50/50 Joint Physical Custody: Effect on School Enrollment in Northern Virginia

November 5, 2013

appleFairfax County Public Schools (FCPS)

Parents may register a child to attend a particular FCPS if the student spends the majority of his or her “school nights” with the parent who lives within that particular school district.  (This policy also applies to situations where the child’s custodial care time is split between a parent who lives in Fairfax County and a parent who lives outside of Fairfax County.)

Fairfax County defines “school night” as overnights on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.   For FCPS to consider that a child spends the “majority of his or her school nights” with a particular parent, that child must spend at least 3 nights with that parent.

If FCPS suspects that they are receiving less than an honest accounting of the custodial care plan for a child enrolled in one of its schools, they are not shy about sending out someone to monitor the comings and goings of the people at the residence in question.  FCPS will sometimes allow a child to stay in a particular FCPS school, even if he or she spends less than 3 school nights per week with the out-of county parent; but, in such a case, they may charge tuition to the parents of that “out of county” student.

FCPS bifurcates parental responsibilities for enrollment and registration: The “enrolling parent” is the parent that lives in Fairfax County and/or resides in the particular school district where the child goes to school/intends to go to school.  The “registering parent” can be either parent.

Prince William County Schools (PWCS)

PWCS does not have a specific rule with regard to school enrollment for a child who resides, part time, outside of  Prince William County or outside of the particular district where the child attends school/intends to attend school.  In order to enroll a child in PWCS, a parent need only show proof of residency.  The county trusts the parents to provide the accurate information to PWCS.  This policy applies to both in-county parents and parents who both reside in Prince William County, but in different school districts.

Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS)

LCPS leaves it up to the parents (if both reside in Loudoun County) to decide upon the preferred district for school enrollment for their child.  When only one parent resides in Loudon County, the LCPS still leaves it up to the parents to decide whether their child will attend a LCPS or a school in the other parent’s county.  The determinative factor for which school is the child’s “home school,” in Loudon, seems to be whichever parent registers the child first.  In other words, if there is a conflict, after a child has been registered, Loudon’s policy is that the child will stay in the school in which he or she is currently enrolled, until the parents reach an alternative agreement (or the court intervenes).

Posted by Elizabeth Revell, Mediation Assistant

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

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Tips for Writing a Child-Centered Parenting Agreement

October 29, 2013

In cases where parents choose to share the custodial care of their children, it can be tricky to map out the best way to split up your children’s time between both parents. The hackneyed “every other weekend” may have worked in the past, but I rarely see this as a desired outcome for my clients in my mediation practice.   We now know so much more about the positive aspects of children having two involved parents – and both parents usually have work obligations outside of the home – that having both parents involved makes the most sense. When deciding how best to share the custodial care of your children, there are a lot of variables that you should take into account before committing to those parenting arrangements in the form of a court enforceable Settlement Agreement.

1. Should you get your child involved?  You know your child better than anyone, so ask yourself, “Are they mature enough to formulate an opinion on this matter?” Sometimes it is good just to let them know they are being heard, even if you ultimately don’t follow their wishes. In your conversation with them, let them know that they are important, but that the parents are going to have the final say in what’s best for them.

2.  Will the arrangement allow for the child to develop strong bonds with both parents? Children who have strong bonds with both parents seem to do better in life; at least in terms of their ability to form strong relationships with other people and, in particular, in their own marriages and romantic endeavors as they grow up. In order to form these parent-child bonds, it is important that children be given adequate time to bond with both parents. Sometimes, this means planning quality time rather than focusing on the quantity. For instance, a 60+ hour a week professional parent may not actually have the time to be a weekday custodial caretaker.  That parent may only see his or her children off to school, but won’t be home until long after they are in bed. Perhaps in this case, it is better to focus on the quality time, ie. Being a “weekend parent” when there is free time to be attentive.  (Note: There is a lot of discussion in mediation about whether a hard working parent’s mom (“grandma”) is a good substitute when that parent is unable to get home from work.  Though this may be good for everyone, it doesn’t meet the goal of “bonding” with a parent and these types of situations must be considered on a case-by-case basis.)

3. Is the arrangement conducive for the child’s learning and growth? If your child is always stressed out because he or she feels bounced around between locations, their ability to absorb both your and the school’s teachings may be adversely affected. It is true that children need structure, the key reason behind writing a Parenting Arrangement in the first place. But stress can be cumulative and take some time to show in your child; that is why it is necessary to be on the lookout for it from the get-go.  Parents who choose to have their children live in two separate homes must be on the alert to whether the stress caused by living in two different homes is balanced by the benefits of having two involved parents in the child’s life.   Sometimes it is; sometimes it is not.

4. What kind of children do you have? This is the type of question that the courts do not have the resources or time to answer. You and your ex-spouse need to ask yourselves these kinds of questions: Do each of your children need to be on precisely the same schedule?  Would a somewhat divergent schedule based on the children’s age, etc. allow for needed one-on-one time with each parent? Is your child organized? A little scattered?  Can he or she handle the back and forth and keep track of his or her homework? Do your kids have a great need for down-time?  Do they roll with things easily?  Does it take them a while to get settled in to do their homework?  Are they anxious?  Carefree?  With whom do they talk about their problems (if either of you)? Do they need a lot of discipline?  Who is the disciplinarian? Is your child more bonded to one his or her parents than the other? Would spending days away from one or the other of you be devastating to them?

It can seem like a lot of work to figure out a good parenting arrangement agreement, because it is. Be aware that it should be a flexible agreement as you monitor your children and their responses. While kids can seem resilient, what happens to them as children will shape them as adults. If they don’t get the chance to bond with one of their parents, it may manifest itself in romantic relationship problems later in life. Moreover, their stress may keep them from growing in school, which is a possible foreshadowing of how well they may do in the job market.

None of this is said to frighten you, but rather to give you some tools to effectively craft a Settlement Agreement with your soon-to-be ex-spouse that is in the best interest of your children. Every family is different in the details, but if you offer your children love, a sense of safety, and emotional support, the odds are in your favor that your children will do just fine.

Written by Jane Baber, Mediation Assistant, and Robin Graine, JD, Virginia Supreme Court Certified Mediator

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

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Nesting

September 17, 2013

In recent years, parents seeking a divorce have been trying out a new and unconventional living arrangement to maintain what some of them feel is a higher level of stability for their children. This arrangement is known as “nesting”. In most cases, nesting involves the parents rotating in and out of the family residence, while the children remain in the family home full-time.nesting

            Parents may decide to nest for a few different reasons. Some feel that it is in the best interest of their children to keep them in a familiar environment in both home and school. Also, some parents have chosen nesting because the current market makes it economically unattractive to sell the family home. Nesting allows them to “buy time” without either parent moving out full-time.

            Nesting has the potential for creating less disruption in the children’s routines than traditional custody plans that have the children going and back and forth between their parents’ homes.  However, this means that both parents have to travel back and forth between their two homes, which has its own set of stresses.

            Nesting can also be expensive.  If there are no acceptable, free or inexpensive living arrangements for the parents during their “off time” (time not in the family home with the children), the nesting family may end up paying a mortgage and two rents. To avoid these costs, some nesting arrangements involve one parent living permanently in the family home while the other spends occasional nights in a guest bedroom or on the couch.

            That type of nesting, however, has its drawbacks.  First, it can be confusing to children.  Second, there are legal and tax issues with this second type of nesting, such as your state’s definition of “living separate and apart” for purposes of meeting the criteria to get divorced, and the fact that the IRS will not allow alimony payments to deductible for divorced former spouses if they are living under the same roof.

            When considering nesting, parents will need to decide what is in the best interest of the family in both the immediate future as well as long term. While it is good to maintain a familiar environment for children, nesting is often too expensive, too stressful or not a good idea from a legal or tax standpoint.

            Graine Mediation would love to hear from successful nesting parents—leave a comment!

Posted by Zia Meyer, Mediation Assistant

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

Resource

Sklarew, Renee. “Bridging the Gap Divorced Parents Share Space”.


Fear of Loneliness? Don’t Worry. You’ll Be Fine

October 15, 2012

Fear of loneliness is one of the biggest factors that prevents unhappily married people from moving on with their lives  and taking the big plunge – divorce. Though I don’t advocate divorce as a cure all for unhappiness (especially when there are children involved), it is sometimes the right thing to do.  When that is the case, fear of loneliness need not prevent you from doing so.  Don’t take my word for it, though.  Taking the plunge into solo living is supported by the first fully researched book that I am aware of on this topic, by Eric Klinenburg, an NYU Sociology Professor.

Prof. Klinenberg has done extensive research into the US’s exploding single population and, despite what many people believe, he has found that being single is often much sweeter than expected. In his book, “Going Solo”, Prof. Klinenberg implodes the myths of the sad and lonely spinster, the lost middle aged divorcé and the loveless widow and widower. After all, with one in seven adults in the US living the single life, could that many people possibly be miserable?  “No”, says Prof. Klinenberg, as he explores “how solo living is exploding and becoming less stigmatized, how it’s a privilege as well as a liability and how, at certain points in our modern lives, living alone may very well be the more desirable state.” (Quote from the New York Times interview of Prof. Klinenberg “America: Single and Loving It” (2/10/12))

http://ow.ly/i/11ztt


In Divorce, Men and Women Suffer in Different Ways

September 17, 2012

Divorce affects men and women differently.   Men going through divorce are more likely to suffer emotionally.  Women are more likely to suffer financially.

Studies find that “men were six times more likely to be depressed following a separation or divorce than men who remained married. That was nearly double the likelihood of divorced or separated women undergoing a similar episode compared to women whose marriages were intact”1.  One reason for this seems to be the result of men losing daily contact with their children. Losing daily contact with one’s children is a huge source of anxiety, which can lead to depression.  Often times, even in cases where man has only been peripherally involved in the day to day activities during the marriage, losing that daily opportunity for contact with ones children can be overwhelming.

Women, on the other hand, suffer financially.  Women are about “three times more likely than men to suffer a substantial loss in household income after their marriage broke down.”2  Studies have reported that women “experience a 73 percent drop in their standard of living during the first year following divorce. Men, on the other hand, often fare better in terms of the financial effects of divorce.”2 According some statistics, men “enjoy a 42 percent rise in standard of living within the first year of divorce.”2  Although most women do receive child support, and in some cases spousal support, it still very expensive to run two households and, in most cases, men seem to fare better in these circumstances. As a result, most divorced women have to find a new means of establishing financial security.  This new financial stress and, often times complete upending of a women’s lifestyle (e.g. stay at home mom going back to full time work) can cause extreme anxiety.  Divorce is difficult for men and women for different reasons.

When mediating a divorce settlement, good mediators encourage parties to step in each other’s shoes.  Thus, when going through mediation, men will do well to think about the serious financial anxiety their soon-to-be-ex-wives are experiencing.  Women, on the other hand, would do well to recognize the extreme anxiety their soon-to-be-ex-husbands are dealing with as regards the children.

1http://divorce.clementlaw.com/divorce/psychological-and-economic-effects-of-divorce-men-and-women-affected-differently/

2http://www.divorce-lawyer-source.com/html/law/effects.html

Posted by Jessica Wilds, Graine Mediation Intern

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.


Divorce Leave You Looking for a job? Read this comparison of Indeed.com and Monster.com

September 11, 2012

Monster.com and indeed.com are popular websites used to find employment, research jobs, and make career related connections.  Monster.com is a more robust site than indeed.com, but that doesn’t mean that it is necessarily better for all job seekers.  Monster.com receives much more traffic than indeed.com and has more job listings.  Both offer jobs that are primarily “office jobs”, such as administrative/clerical, business related fields, and sales/ marketing.   Monster.com however, is used significantly more than indeed by people who have graduate degrees.  Indeed.com appears to be used more by people without a college degree and people with undergraduate only.

Searching for a job on both websites provides different experiences.  Indeed.com gives a much more in-depth description of the job, including duties, qualifications, benefits, all on different tabs, as well as a link to the company website.  Indeed.com also provides step-by-step instructions about how to apply for the job.  Monster.com, on the other hand, provides only brief job descriptions, qualifications, and an excerpt from the company who is offering the job.  Monster.com also has a link to the company website.

Both websites are great tools to find out what types of jobs are being offered — where the needs are. Job seekers may prefer indeed.com because of the organized layout of the website. Indeed.com is useful for those looking for jobs and are not sure what to expect.  The details provided by indeed.com are in-depth.  Indeed.com could be great website to be used by someone re-entering the working world after years of not working.  Those reinterring the working world after a divorce may find indeed.com especially useful with the clarity it provides and the manner in which indeed.com makes it very clear what is expected of the applicant.  On the other hand, if the jobseeker has a higher level of education and has a well-established resume, moster.com may be the appropriate choice.   Also job seekers may prefer monster.com for its straightforward approach by keeping descriptions short and only providing the most important information.

Posted by Jessica Wilds, Graine Mediation Intern

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

Virginia Support Calculations – Comparing Child and Spousal Support

April 23, 2012

Divorce is extremely expensive. For most people in Virginia, raising a family in two separate homes (as many divorced people do these days) will cost one or both of you and your children plenty in terms of ability to maintain lifestyle and, even, to simply pay the bills. One of the primary ways that Virginia families make this all work is by the payment and receipt of support: Child Support and Spousal Support (Alimony).

Below is an outline to help you understand how these two methods of support work in Virginia.

(1) Child Support Calculations represent barebones, bottom line child support based on gross incomes, number or children, cost for health insurance and cost for work-related childcare.

– Parents can always choose to have child support be more than the calculations, and often do.

– Many parents, too, leave the basic child support calculation as is and share the cost at an agreed upon ratio (or have the wage earner pay) for particular items necessary for the children, e.g., expensive out of pocket medical care/therapy costs, extracurricular activities, camps, back to school wardrobes, Christmas Gifts, etc.

– Many parents also choose to have child support based on the guidelines and any additional support necessary for the family to be in the form of spousal support (tax deductible to the payer – more on this later)

(2) Spousal Support Calculations (pendent lite) are designed to be temporary amounts of spousal support to help get the non/lower earning spouse through that time period between separation and the actual divorce. (Courts do not want to have a full evidentiary hearing two times – once before trial and one at trial). However, many people chose to use these calculations as their spousal support amounts, particularly since they are calibrated for Fairfax County proper (unlike child support, which is state wide).

(3) Spousal Support is considered income to the receiver. It is taxable. It is deductible for the payer. It is important to understand that, when a parent receives spousal support, that amount is considered as her/his income for purposes of calculating child support; and, the payer of spousal support’s income is reduced by the spousal support amount. Thus, when there is an award of spousal support, the child support number changes (goes down).

(4) Child Support is always reviewable by the courts based on a “change in circumstances”, e.g. incomes go up, incomes go down, children’s needs change. (“The courthouse doors are always open for matters concerning children.”), whereas . . . )

(5) Spousal Support/Alimony may be reviewable depending on how the Settlement Agreement is written. Spousal Support is usually awarded for a specified period of time.

(6) Children receive child support for the duration of their minority (until they turn 18 years old, unless still in high school at 18. (In that situation, children continue to receive child support until they graduate, but not beyond their 19th birthday unless they have particular special circumstances. Adult children who are not able to live independent lives, too, may receive child support well beyond their 18th minority.), whereas . . .

(7) There is no set time for duration of a Spousal Support award. The “Rule of Thumb”, however, in cases where circumstances are such that spousal support is appropriate, is that it is awarded for 50% the length of the marriage (but that is not the law)

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

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