How Divorce Affects Adolescent Children

November 18, 2014

Getting divorced is difficult. Getting divorced when you have teenagers… Well, it can feel impossible. Luckily, a lot of very smart people have said a lot of incredibly useful things to help you navigate these tricky situations. A must-read is by Carl Pickhardt, a psychologist and writer, entitled “Surviving Your (Child’s) Adolescence.”unhappy teen

He starts by describing the difference between the way a child who is under 9-years-old and a child who is 9 or older reacts to the divorce of their parents. While the younger child will tend to cling and show anxiety, the older child begins manifesting signs of independence and pulling away. Since it is already typical for an adolescent to test their independence, this confluence can be destructive, rather than developmentally beneficial for the child.

Pickhardt runs down the ways in which a divorce can affect the adolescent. They can put off committing to their own relationships, or keep things overly casual, in order to forego the same pain they saw in their parents’ relationship. It can make them uncertain about their own feelings toward a romantic partner, if their new frame of reference becomes, “Well, I thought my parents loved each other, but now I’m not sure.”

To avoid these mires and pitfalls, Pickhardt suggests what he calls “The Ten Articles of Consideration;” a list of ways that parents can interact positively with their adolescent children and assure them of their continued love, devotion, and foster trust. I highly recommend you check it out for yourself, especially if these problems sound all too familiar. As always, Fairfax Divorce Blog will be here to continue giving our own advice and pointing out helpful articles whenever we find them!

Posted by Jane Baber, 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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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.


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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Who is eligible for a Virginia divorce?

April 9, 2013

VA flag

1. What are the jurisdictional requirements?

  • You or your spouse must be residents of Virginia for at least 6 months preceding the filing of your divorce papers with the court.

AND

  • With no children, you must have been living separate and apart, without cohabitation, for at least six months and have completed and signed a property settlement agreement

OR

  • With children, you must have been living separate and apart, without cohabitation, for at least one year and have no contested spousal or child support, child custody or division of property issues to litigate, or have resolved all such issues by a signed property settlement agreement.   At that one year mark, however, you may file for divorce as a contested matter, thereby beginning the process, whether or not your disputes have been settled.

2.  How long do I need to be separated before I can get a divorce?

With minor children, you must have been separated for one year.  If you do not have minor children with your spouse, and you have both signed a property settlement agreement, you only need to be separated for six months to qualify for a Virginia divorce. Parties must not cohabit during their period of separation.

“Cohabitation” includes all manner of acts conducted by married people to manage their household, including such matters as grocery shopping, child rearing, home maintenance, laundry, paying bills, etc.  Not cohabitating also assumes that the parties are not sharing a bedroom or having intimate relations.

3.  What does Virginia consider “living separate and apart”, especially if my spouse and I are still living under the same roof?

This is a grey area of the law. Some attorneys will not even file a complaint for divorce when the parties are living under the same roof. Also, the individual judges and courthouse that handles your case will vary in their interpretation of “living separate and apart”. Parties get divorced everyday in Virginia while they are both living in the marital residence, but there are no guarantees this will satisfy the six month/ one year mandate.  See my previous blog article Living Separate and Apart – What does that Mean? (November 14, 2011).

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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