Common Mistakes Fathers make in Divorce

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Common Mistakes Fathers make in Divorce

Lots of men are angry and hurt when faced with divorce papers. Due to these emotions, fathers make common mistakes in the divorce process and end up hurting their wallets, their children, even themselves. With a little forethought and preparation you can avoid these hazards and help make the transition as smooth as possible for you and your children.

Lots of guys for instance use litigation as a force for revenge. They drive up the cost as a tactic to try to make their ex crack. Everyone in the process suffers because of it and you come out looking like the bad guy. Some states even have laws against this. If you purposely make moves in order to drive up the cost you could be hit with a pretty hefty fine. Instead, think of your overall goals. Don’t be led astray by an attorney who would want to take part in such practices. Do your research and pick an attorney that’s right for you. Keep your emotions in check and don’t use the legal process as a vindictive device, or a way to throw a temper tantrum.

Another problem lots of men make is financially stretching themselves too thin. There is alimony, child support, and your own expenses. You could easily work yourself to death and not get anywhere in the process. Make sure you plan out your financial goals and strategy with an attorney, perhaps even an accountant. Having a financial game plan in place will help you manage your life properly. You’ll also want to consult with an attorney concerning your goals in regards to your children. Do you want joint custody, visitation or what? Know what you are aiming for, what is reasonable, what emotional state your ex is in and what she will likely go for. The most important thing of course is the children. But a lot of couples get caught in trying to hurt one another and the kids get caught in the middle.

That said, it’s also important not to give in too much and miss out on having the kids in your life. Children need love, support and attention from both parents regularly. Don’t compromise them out of your life. Do not use the children as leverage in any way. Not only is this despicable it will hurt your relationship with them. Lastly, don’t let child support payments pile up unattended. Or else, with penalties and fees, you’ll soon find yourself in the poor house. For more advice read, Fathers’ Rights: Hard-Hitting and Fair Advice for Every Father Involved in a Custody Dispute by Jeffery M. Leving and Kenneth A. Dachman, Ph.D.

When Your Child is Emancipated Do You Still Have to Pay Child Support?

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When Your Child is Emancipated Do You Still Have to Pay Child Support?

When you first hear that your child is becoming emancipated, hope can dawn on many a cash strapped parent and ex-spouse. One question usually comes to their mind. When your child is emancipated do you still have to pay child support? But the issue isn’t that simple. It’s more complicated. Your child support responsibility doesn’t automatically end due to emancipation. Instead, you have to petition the court in order to terminate child support. Proceedings from this point vary according to state law. Child support laws vary considerably from state to state. In some states the minute a child turns eighteen child support is over. Whereas in other states it’s when the child turns twenty one or it could even depend on when they finish college. Emancipation itself is a different issue, but the laws on child support will influence the court’s ruling. There are states that require child support be paid to an emancipated child. Even though an emancipated child is supposed to be financially self-sufficient the court could decide that they receive a stipend monthly until they become a certain age. The original child support order may run in tandem or be extinguished due to this. It pays to have an experienced attorney on your side to help navigate this complicated issue.

Make sure you attend your child’s emancipation hearing. Your input won’t be heard otherwise and they may make a decision that is unfavorable to you. It doesn’t matter whether or not you support your child’s decision to become emancipated. You will be able to give your testimony and take part in the decision making process. Your input will be considered. Have with you a copy of your divorce decree. The judge may ask to read it in order to get better acquainted with the case. If they see for instance that this father is paying $400 per month in child support, the judge may redirect that money to the child. Or the court may decide that each party should contribute $200 per month to the child. The age of your kid is one of the most important factors. This will weigh heavily on the judge’s head. If it is a seventeen year old boy the judge may believe that the money being paid to the child is warranted, even if they can support themselves. The judge may also consider the position of each parent. If a parent is against the emancipation they may not grant the child support to the child. If you are angry at your ex-spouse, don’t direct that anger at your child or let that anger cloud your good judgment. Make sure that throughout you have the child’s best interest in mind. For more advice on child support read, Child Support Dollar$ and Sense for NCPs: Practical Advice, Guidance, Resources, and Much More for Non-Custodial Parents Juggling Child Support Issues by Marty Vaughn.

What Content should Online Co-parenting Classes Have?

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What Content should Online Co-parenting Classes Have?

Some states now require divorcing couples with children to take classes online in co-parenting. Experts believe that these classes are beneficial as they teach parents how to position themselves in order to take care of the child’s needs given the new family dynamic. The trouble is that each divorce and family situation is unique. Since divorces aren’t uniform, what content should these classes have? Experts say it should have many different tracks. One section should be for parents to mitigate their own emotions. A parent’s emotional state will inevitably affect the children and the divorce process, which affects them as well. The better a parent can cope, the better the child will do as well. University of Illinois researcher Jill Bowers who specializes in human and community development says there should also be sections for specific problems such as alcoholism and violence.  “There is no cookie-cutter divorcing couple, and with online programming, educators are able to supply content that applies to diverse family situations,” said Bowers. She began evaluating online courses in divorce education in 2011. Bowers continued saying, “Program developers could create a two-hour core component that would apply to many divorcing or separating couples with children; then parents could have the option of choosing other topics based on their interests, or results of a pre-test could direct parents to further hours of programming based on their unique needs.”

Bowers authored a recent study evaluating such a program. 1,543 participants took part in these online courses. The creator of the program asked the researcher to provide feedback. 46 states now require parents to take online co-parenting classes when divorcing. The length of time varies depending upon the state. From two to six hours of programming is generally required before a divorce can be granted. Bowers said, “Divorcing parents must pay for these classes, which used to involve classroom instruction. In the past decade, however, course selection has expanded to include many online offerings, and that’s created a market for online program developers and educators.” Bowers checks to see whether or not programs are based on actual research. She says, “An online search for parenting after divorce generates millions of results, but that doesn’t mean the answers you’ll find are from credible or reliable sources. I believe it’s important for online educators to cite their courses and explicitly talk about their conceptual foundations so audiences can distinguish credible sources from self-proclaimed experts. Then judges and parents should look for programs that are scientifically grounded in divorce, child development, relationships, and communication literature.”

Most programs focus on child-parent communication and interaction. Bowers says they do a good job in helping parents communicate what is happening in the divorce to children at different ages and stages. There are lots of strategies to help children deal with their new family dynamic and for handling a situation where one parent is bad-mouthing the other. “But adult-focused content could be enhanced. For example, research shows that parents who have not had time to grieve the loss of the relationship may experience emotional issues, and because of their grief or anger, they may be unable to help their children cope. Programs could be improved by adding content that helps parents address their emotional needs so they would be better equipped to help their children through the transition period. We’d also like to see strategies that parents can use when conflict is escalating,” Bowers said. Some adult lessons would include topics such as sex, cohabitation, introducing a child to a new partner and blended families. What’s more, the legal system parents enter into is complex and confusing according to Bower. Online programs could enlighten parents on items including mediation, legal terms and processes, financial obligations—including child support and more. Bowers said, “The companies that have developed these programs appear to be very committed to helping families. The ones we have worked with have been especially responsive to our evaluations. We know that divorce is a really tough time for families, and we hope that these suggestions for adapting course content and design of mandated co-parenting classes can not only make a difficult and often traumatic experience easier but that it can also optimize outcomes for parents and children going through this process.” To learn more about divorce as a process and how to come out of it in a good position read, The Divorce Survival Guide: The Roadmap for Everything from Divorce Finance to Child Custody by Calistoga Press.

Alimony Reform Bill Passes NJ Assembly

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Alimony Reform Bill Passes NJ Assembly

Assemblyman Charles Mainor (D-Hudson) introduced the alimony reform bill which recently saw passage in New Jersey’s state assembly. New Jersey’s alimony law has been called “ancient” and it seems this issue has gained momentum as the legislature voted 77-0 for the bill, one legislator abstained. The bill calls for changes in the system including striking the term “permanent alimony” from the law books. Lawmakers said these laws fit the situation decades ago when only one spouse was the household breadwinner, but today with both spouses generally working the laws seemed archaic. Mainor said in an Assembly Judiciary Committee meeting the morning the bill passed the legislative body, “We looked at the payers and we looked at the payees, and we realized that the current alimony laws are ancient and had to be brought up to 2014.” Mainor said he had been working on this issue which had been debated back and forth for about two and a half years. This bill applies mostly to divorces that will take place. One place it can touch previous divorces is in the realm of “rebuttable presumption” which could see payments cease when the payer reaches “full retirement age.” This was set at the federal retirement age which today is 67 years of age. If the payer reaches 67 and still hasn’t retired the bill says that a judge can “establish the conditions under which the modification or termination of alimony will be effective.” If the person wants to retire beforehand they have to prove that stopping alimony was “reasonable and in good faith.”

The bill makes other changes to New Jersey’s alimony laws. For marriages that are to end in divorce, if the union lasted less than 20 years, alimony payments cannot exceed the length of the marriage, unless there are “exceptional circumstances.” Under current law, when the person receiving alimony payments remarries, the payments end. Under the proposed bill, if the person receiving payment starts cohabitating with someone new alimony payments could be suspended or cease. Cohabitation in the bill is defined as, “mutually supportive, intimate personal relationship in which a couple has undertaken duties and privileges that are commonly associated with marriage or civil union.” If the payer has not been working for 90 days or more the judge can suspend alimony payments. Lawmakers changed the term “permanent alimony” which was thought to be misleading and instead replaced it with “open durational alimony.” New Jersey State Bar Association which supports this bill said this legislation was based off of “evolving case law,” as it was a bunch of different ideas taken from previous debates and proposed bills. President of the association Paris Eliades said, “The New Jersey State Bar Association considers it among our highest priorities to ensure that any legislation touching upon alimony is just and fair to all.”

Eliades went on to say, “Through the persistence, patience and dedicated efforts of the officers of the NJSBA Family Law Executive Committee we have helped to guide our legislative leadership to achieve meaningful and balanced alimony reform.” 52 year old service engineer and New Jersey resident Erich Truax complained that the bill would do little to alleviate the crushing weight of his alimony and child support payments. He said 50% of his salary goes to his ex-spouse. A previous version of the bill would include marriages that took place before 2002 and had been husband and wife for 17 years. But these provisions never made it to the final bill. New Jersey Alimony Reform lobbyist Michael Turner said of the bill, “best outcome that could be achieved for two-and-a-half years effort,” but insists more should be done. He went on to say, “Primarily, the bill benefits future alimony payers. Unfortunately, the bill does little for current alimony payers, which is unfortunate.” Turner went on to say, “This effort was started by current alimony payers and their supporters who brought attention to the unfair laws, and who are the victims of the unfair laws.” Still, the bill has the state Senate and Governor Christie’s desk to cross before it becomes law. For more on alimony law and how it has gone awry read, The Marriage Buyout: The Troubled Trajectory of U.S. Alimony Law (Families, Law, and Society) by Cynthia Lee Starnes.

Are There Really So Many Deadbeat Dads?

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Are There Really So Many Deadbeat Dads?

You hear about deadbeat dads more and more nowadays. But are there really so many dads who forego their legal and parental responsibilities? Or is it more hype than reality? The truth is that 66% of dads who can’t come up with enough child support actually can’t afford it. So should we really see them as deadbeats? Most of these men love their children and want what is best for them. There are those men, due to how custody orders play out, who hardly get to see their children, if at all. On top of that, there are punitive laws for those fathers who fail to pay their obligation. Income tax returns can be taken, wages can be garnished, they can even suspend your driver’s license. How are you supposed to work to earn the money for back child support if you can’t drive to work to earn the money to begin with? If the father gets too behind in some states he can do up to a year in jail. Without the money to pay attorney’s fees, he will be at the whim of an uncaring legal system that will see him as a bad person who deserves to be punished. The result is that there are dads in prison who can’t see their kids nor earn the money to try and provide for them.

So are there really so many deadbeat dads, or is the problem by and large an economic problem? Lack of access to employment is one of the biggest problems. Years ago women were the losers in divorce court. But today, women generally are given the upper hand. Laws need to change to accommodate for specific cases. Child support should be allocated based on what a person can afford to pay. Visitation should be allowed and encouraged. Fathers and children should have a chance to be in each other’s lives. But sometimes this crazy world gets in the way. Statistics have shown that when a father is in a child’s life, they have higher self-esteem, do better in school and on standardized tests, and have less trouble with teenage pregnancy, illegal drugs and the law. We should as a society do everything possible to make sure parents and children can be together and support one another and not let the law or financial issues get in the way from that happening. Consciousness is already starting to take shape on this issue. Be on the forefront and let others know what you know, and what your situation is should this issue touch you in your life. For advice on how to be a good father, read How to Be a Good Divorced Dad by Jeffery M. Leving.