divorce

ID-100178471

As parents we all know that traveling with our children during the summer is an often rewarding, although sometimes stressful endeavor.  Summer travel can involve going to visit grandma within the State of Florida or can also involve travel outside of the country.  If you’ve been divorced and you’re planning to travel with your children this summer, make sure that you follow the following steps:

  1. Review your judgment as soon as you decide you want to travel.  Every marital settlement agreement and/or divorce judgment should contain provisions for travel, requirements for prior notice to identify vacation dates, and a requirement to provide a travel itinerary.  The standard parenting plan form in Florida requires these provisions.  Make sure that you comply with all of these requirements in writing, well in advance of the deadline set out in your Marital Settlement Agreement or in the Final Judgment.  By doing so, you are certifying your right to travel with your children during your allotted time period.  Failure to do so may result in an objection by the other parents and an expensive trip to court to resolve the issue; 
  2. Every one of your children should have a valid, up-to-date passport.  If you are traveling outside of the United States with your child, then your child is required to have a passport.  U.S. laws concerning the issuance of passports require both parties’ signatures on the application form submitted for a child under the age of 16.  Both parents must apply in person to apply for the child’s passport.  If only one parent can appear in person to apply for the child’s passport, the other parent may provide a signed consent form.  IF you cannot obtain the consent of the other parent, then you will need to litigate that issue. However, please remember that no passport is required to travel within the United States; 
  3. Travel with certified copies of your child’s birth certificate and your divorce judgment.  It takes only a few minutes of your time to make copies of your child’s birth certificate and your Marital Settlement Agreement/Final Judgment of divorce.  Stick a copy of each in your travel bag for future use if necessary.  The Transportation Security Administration is authorized to demand proof of parentage from any person traveling with a minor child.  Although this rarely occurs, it is always best to be prepared; 
  4. Letter of consent for international travel.   The United States Department of State suggests that a parent who plans to travel abroad without the child’s other parent obtain a letter of consent.  The entry and departure requirement for travelers often vary from one airport to another and from one destination to another.  Under some circumstances, an airline employee or immigration official may demand to see a signed consent from the child’s other parent before allowing a child to leave the country.  Consequently, make sure that you have the other parent’s consent.  If you don’t and can’t obtain it, then make sure that you have your attorney quickly bring this matter before the court’s attention.

Consequently, if you follow the above advice, travel with your children during the summer should be uneventful.

 

 

 

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/ emptyglass

Smartphone Apps for Divorce?

Written March 14th, 2014
Categories: Divorce, Divorce Advice, Divorce Trends

ID-10032760Divorcing executives living in Jupiter, Wellington or Palm Beach, Florida, get ready to download a bevy of applications to assist with the separation. In an age where we all know the phrase about having an application for everything, it should come as no surprise that applications for assisting with a professional’s divorce abound. If you are considering settling your relationship woes through whatever smart device you own, be careful.  Carol Bruess, professor of family communication at the University of St. Thomas [said], “Relationships are so incredibly complex. Can an app really offer the complexity we need?”

Katie Humphrey researched applications for Star Tribune of Minneapolis and found some interesting information. Here are a few examples of what she found:

  • Grass is Greener– launched by Pamela Green, is a conversation starter for those pondering divorce. It has 39 multiple choice questions. Green reminds everyone, “We don’t give results. It’s not like a Cosmo quiz. It’s designed to help people think . . .People have to come to that decision on their own.”
  • Sesame Street: Divorce– by title may seem like a strange idea but ask any divorcing parent how they’re going to tell their children and most will show you a startled and terrified look. This app, with assistance from the Sesame Street characters, Grover and Abby Cadabby, helps parents through that daunting process.
  • Calculators and Calendars- Plenty of applications exist that purport to address the issues of calculating asset division and sharing schedules for taking care of the kids.

If you are considering using an application, be sure to check the source. Bruess said, “In the pre-app world we might seek out a book written by experts and it was really clear who wrote that book because you could read about the credentials of that person. How many people really dig for the author of an app?”

For any professional getting divorced, the responsibility of complying with the law is your responsibility. Be sure to verify the sources for whatever tools you use: an online site, an application, a book or journal. Above all, consult a qualified attorney for anything that pertains to Florida divorce laws.

 

 

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Divorce Settlement Hazards

Written January 15th, 2014
Categories: Divorce, Divorce Advice

ID-10044368People from Jupiter to Wellington know that divorce is costly.  As the divorce rate increases for individuals over 50, the cost can deplete retirement savings plans and doesn’t give the individuals much time to recoup losses over their remaining working years.  According to an article by Elizabeth MacBride, one of the keys to minimizing the damage is to stay away from a few common snags along the divorce pathway.

MacBride shares four hazards and offers ideas of how to make the path straighter on the way to a settlement.

  • Hazard 1: Going to trial when not needed.
    According to Justin A. Reckers, CEO of Pacific Divorce Management, of the 900,000 splits in 2011, only five percent went to trial. The ones that did tended to be high conflict, involved layers of finances and involved children. They also cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The majority of couples can use other options, such as collaborative divorce, to stay out of the court room and to save a great deal of money. Reckers reminds us of process by saying, “For most people, this is the largest financial transaction” they will experience in life.
  • Hazard 2: Ignoring tax implications.
    Assets are not always equal and not considering the repercussions of taxes can haunt you later. For example, $200,000 in cash is not the same as $200,000 in a retirement account. At some point, retirement income will be affected by taxes. Be sure to get help from an accountant or other qualified financial professional to make all these liabilities clear before a settlement is final.
  • Hazard 3: Not demanding the full financial picture.
    Enlist the help of a forensic accountant or similar professional to find any hidden assets your spouse might have. You have the legal right to the information. Once the report is present, you’ll have a better idea of what might be a fair settlement.
  • Hazard 4: Letting Emotions decide.
    Since this is a business transaction, albeit with a lot of emotions attached, you must make pragmatic decisions when it comes to finances, family visitation, etc. Get help from professionals who can assist you in processing your emotions and who can teach you the legal process and how it will affect you financially in the long term. Then make a plan based on the facts.

Using these practices will not suddenly make your divorce inexpensive, but it can help reduce the overall cost. Every bit of money saved during a divorce can help you establish your new financial life after the settlement is finalized.

 

 

Image Courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Co-parenting for the Holidays: Tips for Handling Children’s Needs

Written December 11th, 2013
Categories: Divorce, Divorce Behavior, Divorce Time Sharing

ID-10067249Home for the holidays can be challenging for a family who is separated, is going through a divorce or has recently finalized one. The hardest part for parents can be finding a balance for their children.

In an article from Springfield Collaborative Divorce, “Donna Moore, a licensed clinical social worker in Raleigh, North Carolina shares tips to make it easier for divorced and separated parents to navigate through the holiday season”.  Last week we shared information on handling the complicated emotions, and today we are discussing legal measures to make the holiday time less complicated.

Moore begins by saying, “Legally, it is important to put a parenting schedule in place for the holidays long before the season begins. If you can, sit down with the other parent to work out and agree upon the details.”

To assist them in this process, parents may wish to use a parenting coordinator to aid them in coming to agreement on what works best for their children.

She advocates starting with these five areas:

  • Celebration Meals: Make a reasonable schedule for where and when children will eat holiday meals. It may not be comfortable for them to take on two big meals in one day. So consider how best to accomplish family celebrations.
  • Transportation: Arrange who will transport children when it’s time to move locations.
  • Gifts: Exchanging gifts is a part of many holiday traditions. Decide how and when this will take place. Make a plan if both parents will attend or if there will be separate exchanges. The budget may shape the plan.
  • Childcare: Vacation from school is fabulous for kids but complicated for parents. If both work, simplify the process by having one parent arrange all the childcare.
  • Trips: If one parent plans a trip, the basics should be agreed upon by both parents and details of travel plans should be shared so that the parent that remains home is aware of the status of travel.

“Once you have the details worked out, put them in writing immediately to confirm that you are on the same page and to avoid future conflict over what was agreed upon,” says Moore. These written details are not binding but can be changed as needed to fit circumstances. Just remember they are the “default” if new agreements can’t be reached.

The holidays are meant to be a joyful, restful time for family. Having an adult conversation, making some personal sacrifices as parents can make it the best for children. Making the decisions early will give children a framework for vacation. It will show them they are a priority and that each of you love them and care for them which is worth all the work you do with your spouse or former spouse.

 

 

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/ David Castillo Dominici

Beating Holiday Stress During Your Divorce and After

Written December 4th, 2013
Categories: Divorce, Divorce Life Stages

Stressed young woman near christmas treeFor most people, the holiday period begins with anticipation and excitement.  Unfortunately for some, those happy feelings dissolve into stress, frustration and/or the blues.  People who have experienced the recent death of a loved one or are going through a divorce or separation often experience a sense of loss during this holiday.  Many of us want the holidays to go perfectly and when our visions of perfection are not met, we are disappointed.  The following are some ways in which people can prepare for or counteract holiday stress and/or holiday blues.  Dr. Deborah O Day, a well-known forensic and clinical psychologist in Orlando, Florida suggests:

  1. Plan ahead.  Identify potential times for the blues and get support of family and friends;
  2. Take time for yourself doing something that refreshes or soothes you (massage, card game with your buddies, etc.);
  3. Plan to “get away” – whether brief or extended; a new atmosphere or locale may help you get perspective;
  4. Don’t schedule too much; less can be more;
  5. Try not to recreate or create the best or the perfect experience;
  6. Don’t shop till you drop.  This only depletes your physical and financial resources and may set you up for becoming depressed;
  7. Consider catalog shopping instead of mall shopping.  Shopping at home could be a time and stress saver;
  8. Practice “being” rather than “doing”; enjoy time by yourself or with others;
  9. Use prepared snacks or foods for expected or unexpected guests instead of stressing about impressing your company; and
  10. Remember we all have different feelings and reactions to the holidays.  Live up to your own expectations – not to the expectations of others.

 

Protect Your Credit During a Divorce

Written November 13th, 2013
Categories: Divorce, Divorce Finances

ID-100156664Experienced divorce attorneys in Jupiter, Delray, Wellington and elsewhere in Palm Beach County understand that ending a marriage of any duration is stressful. While you, your spouse and the lawyers are trying to settle everything, take a few moments to remember how important your credit rating will be after you are single. Today we share some tips for protecting your credit in divorce from writer Lynnette Khalfani-Cox from an article at AARP.

  • Joint accounts should be closed immediately.
    Whatever happens from the “we are getting divorced” to the “we are divorced stage” can have an impact on your credit. This includes one spouse adding debt, missing payments, etc. Be careful to not allow this to happen by closing any joint accounts.
  • Inform creditors.
    According to Bill Hardekopf, a credit expert and CEO of LowCards.com, “Tell [creditors] that you do not intend to be held liable for any debt accumulated after the date of the written letter. Request that they put the account on inactive status so no new additional charges may be added, and stipulate that once the balance is paid in full, the account is to be closed completely.”
  • Request monthly statements.
    Request printed statements from all accounts left open with outstanding balances. Read them every month to make sure payments are continuing.
  • Consider the house.
    Taking the house in a settlement is not always the best idea. With the real estate market constantly in flux, it’s important to weigh the options of keeping the house and not. Keeping it can be a huge drain on cash flow and may not provide the liquidity needed if other emergency expenses arise.
  • Update contact information.
    Bills will continue to come no matter where or with whom you live. In order to stay on top of them, update your address at usps.com or the post office. This is another way of assuring you are on top of your bills and keeping your credit clean.
  • Use credit as a tool, not an escape.
    Using credit cards responsibly is a life time habit. Don’t take your frustrations with the divorce process out on your finances by binge spending. Khalfani-Cox says “Thirty percent of your FICO credit score is based on the amount of credit card debt you carry. The lower your credit card debt, the higher your credit score will be.”
  • Check credit report.
    Use Equifax, Experian, TransUnion or AnnualCreditReport.com to check your credit report and work to fix any problems that you find.
  • Paying the spouse’s debt.
    “If a spouse didn’t pay certain debts he or she was ordered to pay in a divorce proceeding, you may want to go ahead and pay those debts in order to maintain your credit rating.” Later, if needed, you can go to court to try to “get a judgment against your ex for not following the court order.”

Getting divorced may take all the emotional resources you have for a challenging season in your life, but it doesn’t have to waylay your entire financial future. Use these tips to help protect your credit rating and make the future a little easier to navigate.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Naypong/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Helpful Behaviors During Divorce, Part One

Written October 30th, 2013
Categories: Divorce Behavior

ID-10076027What do Ashton Kutcher, Angelina Jolie, and Britney Spears have in common? Besides being trend-setting celebrities, they all hired Laura Wasser as their divorce lawyer. Wasser’s new book, “It Doesn’t Have to be That Way: How to Divorce without Destroying Your Family or Bankrupting Yourself,” was released October 1, 2013.

In an article by Ashley Reich for the Huffington Post, Wasser shares top behaviors that will help facilitate the difficult transition. This week we’ll look at her top five.

1. Manage Expectations: Whether it is before, during or after marriage, it is important to communicate openly about expectations “anything from how to raise your children, where you will live, what kind of vacations you like to take and financial expectations,” says Wasser. Having challenging conversations throughout your marriage is important for whether you stay together or split.

2. Get Help: There’s no “time for a divorce” button that suddenly lights up when things have broken down beyond repair. Some preventive steps could help. Seeing a counselor individually and as a couple should be on the list of things to do before making the ultimate decision.

3. Children First: All parents want the best for their children but when a divorce is in full swing, it can be challenging to actually keep them as their interests at the center of decisions. As you continue through the process, bring them to the front of your mind whenever you can. Make decisions based on their needs and long-term benefit.

4. The Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated, that includes the person with whom you will continue to co-parent. Wasser suggests “three key things: Be kind, be reasonable, be brief.”

5. Divorce is a legal contract: As much as your emotions are wrapped up in the process of divorce, remember that, in part, this is a legal transaction to divide assets and resolve other financial issues connected to your marriage. Keep that in mind and try to leave emotions out of the proceedings. Remember, your attorney is not your counselor but a law professional you hired to wade through the rules and regulations of divorce. If you need, find a qualified therapist or religious leader for support for your emotional issues.

Whether you reside in Wellington or Jupiter or West Palm Beach, you know that divorce can be an exceedingly challenging time, but by keeping the above recommendations in mind, you can make it through the process a little bit easier.

 

 

Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net