This morning on the way to the bus, my 12 year old son was telling me about an app on his iPhone that allowed him to listen to NFL games.

“When I was your age, we didn’t have the Internet,” I told him.   “We had something else.  It was called outdoors.”

“What kind of game was that?” he asked me.

“We went out the door in the morning and played marbles until it was dinner time,” I said.  “I bet you’ve never even heard of marbles.”

I was all set to teach my son the grand game of marbles when I got home from work today.  Then I thought I’d better Google it.  And guess what?  I found out you can play a virtual game of marbles on the Internet.

Technology is a tool that can enhance or frustrate co-parenting by separated or divorced parents, depending on how you use it.  Emails, web calendars and texts can be very helpful to keep your kids schoolwork, extra-curricular activities and lives organized.  But technology can also be misused as well.

A University of Missouri study found that some parents selectively pretended they never received texts or emails they wished to ignore.  Others terminated web calendar access for the other parent until they had scheduled the children’s activities on it.  These parents were using technology as a weapon to gain control or annoy the other parent.

found that ex-spouses who endured bitter breakups often used communications technology as a weapon. Some spouses would selectively ignore texts and emails — pretending they never received them — while others cut their exes off from web calendars until they had already scheduled their children’s activities.

“Parents who use technology effectively can make co-parenting easier, which places less stress on the children,” said Professor Lawrence Ganong, who headed up the study.  “Parents who use communication technology to manipulate or withhold information from the other parent can cause pain to the child.”

Children are the highest stakes in a custody battle.  People fighting over the children will frequently engage in hostile, angry and vengeful behavior against each other.  Emotion overwhelms judgment.

When I mediate child custody cases, I ask each party to bring pictures of their children to the mediation session.  Then we tape them to the wall or prop them up against some books in the middle of the conference table.

Whenever a party veers off on a tangent or a rant about something, I let them calm down, then I point to the pictures and say, “Remember why we’re here.  It’s all about your children.  Let’s figure out what’s best for them.”

This usually focuses everyone’s attention back on solving problems rather than fighting about them.

Guest Article by Myburgh Law P.C.

During an uncontested New York divorce, many couples feel the understandable desire to speed things along as quickly as possible. It’s common to fall into the trap of thinking that, because the dissolution of the marriage is quick and uncontested, they will not need the services of a lawyer. While it is true that an uncontested marital dissolution will enable both parties to go their separate ways much more quickly, there are both long term and short term reasons why hiring a qualified New York attorney is important even in an uncontested divorce.

As part of the process, both parties will have to come to a marital settlement agreement, also known as a stipulation of settlement. If there are children involved, a parenting plan has to be agreed upon as well. Thus, a mutual agreement must be reached on terms such as child custody, where the child will reside, child support, spousal support, division of debt and division of assets. Marital settlement agreements and parenting plans can quickly become confusing to someone who does not have training in family law. A lawyer with experience in family law will ensure that their client understands the terms they are agreeing to and will work to make sure that their client’s wishes are fairly represented in the final agreement.

While some people may feel that they are able to represent their own needs in an uncontested situation, it is easy to underestimate the emotional toll that the dissolution of the marriage can have. Increased levels of stress and frustration often occur during the negotiation process. While these reactions are to be expected, they sometimes prevent individuals from making decisions which are best for the long term. A momentary rash desire to just have the process be over can result in life-long consequences when it comes to assets such as retirement savings, pensions, investments, houses, and 401ks. An attorney can look after these interests for their client without the added emotional turmoil often felt by the client.

Additionally, not all uncontested divorces remain that way through the entire legal process. Unfortunately, some parties will begin negotiations and realize that they simply did not agree on as much as they previously believed they did. Child custody arrangements are often a major point of contention between the parties, as is debt division. If the negotiations do take a turn towards contested territory, it’s good to have an attorney present to help one navigate through the much trickier legal issues surrounding this type of marital dissolution.

However, the proceedings may go just as smoothly as expected. Yet if one partner has a lawyer present, the one without legal representation may feel exposed or resentful without proper counsel. In such situations, both parties having an attorney to represent them promotes an atmosphere of equality and cooperation that is necessary for a successful negotiation.

Ultimately, a divorce is a life-altering event whether it is contested or uncontested. While the dissolving of a marriage will rarely be entirely pleasant, having the proper representation can be the deciding factor in how smoothly the process will go. Having a comparatively quick, hassle-free dissolution of marriage is very possible, and choosing to use the services of an attorney familiar with all aspects of family law is the best way to reach that goal.

One Mom’s Emotions Almost Canceled Out Father’s Rights

In England, a family judge found that a mother would be unable to cope with the father seeing their two daughters, ages nine and six after she broke down in court and said the thought of it made her feel exhausted.  A psychologist supported her view but the court appointed child advocate disagreed.  The judge banned the father from having any direct contact with his children, except for cards, letters and gifts once a month.

The father’s lawyers appealed the judge’s decision, saying it had been based on a momentary display of emotion from the mother in the witness box.

Father’s Rights and the Best Interest of the Child

The Court overturned the family judge’s order, acknowledging that it was “a very big ask” for the mother to accept that her children’s best interests lay in having two parents, not just one.  “Where, however, it is plainly in the best interests of a child to spend time with the other parent then, tough or not, part of the responsibility of the parent with care must be the duty and responsibility to deliver what the child needs, hard though that may be.”

The court urged all separated parents to see the bigger picture and consider the harm that legal disputes cause children.  It said mothers and fathers had a responsibility and a duty to help children maintain contact with the other parent. Mothers rights and fathers rights are equally important.

Source: Article by Tim Ross, Political Correspondent, The Telegraph

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were able to settle their divorce quickly.  Part of this was due to the fact that they had a prenuptial agreement.  A prenuptial agreement determines alimony and property distribution in the event of divorce.

But you cannot provide for custody, visitation or child support in a prenuptial agreement.  The reason for this is that the court has jurisdiction to determine what is in the best interest of the children based on circumstances at the time of divorce.

Likewise, child support will depend on custody and income at the time of divorce.  The parties can agree on custody, visitation and child support in a separation agreement or marital settlement agreement and the court will normally approve such an agreement.  These issues related to the child are the ones that Cruise and Holmes had to negotiate and resolve.

In the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, Maryland, if residential child custody was in dispute at the Scheduling Hearing, the Court would order custody mediation.

The mediators were paid Court employees and mediation was free to the parties.

Due to budget cuts, this service was terminated on July 13, 2012.  Parties can still use private mediators, but more custody cases may end up being tried at even greater costs to the judicial system and the parties.

It costs about $235,000 to raise a child from birth to age 17 in America.  That’s according to a report by the US Department of Agriculture.

Housing was the top expense parents can expect to deal with, followed by child care and education; food; and transportation.

In 1960, the first year the report was produced, a middle-income family would have spent about $25,000 over the 17 years.  But that is $191,720 in today’s dollars.

It’s hard enough to get your kids to do their homework.  But what it you are living in two different households, with different rules, different schedules, and multiple children.  Susan Schaefer provides some good advice and a great checklist for divorced parents who are helping their children with schoolwork.  Here is a short sample from the list:

  • Find a way to communicate with each other that feels comfortable. If speaking on the phone is too hostile, text or email instead.
  • Communicate with your child. Ask,” Can I see your planner?” “Are any tests coming up?” “Do you want me to quiz you?” “What did you learn in school today?” Or be more specific: “What did you learn about in social studies today?”
  • If it’s used in your child’s school, have the username and password for the school website and check on grades from time to time (once a week is good).
  • Make schoolwork a priority. Work first, fun later.

Carlos J. Phillips says don’t make these top three mistakes men make after divorce.

#1 – Rush back to the altar too soon

#2 – Become the town playboy now that you are single

#3 – Introduce your children to the new woman in your life way too soon.

Read more.