Episode 2: Divorcing with Children
By: Leslie Barrows
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Episode 2: Divorcing with Children
In today’s Texas Divorce Lawyer Podcast, Attorney Leslie Barrows discusses Divorcing with Children. Ms. Barrows provides some important information on approaching the children on the topic of divorce, and what may have the least amount of emotional impact? Are there different approaches depending on the age of the child/children? What kinds of reactions should parents be prepared for? What are some other considerations when divorcing with children that can impact a child emotionally? How can these be mitigated? At what point during the divorce is custody initially established? What, if any, input from the child is considered for custody? Attorney Leslie Barrows also provides information about some terms that people may not be familiar with, such as: Joint Managing Conservatorship, Sole Managing Conservatorship and Possession Of and Access to the Child. Finally Attorney Leslie Barrows wraps up the discussion with Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution for determining child custody, for modifications and enforcement actions.
Hi there. I’m attorney Leslie barrows and you’re listening to the Texas divorce lawyer podcast with me Leslie Barrows. The goal of this podcast is to educate people in Texas about divorce. I want to be able to describe what divorce means how it affects children both young and grown and give my listeners a little bit of hope especially if they are about to start or are in the middle of divorce proceedings.
Welcome to the podcast.
Host: Welcome to the podcast. Today we’re going to be talking about divorce when you have children and some of the effects that it can have on the children. We’re here with Leslie Barrows from the Barrows firm in Southlake Texas.
Today we’re gonna be talking a little bit about divorcing when you have children and some of the effects that it can have. We know that on your blog you’re are doing a multipart series concerning this and we’re going to kind of touch a little bit on two of the first postings that we’ve got out there.
We’re going to talk a little bit about some of the effects that divorce has on children and then some of the issues that come up with the initial court proceedings and custody and things like that. So, whenever you’re ready.
Leslie Barrows: All right.
Host: When it comes to divorce as a parent, how should they approach the child or the children on the topic of divorce that has the least emotional impact for that child?
Leslie Barrows: Well of course you know divorce is hard for families especially families with children. And I think you really just have to know your family in the eight and the ages of the children. We all will agree that children are resilient but we want to make sure that we keep them out of the divorce proceedings and I think that you know the the best thing to do is if you’re going to have to tell your family that you know you know mom and dad are going to split up and the children are going to go to different homes and there’s going to be some changes that the two have the least emotional impact on them would be to. Get the help to mental health professionals to make sure that you’re You’re broaching the subject the appropriate time and in place and just make sure that the kids are on the same page with with what’s going to be going on and the changes that are going to take place in the home. Of course, it’s going to be challenging and I always tell people for children don’t introduce them to new boyfriends or girlfriends or paramours just so you know while you’re going through the divorce that they just maintain contact with with the parents.
I mean of course you’re going to have a lot of emotional impact on the children but you want to keep that to a minimum given they’re their ages and you know all the children react differently I mean some can be you know just stay busy and go to their friends houses or some can have attachment issues where they don’t they don’t like the transition from going over to mom and dad’s house so there can be some attachment issues as well . So you have to just do what’s best for for your kids and try to keep that emotion down you know and just continue to tell them you know we we both love you . We want to do what’s right for the family it’s just we’re not giving up on you that you have a home that’s safe and we’ll make sure that that you’re taking care of.
Host: So you mentioned something about different ages so when it comes to children of different ages you’ve got kids that are younger kids are older . What kind of approaches would you take for the different age groups or would you have a different approach.
Leslie Barrows: Well I think kids under you know preschool they’re really not going to you know be really impacted as much as of older children.
I mean teenagers are are are hard already deal with because they have so many things going on in there with school and friends and and hormones. So I think teenagers can really be affected pretty you know take it pretty hard just. Is it something that you would do depending on their their age and and make sure that you communicate with them because a lot of times you’ll find that kids if you try to talk about divorce that they’ll kind of clam up and not want to talk about it. And maybe that’s an option where you say Hey I’m gonna go get them and therapist that they can talk to on their own and not mom and dad you know they’re not going to be a part of the therapy and and then you can be guided by a mental health professional of how you should what’s going to be best for your child.
Host: So would you maybe look at The Help or kind of get some ideas about you know preparing for that ahead of time because kids are going to have different reactions so you kind of touch on a little bit but what are some of these reactions again if you could just kind of talk about that again about you know how what kind of reactions can a parent should a parent expect and do and I’m sure it’s a multitude of different things.
Leslie Barrows: I think you you know they’ll be upset. I mean I’ve had children where especially if they already have mental health issues you know diagnosed with bipolar or ADHD or schizophrenia it depends on the kiddos or maybe their their disabled child so there’s different reactions that you can get. I mean you have upset shock. You know sometimes kids go, ‘Well my friend went through this, going through that’ or ‘my friend at school’ given whatever age their parents or divorce and so it’s I know with with our kids you know we talk about them you know with their friends you know about their parents that are divorced.
I don’t think you’re going to get anyone that’s going to be happy and jump up for joy. I think you’re going to get just a wide wide range of emotions almost kind of like the grieving process where they’re in shock and then they’ve kind of come to accept it and as time goes on then they start accepting that oh I’m going to Dad’s house on this weekend and this isn’t the time I talk to my mom but if I want to talk to her I’ll talk to her on the phone .
So I think that with the use of Cell phones. Now to that if if the kids are older that that that’s a good tool to use because if they’re feeling lonely or they’re thinking about their mom or their dad when they’re over at the other parent’s house they can call them. And then everything you know they feel better about it.
Host: So you think maybe you like a structure of some kind . You know helps children out . You know like there’s a structure of you know that this weekend you’re going to Dad’s house this weekend you’re going to mom’s house or you know holidays and things like that. Does that seem to kind of help do you think.
Leslie Barrows: Yeah you know I was talking to a group of middle school girls last week at one of the Middle School middle schools in town and I asked the question we started off with was what’s your what’s your pick of the week. What are you looking forward to and a lot of them. We’re like oh I’m going to my dad’s I’m going to go see my dog over there. So just kids are are so are pretty accepting you know about what’s going on and if as an adult you tell them you know this is going to be best for everybody and for the family then then you know they’re gonna be accepting of the new schedule and the change.
Host: So during that time. But what point is there kind of an establishment of custody is is something that the parents just have to work out between themselves or is or like an order of some kind. How does that kind of work out.
Leslie Barrows: Well when a when a couple’s going to get divorced someone will have to file a petition for divorce and that starts the proceeding and and usually the the other side is served the paperwork and then we would have a temporary orders hearing where someone’s going to be named the you know the if you’re going to have joint managing conservators. That’s usually the standard unless you have some kind of emergency like family violence or drug use or some some kind of safety issue. But usually when you file for divorce you’re going to have to know that who’s the primary caretaker of the kids.
And where are the kids going to stay in and what schools usually what we go by. But I mean once you file for the divorce you’re gonna have temporary orders within 14 days usually and then at that time someone’s going to be name the joint managing conservator of the children the custody would be established at that time on a temporary basis at some point.
Host: Does a child have any say in kind of like the custody part of it?
Leslie Barrows: Well under the Family Code there is this one. You know this one part of the family code where a 12 year old can go in and say that they want to talk to the judge and they want and that the judge if somebody asks for the party says hey I want the judge to talk to the child then for kids that are age 12 and up the judge can talk to the child. It says Ciao. So if that’s ever asked for and usually it’s going to be in custody modifications and divorces once the kiddo turns 12 years old and so you know our judges are really good about meeting with the kids and we bring them in you know to make sure that doesn’t disrupt their school schedule and then bring them in and they’re taken in the back and it’s kind of a laid back talk that they have with the judge. But none of the parties go. Also there’s some judges that will bring in a court reporter as well and sometimes you can get a transcript of the meeting with the kiddos as well. But usually those are the kids that are going to be 12 and up and a lot of the judges in the mental health professionals and other attorneys you know we want to make sure that we don’t want kids to be trying to say that they have to pick or choose their mom or dad because usually they of course love both of them and add in there’s so much stress with them being in the middle of these custody battles and the you know they contested or high conflict divorces where those are just decisions that kids kids shouldn’t be making that those are adult decisions. So I think the judges are really good about telling them you know you don’t have to make that decision. I’m going to make the decision I’m going to tell your parents where you’re going to be.
So they kind of listen to the child. There are still you know mitigating factors and everything that kind of go along with that. That has to be considered. If the child just comes up and says I’m going to live with mom that’s just not a guaranteed thing it’s still up to the right and everything is kind of taken into consideration .
Yeah and you know we always like it we throw around the term best interests of the child so that that actually goes to what is best for the child . Have they been in the school district. Are there any special needs. Do they do they play sports that they didn’t you know running track with with the school for some time and that’s something they really enjoy you know are they unbanned. Do they have siblings. I mean there’s all kinds of things after that the judge considers as well. If a child a child is going to be interviewed by the judge.
Host: I know a lot of times is legal terms that are kind of thrown out and any kind of proceeding and there’s some that doing some research for this podcast to sit down and talk with you. I came across some that I think would be good for people to kind of get a better understanding of what they mean because it’s something that came up pretty often. So let’s kind of talk about what does it mean when it says joint managing conservatorship.
Leslie Barrows: OK. So joint managing conservatorship is usually the presumption that you’re going to have both parents involved in the raising of the children. So that’s pretty much a standard. If people come in and they say I want custody well under joint managing conservator ship we have rights and duties which would be right to designate where the children go to school. You know to designate where you have the child go seek medical attention things like that. So when when you’re seeing you know cases where it says joint managing conservatorship and the other side saying that they have custody it’s because they’re making the decisions usually of where the child goes to school and where the child resides so those are the top two that people usually want and and would argue the most about it’s who’s going to be primary who’s going to be the primary person to do that. And you know when we’re trying to mediate cases and resolve resolve high conflict cases we’re making sure that you know people are kind of steering away from the term of who has custody.
And who has primary because it’s kind of like you’re trying to one up the other the other parent but you still need both parents to raise the children. So they are typical as joint managing conservatorship as well the sole managing conservatorship. That’s going to be where you have you have maybe dad or mom’s taken off and abandon the kiddo you have five possibly family violence. We’ll we’ll get sole managing conservatorship if there’s a protective order and that will be on a temporary basis or, but most the time the sole managing is is going to be you know family violence or really serious drug problems where you know they just can’t the other parent just can’t get off drugs and that’s just not a safe environment. So you would have most likely have the supervised possession of the child if the even if the parents even visiting.
Host: So the sole managing conservatorship like that would be more like so if someone says sole custody kind of the same thing.
Leslie Barrows: Yeah. And you don’t you don’t see cease you see sole custody. When CPS is involved you know so you’re gonna have something pretty extreme as happen where these two cannot get along at all. And so you’re going to have to have some supervised visits is usually what you’re going to do with the sole managing.
Host: This sounds daunting I can’t understand what it means but possession of and access to the child that.
Leslie Barrows: Yes. So that’s that’s gonna be your schedule so you’ll have joint managing conservatorship or sole managing and then you would have a possession schedule for the for the child. And you know we all throw around because we hear it every day of standard possession order while in the state of Texas it’s just a standard possession order would be first third and fifth weekends then the the non-custodial parent. So non-custodial means where the they don’t have the primary right to designate where the kiddo resides. So really I think you just look at it as this is going to be the schedule or doing more equal sharing of schedules maybe like a week on week off. Sometimes that works with families but it’s the week on week off is difficult because you have to you have to make sure that these people get along if they don’t get along and they don’t live close week on week off housing and work because you have to be in the same school district too. Sure.
Because you don’t want to have to drive your kiddo all the way from you know that’s 50 miles away and have to do drop offs at the school. If the if the parent lives you know some you know several miles away from the school. So that’s that’s what possession of and access to the child. And I know we talk about standard possession orders too. And that would be the first third fifth and there’s also standard holidays that the families would have to take into account. And the big shocker is always the summer where the non-custodial parent has basically the whole month of July. So that can be really tough on people because I think when maybe they entered into the agreement they were like oh I really didn’t understand what would be if I didn’t have my kid for a whole month.
You know it was summer and people that live over 100 miles away or in other states and not you know get transferred a lot of times you’ll lose yours. Your Summers if you’re the custodial parent during the school year because that’s the time where you’re going to have to give some extra time for with the kid with you know the child with the the adult that lives outside of the the state because you know we’ll see that a lot with with the military and people that get transferred for for work.
So it makes sense.
Host: So when it does come to things like that and there are issues I could kind of go through that I know there’s there’s mediation and some different resolution kind of things modifications. Can you talk a little bit about how that works?
Leslie Barrows: Well I think you know pretty much every every judge is going to want you to try to mediate because you don’t want to have to go from you know your temporary orders hearing and then go straight to final trial without trying to do some kind of alternative dispute resolution you know arbitration is making this pretty popular in the civil world and we’re having you know we can arbitrate too in in these family law cases. So mediation is a great tool and we you know we’ve had a lot of success with cases settling at mediation which is good because I tell I tell people that at least you have control of what’s going to happen. You’re not going in front of a judge that has you know doesn’t know you doesn’t know your kids you know doesn’t know anything about you just what’s you know what your count. You know your attorney is going to present . So that’s why I think that mediation is so good because you have to still continue to co parent with this. You know the other side if you have kids and you know when you have have litigation you are it’s like an attack. So you know if you’re attacking these people that are you know you’ve had kids with it’s hard to move forward and then work together for for the for your kids. And sometimes if the people don’t get along I was going to throw that into that we have we have these new apps that you know we’re using for four people to talk on their phones through these apps. So we have our family wizard we have clothes we have a talking parents and the cool thing about the apps is that these and I really only recommend those apps if you really can’t get along with the other side. So you know because we want the communication to be up to be open but you can put your your schedule on there if you’re going to. If they if the child’s in sports you can put that and upload it you can upload medical receipts which is good because you know wonder are with our final decrees you’re going to make sure that your your explanation of benefits is up in the system and so you’d ask for reimbursement. So hey you need to send me the 20 bucks for the copay . As you know the your son got sick. So that was something to that is really helpful in high conflict cases you know and sometimes what’s cool is even if we get it ordered they figure out hey this is really not how we should be talking. And so as the case progresses you know they’ve gotten off of that that they’re not they’re not using the app anymore all right so do you have any kind of last bit of advice or words of wisdom on the on the subject. Well you know I tell people to if you can if you’re if you’re planning on filing a modification or are filing for divorce have tried to sit down and talk with the other side before before you do it and see see what if you can come up with any agreements because if you can do that it really saves a lot of a lot of time and heartache if you can do that. So for sure you know tried you could even try mediation before you file you know your lawsuit. Some people do that and it works for them it just really depends on on the couple and on the personalities. So if you have a over you know overbearing personality it’s not going over.
You just have to file a lawsuit and serve the person sorry.
Host: So let’s talk a little bit about Leslie and the Barrows Firm. So is there anything new coming up with the with yourself or with the firm?
Leslie Barrows: Well I you know we’re we’re back after the 20 night where you know we’re starting off 2019 pretty busy where we’ve been planning the women empowered luncheon at the Hilton which is done by the Southlake Chamber. So we’re doing that in March. And of course we have the Aim for Safety which is which is coming up in February which would be a good time through the Chamber of Commerce as well. But as far as seminars to where we’ll be attending some seminars just for our continuing legal education credit that you know at we have to have with the State Bar of Texas .
Host: Very important . If someone is likely to have heard today or they have any other questions how can we get in touch with you.
Leslie Barrows: They can visit our Web site and the barrowsfirm.com or they can reach out to us by phone of course at 8 1 7- 4 8 1- 1 5 8 3.
Host: We’ve been listening to attorney Leslie Barrows talk about divorcing with children. You can read more on this in her multipart blog series on our Web site at barrowsfirm.com. So thanks Leslie today for being with us again and as always thank you.
And for everyone else out there have a great day and we’ll see you soon.
Thanks for listening to the Texas divorce lawyer podcast with me attorney Leslie Barrows . If you like my show and want to know more check out my Web site at Barry’s firm dot com or please leave a review on iTunes, Spotify or whichever social media outlet you’re listening on. Be sure to join me next time, and thanks for listening.