Articles Posted in Parenting Class

I am by no means a licensed mental health professional, psychologist or psychiatrist; however if you have been a follower of my blog regarding divorce, child custody, or any family law issue you know that I constantly write about the psychological tolls that the cases take on my clients.  This is because I witness every day the psychological struggles that my clients go through.   Divorce is hard on everyone involved, no matter how you slice it.  Many people hear this, but do not actually understand until they are in the trenches.  However, it is so important to understand, for your mental and physical health, before you are in the trenches that this will be a difficult process and have a list of coping mechanisms to help you through it.

So many people fall into the trap of bitterness, anger and resentment and cannot get past those emotions.    While I will agree that your feelings are legitimate, you also need to work through those feelings so that you can get to the other side and feel a release.  Many people hang on, even after the divorce is finalized.  I have seen what this does to people, and I do not wish it on anyone.  Getting past that anger is not an easy feat, but one that is beyond necessary.

Also, divorce is difficult because it bring change—the familiarity is no longer there, you have to move, your holidays are not the same, you lose a pet, you have to split the time with the children, etc.  Change is so hard and I will be the first to admit that I hate it.  But, change is a part of life; in fact, life is about seasons and weathering those seasons.  How will you weather in a mentally healthy way?

In Texas, if the child custody visitation schedules are court-ordered they are typically either standard possession or expanded standard possession (alternate beginning and ending times).   One parent will have the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence and then the non-primary parent has the visitation schedule.  In contrast to the school year, summer and spring break visitation schedule, the holiday visitation schedule is regardless of distance between the parents’ residences and most courts only focus on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.  However, additional holidays can be requested and ordered such as Easter, Halloween, etc.

In custody orders, holidays are divided out as even and odd years.  So, if you are the primary parent you typically have odd Christmas and even Thanksgiving.   A parent will not have the same year for both holidays.  Because Christmas falls in an odd year this year, the primary parent would have possession of the child from the day the child is released from school until December 28 at noon.  Texas Family Code Section 153.314 specifically sets out the language for the court orders and is follows:

Sec. 153.314.  HOLIDAY POSSESSION UNAFFECTED BY DISTANCE PARENTS RESIDE APART.  The following provisions govern possession of the child for certain specific holidays and supersede conflicting weekend or Thursday periods of possession without regard to the distance the parents reside apart.  The possessory conservator and the managing conservator shall have rights of possession of the child as follows:

You get your children back from your ex’s house after their visitation and they are openly telling you all about the divorce case, what your ex has called you and where you should go, etc.  You are appalled and upset that your children know anything about your case.  You call your ex and tell them that this is inappropriate to discuss with the children and they completely dismiss you.  You know that the judge clearly said that neither you nor your ex could discuss anything about the case with your children.

While the damage has already been done with your children with what they have overheard or discussed so far with your ex, there are some helpful requests that you could make to deter this type of behavior.  For starters, as long as your orders do not contain anything requiring an agreement before enrolling the children in counseling then you should do so.  Having a professional who can meet with the children, give them an outlet for their emotions as to the divorce, and help them process the effects of the divorce is such a positive movement forward when this type of situation arises.  If the professional meets with you and discusses any concerns with respect to what they are reporting about your ex, then their testimony can be used in a court hearing.

Additionally, if you do decide to pursue a contempt hearing against your ex for violating a court order (discussing the case with the children and making disparaging remarks about you), then you will need proof of such.  If your children are 10 or older most judges will talk with them and the children can tell the judge themselves what they have overheard or what they have been told.  If your children are too young or are too afraid to be put in the middle, then this would be where a professional’s testimony would be helpful.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “in 2009, 14 states had divorce rates for men that were significantly above the U.S. average, ranging from 10.0 to 13.5 per 1,000” which included Texas.

Divorce is present throughout our state and it is a difficult and emotional process. But, it’s even more difficult when there are children involved. All parents worry about the choices they make and how those choices will effect their children. Divorce is no exception. And, parents have every right to worry–research indicates that the manner in which parents handle divorce can have a direct effect on children’s adjustments.

But, parents, don’t fret because there are healthy and helpful ways to deal with these effects and the divorce process. In fact, many family clients of attorneys are not only urged but also required to take parenting classes that focus on these issues–how is the divorce effecting your child, how can you talk to your child about the effects of divorce, how to manage the divorce process without placing the child in the middle of the parents, how to maintain the relationship you have with your children despite the changes in your lives, etc. One such class is called “For Kids’ Sake” and it is taught by a psychologist trained and educated in these particular fields.