Friday, 18 October 2013 11:13

The Pros and Cons of Uncontested Divorce

Ending your marriage is never simple. However, you and your spouse can make the process more simple by remaining civil and working together to settle the issues equitably. If the spouses can work together to settle issues such as legal decision making, parenting time, child support, spousal maintenance, division of property, and division of debt, they can make their divorce a much less difficult process. This may be very difficult for many couples, but it is often well worth the effort.

The advantages of an uncontested divorce are many. First, the process is much faster than going to trial. People going through the divorce process usually want to be divorced as soon as possible. If they settle rather than go to trial, the process is always over more quickly, which leads to the second advantage: less aggravation. Divorce is stressful, aggravating, heart-breaking, and often infuriating. It is usually worse the longer the process takes and especially if you go to trial. When you have an uncontested divorce, or if you settle prior to trial, you avoid additional stress, aggravation, anger, and sorrow. Similarly, you have less conflict with the other spouse. This can be enormously helpful in the future if you have children together.

Another advantage to an uncontested divorce or settlement is that it is less expensive. Everyone has better things to do with their money than pay their divorce attorneys. The less work the attorney does, they less you pay. Going to trial takes a huge amount of an attorney’s time, so if you can negotiate an outcome with which you can live, you will save money. I tell people when they have a chance to agree to a reasonable settlement to spend their money on their kids, not on their attorney. An uncontested divorce is also often more dignified. You will not go to court to fight while your children watch and you will not testify against your spouse. Many people are embarrassed at trial by what they say about their spouses and by what their spouse says about them.

Finally, the most important advantage to an uncontested divorce is that you control the outcome. If the two spouses can agree to something reasonable, they make the decision regarding their lives instead of a judge making the decision for them. Besides, an agreement that you can live with is always better than a judge’s decision that you think is awful. This is even more important if you have children with the other spouse. The two people who are the most qualified to make a decision regarding your children’s best interests are you and the other parent. If you and the other parent cannot make an agreement, a judge (who is, by the way, a stranger in a black robe) who has never met your children will make the decision. The judge will do his or her best, but the judge does not know you or your children and will make the decision after listening to approximately three hours of evidence and reviewing a few exhibits.

The advantages of settlement apply to every divorce, but the disadvantages are limited to certain situations. The most obvious disadvantage to an uncontested divorce or settlement is when the other spouse will not be reasonable. Obviously, you should not agree for the sake of making an agreement when the other party is insisting on a settlement that is unreasonable and will not budge from that position. Examples include insisting that you rarely see your children (without a good reason like abuse or drug use), insisting on keeping all or most of the property, insisting on an exorbitant amount of support or insisting on paying no support when it is clearly due, and insisting on including issues that are not issues in a divorce, such as who is supposedly at fault for the divorce. However, if both parties can be reasonable, this is not a disadvantage.

Another disadvantage to uncontested divorce or settlement is if one party intimidates the other party. In my opinion, everyone needs a lawyer in a divorce, but people who are intimidated by their spouse REALLY need a lawyer. People who are intimidated by their spouse should be hesitant to settle prior to litigation because they almost always end up capitulating to unreasonable demands because they are intimidated. This is usually the case with abused spouses and spouses who have been controlled and pushed around for a long time by the other spouse. These spouses usually end up agreeing to a ridiculous settlement.

Finally, there is no advantage, or even much possibility, of an uncontested divorce or settlement if the parties cannot cooperate. If either spouse focuses of antagonism towards the other spouse, or if the parties simply cannot work together for any reason, they will not be able to cooperate sufficiently to reach a reasonable resolution of their divorce.

As you can see, the advantages of an uncontested divorce or a settlement usually far outweigh the disadvantages. I believe that you should still have a lawyer in an uncontested divorce so that you can ensure that everything is correct. Also, it helps a lot to have someone who is not emotionally involved in your divorce and who has experience in the process advise you and negotiate on your behalf.

If you need help with an uncontested divorce or a divorce settlement, please contact me. I would love to help you.

 

 

Published in Blog

I often consult with people who did not hire an attorney to represent them during their family law case. Now that their case did not go so well, they are looking to hire an attorney to fix it. Usually, it is too late to do much. One of the most common complaints of people in such a situation it that the Judge did not look at their evidence during the trial. However, there is usually a clear reason why the Judge did not look at their evidence.

The first and most simple reason that the Judge did not look at a self-represented party's evidence is that he or she did not move it into evidence. I have consulted with several people who did not understand that simply lodging the exhibits (leaving the exhibits with the court's staff prior to trial so that the court staff can mark them as exhibits) is insufficient. During the trial, the proffering party must establish a foundation for the exhibit and move it into evidence. Talking about it and referring to it is not sufficient. Too often, self-represented litigants think that the Judge will look at their exhibits just because it has been marked and do not understand why that did not happen.

Another common reason why the Judge did not look at a party's evidence is because of the right to cross-examine witnesses. Self-represented litigants often bring written statements to court. The written statements always contain testimony from friends, family, neighbors, teachers, and the like regarding the virtues of one party and/or the many flaws of the other party. Such statements are testimony and the authors of the statements are witnesses. However, the other party has the right to cross-examine witnesses and they cannot cross-examine a piece of paper. This is the primary reason why judges almost never admit such statements into evidence. Other reasons include that such statements are almost never made under oath, that the judge cannot evaluate the person's credibility and demeanor by reading a statement, and the Best Evidence Rule, which requires the best form of any particular evidence be presented (such as live testimony instead of a written statement).

The third common reason why a judge did not look at a self-represented party's evidence is the party's failure to follow procedure and meet deadlines. People often think that if they just bring their evidence to court, the judge will look at it and understand their position. However, the rules of procedure require that parties disclose their evidence long before trial. Also, the court sets deadlines for not only disclosure, but also to lodge exhibits with court staff for marking. Generally, if a party fails to properly and timely disclose evidence, or fails to timely lodge exhibits with the court for marking, the court will not admit them into evidence. People often do not understand the reason for this, but the rules and deadlines are meant to prevent parties from unfairly ambushing each other at trial with surprise evidence.

These are three of the most common reasons why the Judge did not look at a self-represented party's evidence. An experienced family law attorney can help people avoid these pitfalls. Thomas A. Morton is an experienced family law attorney in Phoenix, Arizona.

 

 

Published in Blog
Wednesday, 03 July 2013 11:23

Setting Aside Default Divorce Decrees

Last year, the Arizona Court of Appeals issued a decision regarding setting aside default divorce decrees. The case involved two parties who were both licensed attorneys who made several procedural errors. In its decision Duckstein v. Wolf, the Arizona Court of Appeals set forth some standards for trial courts in setting aside default divorce decrees.

WHAT IS A DEFAULT DIVORCE DECREE?

A default divorce decree is the divorce decree that the court issues after the default process. When the petitioner serves the respondent with divorce papers, either by a process server or by the respondent signing an acceptance of service (as was the case in Duckstein), the respondent has 20 days to file his or her response. If the respondent does not file a response within 20 days, the petitioner may file an application for and affidavit on default alerting the court to the fact that the respondent did not file a response and asking the court to consider the matter to be in default. If the respondent still does not file a response within ten business days after the day the petitioner files the application for default, the respondent is in default. The petitioner then may set a default hearing during which he or she will present a default decree for the court to enter. After the court signs the proposed decree, it is a default divorce decree.

Sometimes, parties who have already made an agreement regarding all issues in their divorce use the default process. After they reach their agreement, the petitioner files for divorce and asks the court to enter a decree reflecting the terms of the parties’ agreement. The respondent does not file a response and the petitioner presents a decree to the court that reflects the parties’ agreement. Other times, the respondent just does not respond for any number of reasons.

WHAT HAPPENED IN DUCKSTEIN?

Note: Duckstein was a divorce matter without minor children. Trial courts are much more likely to set aside default in divorces with minor children.

The Petitioner filed a divorce petition that did not include a signed verification page as required by law. She also filed an acceptance of service that did not include a notary as required by law. The Respondent did not file a response and the Petitioner pursued the default process, presenting a proposed decree and a property settlement agreement that appeared to bear the signatures of both parties. The court issued the divorce decree incorporating the property settlement agreement.

Ten months later, the Respondent filed a motion to set aside the default decree, arguing that the he had not signed the acceptance of service or the property settlement agreement, and that the defects in the petition and acceptance of service made the decree void. The Respondent asked the trial court to set aside the default decree or, alternatively, hold an evidentiary hearing on whether he signed the acceptance of service and property settlement agreement. The trial court entered an order declining to set aside default or hold an evidentiary hearing. The Respondent appealed.

Because Respondent waited ten months to file his motion, the trial court and the appellate court focused on whether the judgment was void (as opposed to voidable). A motion to set aside a judgment for most other reasons has a time limit of six months.

Therefore, the two practicing attorneys who were the parties to this case made three basic errors:

THE ARIZONA COURT OF APPEALS REMANDED THE CASE.

The Arizona Court of Appeals held that when a motion to set aside a default judgment presents contested issues of material fact and a party requests an evidentiary hearing, the trial court should conduct an evidentiary hearing before ruling on the motion. In Duckstein, the contested issue of material fact was whether the Respondent had signed the acceptance of service.

The Respondent made three arguments on appeal: 1) the unverified petition deprive the trial court of jurisdiction; 2) the lack of notary on the acceptance of service deprived the trial court of jurisdiction; and 3) the trial court should have held an evidentiary hearing on these issues before ruling.

The appellate court first held that, although the Petitioner violated the rules by not verifying her petition, it did not deprive the trial court of jurisdiction. The rules provide for other remedies short of depriving the trial court of jurisdiction.

The appellate court then held that the lack of a notary on the acceptance of service does not render the default decree void as a matter of law. The court reasoned that the real issue is whether the Respondent actually signed the acceptance of service and whether the trial court should have held an evidentiary hearing to make the determination.

On the issue of whether the trial court should have held an evidentiary hearing, the appellate court held that the lack of a proper notarization does not necessarily require an evidentiary hearing, in the Duckstein case the trial court should have held an evidentiary hearing because the notarization was defective, there was a dispute of fact as to whether the Respondent was properly served, and the Respondent had requested an evidentiary hearing on that issue.

The appellate court reasoned that a judgment is void if a trial court did not have jurisdiction because of lack of proper service. If a judgment is void, the trial court has no discretion but to vacate it. Therefore, when a notarization on an acceptance of service is defective, on a motion to vacate a decree, it is up to the trial court, after determining the evidence before it, whether the movant has provided clear and convincing evidence for relief from the default decree. The way to determine and evaluate the evidence is to have an evidentiary hearing on the issues raised.

Therefore, the appellate court said, the trial court erred in denying the Respondent’s motion without having an evidentiary hearing. The appellate court remanded the matter back to the trial court to hold an evidentiary hearing on whether the Respondent actually signed the acceptance of service.

CONCLUSION

Procedural errors such as the errors in Duckstein can be costly and time consuming. Even practicing attorneys make very basic procedural errors on their own cases when in the emotional turmoil of a divorce. An experienced attorney who can handle and analyze your divorce without emotion can be key in avoiding costly and time consuming errors. Thomas A. Morton has been representing Phoenix area divorce litigants since 2004 and is available to consult with you on your divorce.

Published in Blog
Friday, 31 May 2013 21:43

Prepare for a Divorce

Too many people are not ready financially when their spouse decides to file for divorce. If you suspect that a divorce is in your future, it is important to take certain steps to protect yourself and your financial future. Not only do you want to be ready financially, you want to protect yourself in the event that your spouse decides to play nasty, underhanded games, such as run up (or cancel) credit cards, drain the financial accounts, or hide financial accounts.

Here is a short list of things that you can do to protect yourself.

1. Get to know your assets, liabilities and monthly living expenses. Many people have no idea of their monthly living expenses, debts or assets. While the reasons vary from household to household, many never see their spouse’s paycheck, their income tax return even though they may sign it, or know the status of the household debt. Worse, they have no idea of the assets, such as investment accounts. Be proactive. Search for records and know the financial condition of your family.

2. Consult with and get an attorney. An experienced Arizona divorce attorney can advise you of your legal rights and any potential complications prior to the divorce proceedings so that you are adequately prepared.

3. Have adequate cash on hand. All too often a spouse will go into a divorce without enough cash on hand to cover legal expenses, court fees, new housing, and routine bills. If divorce seems to be on the horizon, start saving as much cash as possible, as soon as possible, in order to cover these expenses. Also, start thinking about a budget. When you pursue a divorce, you and the other spouse will go from support one household with a certain amount of income to supporting two households with the same amount of income.

4. Become aware of the complete financial situation. Before the actual divorce takes place, it is very important to understand the financial landscape of your family. You will want to determine all of your outstanding debts, including all individual debts, as well as all joint debts. You will want to know and understand the complete financial picture of your family, which includes knowing all credit card accounts, home equity lines, student loans, and any business debts.

5. Retain adequate financial records. You will want to retain and maintain easy access to all pertinent financial documents, such as credit card statements, mortgage bills, mortgage agreements, insurance policies, previous tax returns, wills, retirement plan accounts, and paystubs.

6. Establish accounts in your own name. Once it becomes clear that divorce is imminent, you should take proactive measures to establish financial accounts in your name alone, including checking accounts, credit cards, savings accounts, and retirement accounts. You may also want to take steps necessary to secure individual car insurance.

7. Fix automatic deposits and payments. You should request that your employer re-route all of your payments into your individual accounts.

8. Ensure mortgage payments. If you have purchased a home with your spouse or you are both on the lease, you must determine who will continue making the mortgage or rent payments. Creditors, including mortgagors and landlords, expect to receive their payments regardless of your marital status or whether you are still living in the home. Even if you plan on moving out, you are still responsible for at least half of the mortgage or rent payments so it is advisable to come to some agreement early on regarding who will continue making the housing payments.

If you have further questions about how to prepare for a divorce, you can make an appointment for a consultation with Thomas A. Morton, a Phoenix family law and divorce lawyer.

 

 

Published in Blog
Wednesday, 22 May 2013 12:43

Arizona Legal Separation

Arizona recognizes legal separation. At least one party must be a resident of the state and both parties must agree to the legal separation. If one party objects to a decree of legal separation, the court shall direct that the pleadings be amended to seek dissolution of the marriage.

Issues and Procedure in a Legal Separation

The issues in a legal separation are the same as in a dissolution of marriage ("divorce"): spousal maintenance, child support, legal decision making, parenting time, property, debt, and attorney's fees and costs. The procedure is also the same. The only practical difference between a legal separation and a dissolution of marriage is that the parties are still legally marriage and therefore cannot marry someone else.

“Regular” (Non-covenant) Marriage Legal Separation Grounds:

As in dissolution of marriage, for non-covenant marriages it is only necessary to determine that the marriage is irretrievably broken or one or both of the spouses want to live separate and apart, to file for a legal separation.

Covenant Marriage Legal Separation Grounds:

The grounds for obtaining a legal separation vary slightly from those for obtaining dissolution.

1.Adultery;

2.Commitment of a felony with a sentence of death or imprisonment;

3.Abandonment for a period of at least one year prior to filing, (if the spouse has not been away for one year upon filing, but is expected to be, the case will be put on hold until the one-year requirement is met. Temporary orders regarding child support, parenting time and spousal support may be granted and enforced);

4.Physical or sexual abuse by one spouse against the other spouse, a child or relative of either spouse who lives in the couple’s home, or domestic violence or emotional abuse;

5.The spouses have been living separate and apart for two consecutive years before filing, (if the spouses have not been separated for two years upon filing, but are expected to be, the case will be put on hold until the two-year requirement is met. Temporary orders regarding child support, parenting time and spousal support may be granted and enforced);

6.Regular alcohol abuse or ill treatment of one spouse by the other, which makes living together intolerable; or

7.Regular drug or alcohol abuse.

Published in Blog
Friday, 26 April 2013 10:45

Avoid the Social Media Nightmare

Social media can be a gold mine of evidence for a family law attorney because many people are just not careful about what they post online. Cheating spouses get caught on Facebook, incriminating photos end up on Instagram, Twitter posts demonstrate an individual's morals and bad habits, and Foursquare and Yelp check-ins inform others of our whereabouts. Not only can the implications of our social media footprints increase the risk of unrest in a marriage, family law attorneys are turning to the trail of evidence left on social media channels in divorce and child custody cases.

Most people use social media. Many family law attorneys are now advising their clients to stop using social channels in an effort curb the amount of evidence left online. Some have gone as far as to suggest modifying privacy settings and implementing self-censorship in hopes of limiting what opposing counselors can use in court. The plethora of information in the public domain of the online superhighway can serve as a goody bag for attorneys for the opposing side. Statuses, tags and photos have the ability to reveal a person's state of mind, intent, proof of communication, evidence of times and places that events occurred and proof of actions.

Although the most common way to gather evidence on social media is that someone sees it and prints it, many recent appellate decisions (albeit in states other than Arizona) have completely opened social media to the discovery process. Courts have ruled that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in social media and parties have had to turn over everything in their social media accounts.

When it comes to finances, social media can destroy an individual's chance of saving money. Divorcing spouses do not realize that when they post pictures of their brand new cars, luxury trips and elegant dinners they can be used against them as evidence when they claim that they are unable to pay alimony, or can't possibly afford to pay a level of child support. LinkedIn is another web site that may be detrimental to someone attempting to get out of certain payments, because it contains open information on a divorcing party's income, bonuses and other employment information.

The following guidelines will help prevent falling into the social media evidence trap.

1. Do not use social media. If you must use social media, proceed to the other guidelines.

2. Place your settings on private. You don’t want just anyone looking at your information anyway.

3. Do not have the opposing party or their friends and family on your friend or contact list. For some reason, people are always shocked when their in-laws print the pictures of them doing stupid things.

4. Do not brag online about doing or post pictures of stupid things that the other side will use against you. This includes (but I am sure it is not limited to): using illegal drugs, abusing alcohol, affiliating with gangs (I had one opposing party who posted multiple pictures of himself and his gang flashing gang signs), criminal activity, endangering your children, and generally showing bad judgment. You should not do these things in the first place, but if you must do one or more of them, don’t make a public record of it.

5. Do not badmouth the opposing party, the opposing party’s family, the opposing party’s friends, any former spouse, any former girlfriend or boyfriend, any parent of any of your children, or anyone else that you know. This includes posting threats. Yes, people have actually done that in my family law cases.

6. Don’t be a jerk. A large part of a family law case is presenting yourself as reasonable. Do not post evidence in public that you are not reasonable.

7. Do not post trashy things. Posting profanity-laced status updates about various frustrations, filthy jokes, and explicit pictures may or may not hurt your particular case, but they certainly will not help it.

8. Keep most private details of your life private. Posts about how much you love your children, or how much fun you had with your children during a particular activity are fine. Posting about every minute detail of your lives can lead to posting something that you later wish you did not post.

9. Do not focus on free speech. One litigant had remarried and his current spouse posted foul, horrible things about the opposing party several times every day. The litigant took the position that his wife is entitled to free speech and can post whatever she wants. He lost his case.

10. Do not post details about your case.

11. Before posting something, ask yourself if you would mind explaining it to a judge later. If the answer is yes, don’t post it.

If you follow the above guidelines you will avoid becoming your own worst enemy in family court.

Published in Blog

Selecting your family law attorney can be one of the most important decisions to make in your family law case. An attorney who gives you a complete and honest consultation will attempt to give you enough information so that you will not have many questions after discussing your case for a while. This is a list of questions that you should either ask during a consultation with a Phoenix, Arizona family law attorney, or, preferably, the attorney should answer before you ask.

1. Can you explain the issues in my case to me? This is a basic requirement. If the attorney cannot adequately and clearly identify and explain the issues in your case, look for another attorney.

2. Can you explain the procedure for my case to me? This is another basic requirement.

3. Who will handle my case? Many firms will assign your case to an attorney other than the attorney with whom you consult. It does not make any sense to interview an attorney and hire that attorney's firm, only to never deal with that attorney again. Also, many firms will assign a paralegal to do most of the work on your case. There is nothing wrong with someone else working on your case, but you should know who will do most of the work.

4. How would you handle my case? The attorney does not necessarily have to have a concrete plan as to how to handle your case, but the attorney should have a general idea and a basic plan for your case. Issues in a Phoenix, Arizona family law case, such as legal decision making (formerly custody), parenting time (visitation), child support, divorce, spousal maintenance (alimony), and other issues do not drastically vary from case to case, and an experienced family law attorney will have a general knowledge as to how to handle them.

5. What is your experience? You should know how long the attorney has practiced law, how long the attorney has practiced family law, where the attorney has practiced and for how long, how much of the attorney's practice is family law, and how often the attorney has seen the issues in your case.

6. How much of your firm/practice is dedicated to family law? You should know whether the attorney dabbles in family law or practices it on a regular basis.

7. What is your experience with my judge? This is not a deal breaker, but it can be helpful, and sometimes important, to your case if your attorney has some idea how the judge thinks, whether you should keep a particular judge on your family law case, and on what you judge may focus.

8. What is your experience with opposing counsel? This, too, is not a deal breaker, but it is sometimes helpful if your attorney has some idea of how the other attorney may approach the case, how he or she thinks, and how to deal with opposing counsel.

9. Ask yourself how you feel about the attorney. You should hire an attorney with whom you are comfortable. A divorce, custody battle, or other family law case may be one of the most difficult times in your life, and it helps to have an attorney that you trust and like. You want someone who makes a good team with you and someone with whom you will not have friction.

An attorney who is genuinely trying to give you your money's worth during a consultation will try to give information on most or all of these points without the client asking. Beware the attorney who will simply try to get you to hire him or her before he or she gives you a significant amount of information. If an attorney will not give you a satisfactory answer to any of these questions, you should look somewhere else for your attorney.

Published in Blog
Friday, 08 February 2013 12:31

Gather and Preserve Your Evidence

When parties are in a contested divorce or a custody dispute, the judge often hears testimony from one party, and then contradictory testimony from the other party. Who does the judge believe?

That is why parties should gather and preserve evidence. Often, a divorce or custody trial comes down to which party is more credible. Presenting documentary evidence is a key way to be more credible than the opposing party. The ill-advised text message that the other parent sent a few weeks ago could go a long way toward proving that you are telling the truth when you testify that he or she refuses to be civil and co-parent with you. Emails, notes, letters, and text messages often make their way onto my exhibit list and, sometimes, they destroy the opposing party's credibility while dramatically boosting my client's credibility. Sometimes, people really do send emails that say things like, "You will see the baby when I say you see the baby," or "You will never see the children again." Emails like this virtually ensure that the children will not live primarily with the author. Therefore, save written communications of this nature. It does not help much to testify that the other party sent you a threatening text message or email when you cannot produce the text message or email.

Another way to gain credibility is to document major incidents with the police. Sometimes, a party will claim that the other party assaulted him or her several months or even years in the past. The obvious question is, "Where is the police report?" When the answer is, "I didn't call the police," it looks like the person making the accusation is lying. However, if there is a police report, it looks like the person is telling the truth, especially when the report says that the opposing party admitted the allegations at the time.

Written communications and police reports are only two of the many varieties of documentary evidence that can help you in family court. Receipts, bank records, monthly statements, copies of Facebook pages, and records of criminal convictions are just a few examples of other types of documentary evidence. In fact, more people have badly hurt themselves in family court with their Facebook and Myspace posts than I would have thought possible, but that is a topic for another blog entry.

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of needing to consult with a lawyer on this subject, I will be happy to talk to you. I, Thomas A. Morton, am a family law/divorce attorney serving the communities of Phoenix, Glendale, Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe, Peoria, Chandler, and Maricopa County.

Published in Blog
Friday, 01 February 2013 14:56

Give a Gift to Your Children

Many divorcing or recently divorced parents buy extravagant gifts for their children. Often, it appears that the parent is doing so out of guilt over the divorce process or is either consciously or unconsciously attempting to buy the child's love. Worse, some parents try to buy the child as an ally against the other parent. None of these gifts are really what the children need, and they rarely accomplish the goal.

Children need gifts during and after their parents' divorce, but not the sort that comes in packaging. First, give them the gift of considering their needs first. Many parents get so focused on fighting the other parent or punishing the other parent (although very few of them actually think that they are doing these things) that they do not truly consider what is best for the children. Arizona law and Arizona judges focus on what is best for the children, not what is best for the parents. The two most qualified people in the world to make a decision on what is best for a child is the child's parents. If those two experts cannot agree, then a judge, who does not know the parents or children, and who is essentially a stranger in a black robe, will listen to about three hours of evidence and try to make a decision in the best interests of the children. Obviously, the parents are in a better position to make that decision, IF they truly focus on what is best for the children.

Second, the children need the gift of their parents' silence about the divorce process. Does anyone really think that talking to the children about the legal wrangling and, worse, criticizing the other parent are good for the children? Many parents just want to vent to their children, or think that they are just keeping their children informed. A few parents want to influence their children against the other parent. However, all of these parents are involving their children in the divorce process and positioning them between the two parents. This is not only not good for the children, but can often be emotionally destructive to them. The only things that a divorcing parent should say to the children about the other parent are good things. The children are a part of the other parent and should see the other parent for the kind of parent he or she is and is going to be, not as the spouse that he or she was during the marriage. Finally, badmouthing the other parent often backfires, not only when the judge hears about it at trial, but years or decades later, when the children mature and realize what happened.

Third, the children need the gift of a home. With the back-and-forth of a parenting plan (aka visitation schedule), they need each parent's home to also be their home. Children often feel displaced when at one or both parents' homes, so parents may want to make sure that their current home feels just as much like a home as the former marital home felt for the children.

Finally, a gift to give the children is the gift of not letting them see you dating, at least for a while. The children have just gone through what may be the biggest and most traumatic experience of their childhood. Witnessing one or both parents getting romantic with someone who is not the other parent is another big adjustment. More importantly, most people are very emotional during a divorce and the time immediately following it. When emotions are high, people tend to exercise bad judgment. No one should exercise bad judgment in deciding what person they will bring around their children, especially if that person may be spending a lot of time around them. The time that the children are with the other parent is a good time to date for people who feel that they must do so.

Many people shower their children with gifts during and after a divorce. However, the most important gifts for children during such a difficult time are gifts like the gifts that I discussed here. If you are going through a divorce or are thinking of starting a divorce, I am here for a consultation. I am a Phoenix divorce and family law attorney serving the Phoenix, Arizona area.

Published in Blog
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Thomas A. Morton, P. L. L. C.
2916 N. 7th Avenue, Suite 100
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(602) 595-6870
info@thomasamortonlaw.com

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(602) 595-6870

If you have a legal issue but aren't sure how to handle it, call Thomas A. Morton, Attorney.

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