How you can make divorce easier on your kids

How you can make divorce easier on your kids

How you can make divorce easier on your kids

The number one predictor of whether children fare well after a divorce or not is whether a divorce is a “high conflict” divorce.  A high-conflict divorce is one that is marked by conflict for the sake of conflict; preoccupation with assigning blame, being “right,” and winning at all costs; and manipulation or even outright abuse.  When someone has a high-conflict personality, they will not think twice about using the children to get what they want, even at a cost to the children.  When children experience a high-conflict divorce, they are more likely to have substance abuse problems and experience mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, and less likely to finish college or have children of their own.

The first way to make a divorce easier on the kids is to leave them out of it!  Do not involve your children in adult matters, either directly or indirectly.  You may think that your children are not listening to your conversations with other adults or do not understand, but they are and they do. Do not use your children as messengers and try to avoid arguing in front of them.

The second way is to get some advice on how to have age-appropriate discussions with your kids about the divorce.  Both Mobile and Baldwin Counties require parents to participate in a class about helping children cope with divorce, so you can get some helpful tips there.  You could also seek the advice of their school counselor or a therapist who works with children.

Lastly, always remind your children that they are not the cause of the divorce, that you love them and that will not change, even if you and the other parent have two different households.  This may seem obvious, but divorce is hard and the stress can sometimes make you lose sight of what is most important – your children.

Can you move out of your house during a divorce?

Can you move out of your house during a divorce?

Can you move out of your house during a divorce?

Moving out is one of the most common questions we receive, but the answer is not as simple as you might think.  Many people think that moving out in the middle of a divorce constitutes “abandonment,” but this is a misconception.  The legal definition of abandonment, pursuant to Alabama law, is voluntary abandonment from bed and board for one year next preceding the filing of the complaint.  This means that simply moving out does not constitute “abandonment” as a fault ground for divorce under the law.  You do not forfeit any assets or any legal right in the marital home because you move out.

This being said, the courts in our area all enter status quo orders when a divorce is filed which basically provides that the parties shall continue to pay their bills and expenses in the same ways and from the same sources as they did prior to filing for a divorce.  This means that many people cannot move out because they cannot financially afford to while also maintaining the status quo regarding the payment of bills.

If children are involved, things get more complicated.  If custody of the children is an issue in your case, your spouse probably will not agree to you moving out and taking the children with you.  If you want to be awarded custody of your children, it is not advisable that you move out and leave the children with your spouse because that creates the appearance that you are essentially agreeing for them to have custody of the children.  Courts can potentially hear requests for temporary custody while a divorce is pending, but they often will not award the same absent an emergency or safety issue.  Often, when both parents want custody of the children, they end up having to live together until their divorce is concluded unless they can reach an agreement about temporary custody and visitation.

How long does a divorce take?

How long does a divorce take?

How long does a divorce take?

Uncontested and Contested

There are basically two main pathways to getting a divorce: uncontested and contested.

An uncontested divorce means the parties are able to reach an agreement on all terms, including custody, visitation, child support, and division of assets and debts.  Typically, one party will hire an attorney to draft the agreement which is sent to the opposing party. The opposing party can either choose to be unrepresented and sign the agreement, or they can consult with their own attorney to advise them.  One attorney is not allowed to represent both parties.  Both parties then sign the agreement setting out their agreed-upon terms, and the agreement is filed with the court. There is no case pending with the court until the agreement itself is filed.  No one is “served” and no one appears in court or goes in front of a judge in an uncontested divorce. The agreement has to be on file for 30 days, then the judge will grant your divorce.

A contested divorce means one party files a complaint for divorce with the court and the opposing party is personally served by a sheriff or private process server with the complaint and a summons, which is a notice to respond. In almost every contested divorce case, the parties conduct discovery, which means both parties will have to answer questions and provide documents relevant to the divorce, such as financial information. Once discovery is complete, the divorce case can then be set for trial.  In Mobile County, the average time frame that it takes a contested divorce to go to trial is 6 to 12 months.

Do you always have to go in front of a judge?

No!  As explained above, an uncontested divorce is submitted on the agreement of the parties and you never have to go to court.  Even if a case starts out as a contested case, the majority of cases still settle out of court, either by submitting a written agreement or by participating in mediation which then results in a written agreement being submitted.  For more information about mediation, please see one of our mediation blog posts. As long as both parties are willing to be fair, it is almost always in your best interests to settle your case without going to trial because you can craft your own solution that is best suited to your family’s needs.

Mobile Child Custody and Visitation Cases where the Parents Have Never Been Married to Each Other

Mobile Child Custody and Visitation Cases where the Parents Have Never Been Married to Each Other

In Mobile County, all child custody and visitation cases where the parents have never been married to each other are heard in Juvenile Court by a District Court Judge.  For many years, this judge was the Hon. George Brown.  Effective January 2023, Judge Brown has retired and his replacement is the Hon. Linda Jensen.

Judge Jensen has issued an updated standard visitation schedule, which represents a significant expansion of visitation from the former schedule that has been in place for the past decade or longer.  If you are a never-married parent with a custody and visitation issue with your child and you have never been to court, this will affect the outcome of your case.  If you have been to court before and have a court order already, it may be time for you to consider a modification.  For more information, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.

Here is Judge Jensen’s standard visitation schedule:

Standard in-town visitation

Weekday: alternate Thursdays following the weekend when the non-custodial parent exercises visitation from the time the child(ren) gets out of school on Thursday until Friday when the child(ren) is scheduled to return to school. In the event the child(ren) does not have school during the weekday visit, then it shall begin at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday and end at 8:00 a.m. on Friday.

Weekend: alternate weekends from Thursday at 6:00 p.m. until Sunday at 6:00 p.m.
(The Court does note that specific holiday visitation set out below takes priority over the alternate weekend visitations; so, when there is a conflict between an alternate weekend visitation and the specific holiday award, whoever is awarded the specific holiday can have the child(ren) during the holiday time and the alternate weekend time does not have to be made up later.)

Thanksgiving: alternate Thanksgivings with the minor child(ren) beginning with Thanksgiving in odd-numbered years. (The primary custodial parent shall have alternate Thanksgivings with the minor child beginning with Thanksgiving in even-number years.) The time shall be from 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday until the following Sunday at 6:00 p.m.

Spring Break: Spring Break holiday in even-numbered years. (The parent with primary physical custody shall have Spring Break in odd-numbered years.) The time shall be from Friday at the start of the Spring Break week at 6:00 p.m. until the Sunday after Spring Break week at noon.

Summer: The last two weeks (14 days) of June and the last two weeks (14 days) of July. (The custodial parent shall have the first two weeks of June and the first two weeks of July as custodial periods, uninterrupted by the normal mid-week visit).

Christmas: In even numbered years, from 9:00 a.m. on December 18th until 6:00 p.m. on December 25th, and in odd numbered years, from 6:00 p.m. on December 25th until 6:00 p.m. on the following January 2nd. The parent with primary physical custody shall have the opposite.

Other: In addition, the child shall be with the mother on Mother’s Day weekend and with the father for Father’s Day weekend, from Friday at 6:00 p.m. until Sunday at 6:00 p.m.

This is the minimum and not the maximum visitation. The parties are encouraged to expand the visitation to fit the best interests of the child(ren). Visitation is further allowed as otherwise agreed by the parties.

3 ways you can do to better deal with divorce during the holidays

3 ways you can do to better deal with divorce during the holidays

3 ways you can do to better deal with divorce during the holidays

Dealing with divorce during the holidays can be a challenge for you, your family, and your children.

At Herlihy Family Law, we’ve walked with many clients through divorce, custody, child support over the holidays. We’ve pulled together a few helpful tips, thoughts, and encouragement based on our experience.

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Plan ahead: The holidays are a busy and chaotic time, so you cannot assume that old traditions will necessarily be the same this year due to your pending divorce.

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After going through a divorce or re-marriage, many changes can take place. Making things work for a new blended family does come with tests, but they do not have to be difficult. With the holiday closing in a blended family may run into a few challenges. These challenges can be countless, but they do not have to be terrible.

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For most children the holidays are happy, fun and exciting. Children are on a break from school, and the holidays serve as a time to see friends and relatives and enjoy special food and family traditions. For some children, however, the holidays can be stressful and confusing. When parents are newly divorced, the holidays often remind children of what has changed in their lives. Although things have changed, it is important to make sure that both the children and the parents have peaceful holidays.

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