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The Advisory Guidelines: Especially at the Holidays

I’ve written a number of blog articles about parent time and the holidays, but in the interest of making sure you are in the right frame of mind, I thought I’d do another one this year.  The holidays can be a really lovely time with your kids, if you and your ex can be grown ups about it.  I’ve mentioned this a few times before as well.  You have a parent time order in place; follow it.  You and your ex have family holiday parties going on that may or may not coincide with your particular parent time schedule; work with each other so your kids can be part of both of their parents’ family fun.

In Utah this aspirational “working together” thing has actually been made part of the statutes.  It’s called the Advisory Guidelines, and they’re found at UCA 30-3-33.  Some specific portions that are important to follow during the holiday season:Treat them as good as you are

(3) Special consideration shall be given by each parent to make the child available to attend family functions including funerals, weddings, family reunions, religious holidays, important ceremonies, and other significant events in the life of the child or in the life of either parent which may inadvertently conflict with the parent-time schedule.

(17) Each parent shall be entitled to an equal division of major religious holidays celebrated by the parents, and the parent who celebrates a religious holiday that the other parent does not celebrate shall have the right to be together with the child on the religious holiday. (emphasis added)

Note the “shall”s in those parts of the statute.  That means that this working together and being nice for the sake of the kids is mandatory.  And you should think it’s mandatory anyway, without having to have the law tell you how to be a good parent. Because honestly, that’s all the advisory guidelines are–the law telling you to be a good parent, not jerk the other parent around, do what you can to make your child’s life and experiences as full and peaceful and normal as possible, even though his/her parents are divorced.  Be a good person.  Communicate about the kids.  Think about how what you’re doing and how you’re interacting with your ex will affect your kids.  These are not hard things.  And if you’re the only parent doing it, STILL DO IT.  Somebody’s gotta be the grown up.  Take it upon yourself to Be the Grown Up.

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me….

 

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Fear

Fear makes the wolf bigger than he isAs a noun, fear is defined as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.”  As a verb, to “be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening.”  Fear can be a huge motivator to either do, or NOT do, a particular thing.  Sometimes fear is based in reality; sometimes, just in the perception of reality.  Fear can be crippling, can prevent one from taking necessary, reasonable action, or can motivate one to take actions that are unreasonable, dangerous, or out of proportion to the circumstances.

So what does that have to do with the law?

Family law actions are emotional things.  While the divvying up of assets, assignment of debts, allocation of custody and parent time, and awards of child support and alimony are black and white things, underlying the entire process is a mess of emotions, largely unpleasant ones.  Anger, pain, rage, desperation, panic, despair, sadness, frustration, helplessness, hopelessness….Swirling in with that horrible mix is Fear.

Fear is a huge part of any major life change….fear of the unknown–what happens with my budget when I’m limited to x amount of dollars a month?  What happens to my retirement goals when I have to pay out x dollars a month?  Why should I have to pay money to this person who is hurting me?  When will I get to see my kids?  What if my ex makes my kids hate me?  How will I pay all the expenses I need to for my kids?  What if I can’t pay the rent on this child support/alimony amount?  How am I supposed to get a job and take care of my kids at the same time? Who’s gonna hire me???  Is anyone ever gonna want to be with me again????

I would suggest that much of the reason people behave irrationally, do dumb things, say dumb things, try to avoid legal action, or any of the thousands of different ways people end up hurting themselves in family cases is out of fear:  “If I avoid the process server, they can’t serve me, and this will all go away.”  “He said there’s a warrant out for my arrest if I try and show up to court….I can’t get arrested!”

Mark Twain CourageWhile legal proceedings can be scary, the best way to deal with them is through Knowledge.  Be proactive–don’t wait until the last minute to seek legal advice.  If you’re scared about a threat made by the Other, ASK someone who knows or can find out about whether there’s any truth to the threat.  If you married a bully, be ready to deal with a bully.  Is it scary?  Hell YES it is.  But avoiding it, hiding, pretending it’s not happening, remaining willfully ignorant will do more to hurt you in the long AND short run than squaring your shoulders and addressing the situation.

Case in point:

I got divorced in 2005.  At the time, I’d been a stay at home mom, had 4 kids, the oldest of which were 8 year old twins, and had no money to my own name other than what my husband brought in.  My marriage had come apart, and my mental health was deteriorating.  I couldn’t stay married and live.  And No, I’m not being dramatic when I say that.  I was scared to death.

So how did I handle it?

I rolled over and died, in a manner of speaking.  My husband hired a lawyer, who drafted an agreement taking everything away from me except for some really minimal bits of Stuff.  I didn’t fight to get custody of the kids I’d been primary caretaker of for their entire lives.  I didn’t even attempt to stay in my house, or get alimony, or ask for half of the rest of our marital, not-insignificant assets.  I signed my husband’s agreement.  That became the terms of my divorce, and gave him custody of my kids.

I flat out gave up.  Out of paralyzing, crippling Fear.  Everything my husband said about how miserable he’d make me if I tried to get even statutory minimums under the law for ANYTHING, I believed.  All the little demeaning, demoralizing comments he threw out at me, I believed.  I was terrified–terrified of a legal fight, terrified of my kids getting hurt any worse than they already were, terrified of losing my mind before it was all said and done…Terrified.  Scared.  Panicked.

And so, out of blind, crippling, numbing, paralyzing fear, I gave up.  Everything–my kids, my home, any portion of 10 years of marriage…all of it.  Without a fight.

Ask me how much I regret that.  And when you do, bring tissues, because I’m going to cry my eyes out on you, even though it’s been nearly 13 years since all that happened.fear-is-the-mindkiller

DON’T YOU BE LIKE ME.  You be BRAVE.  Find your support people.  Face your fears, even if you have to face them quietly, by seeking out help online, or at a victim’s crisis center.  Get real information.  Do a little research.  DON’T GO DOWN WITHOUT A FIGHT!  For the love of all that is good and holy, I am begging you, do not let fear take your life from you.  You can do it.  I swear, it’s hard as hell, but you CAN.  And you Must.

A final Scene from the story of fear in my life:  I am at my Aunt Nancy’s house, curled up on the floor in her bathroom, sobbing out of fear and the misery that came from letting my fear cripple me when it counted most.  She is sitting next to me, on the floor, knees pulled up to her chest, her arm around my shoulders.  She is saying, “I wish I could poor courage into your spine so you can stand.”

I say to you–Imagine me pouring courage into your spine.  Stand up. You may be afraid, but don’t let it control you.  You are not alone.

Be Brave.

Bitching on Social Media: KNOCK IT OFF

This is gonna be a little, short post, but it’s gotta be said.  STOP airing all your grievances on social media!  Keep your snarky little comments OFF Twitter!  Keep your personal, thinly-veiled jabs at the other party off Facebook!  You’re. Not. Helping.  Being pissed off about the ex boyfriend or ex husband or ex wife or ex girlfriend in a public forum is ugly, dumb, and completely immature.  ESPECIALLY if you have kids who have access to your vitriol about their dad/mom.

If your child support isn’t being paid, I’m sorry.  Stuff happens in people’s lives, and sometimes they CAN’T pay you AND keep the lights on.  And even if they’re just being hateful and refusing to pay?  Public shaming doesn’t make them any less hateful.  For real.  You’re not solving your problem.  You’re simply ramping up the conflict, creating drama, and adding more tension to BOTH of your lives.

If you and your ex are engaged in some sort of court case, DON’T GO SPEWING ALL OVER YOUR FB PAGE.  You look like a vicious b*tch–and that term applies to men who do it as well.  And then you provide evidence to the other person that they can simply blow up 16″x 24″ on a poster in court to show how horrible you are.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve advised a client to SHUT UP on Facebook or Twitter.  You’re only hurting yourself with that kind of behavior.  You think your page is totally private?  Maybe it is, and maybe someone is seeing stuff and passing it on to the ex.  You will sink yourself, and you’ll have no one but yourself to blame. Because in the words of my Uncle Terry, and the Great John Wayne,

229378-Life-Is-Hard.-Its-Harder-If-You-re-Stupid

 

 

Something Utah got WAAAY Right: A Family Law Help

So I’ve mentioned before that while I think family law is a disaster in Utah, the Utah state statutes for child custody and parent time are fan-frigging-tastic.  I have recommended the use of them to many other people who are in other jurisdictions, just because they’re so orderly, specific, and DETAILED.  And the holiday division makes life SOOOO much nicer for everybody involved during all of the holidays.  However, there are those who are getting static because the other party is saying something like “we’re not in Utah, and I don’t have to follow Utah law, so suck it!”

With that in mind, I provide for you here, for your copying and pasting pleasure, the basic, general rundown of parent time in Utah for kids ages 5 and up, without all the statute formatting that you’d get otherwise.  That way it really DOES just look like a great parent time plan.  And if this isn’t exactly perfect for you in your situation, no worries…At least you’ve got someplace to start from.  I have even just used the holiday division in my cases where the parents have joint physical custody, because it just makes planning so much simpler.

S0 best of luck… and may your co-parenting be peaceful.

Parent time/Over 5 years:

One weekday evening, non-custodial parent chooses, from 5:30-8:30p.m., or from the time school is out until 8:30 p.m.  If the non-custodial parent does NOT choose a day, default day is Wednesday.  If the non-custodial parent chooses a different day, then THAT day is THE day—no switching around without okaying it with the custodial parent. (When school is NOT in session, if the non-custodial parent is available, that mid-week visit can go from 9 a.m. until 8:30 p.m.)

Every other weekend, beginning Friday at 6p.m. until Sunday at 7p.m.  OR if the non-custodial parent is available, from the time school gets out on Friday until Sunday at 7.  When school is NOT in session, the non-custodial parent can have the child for the weekend beginning at 9a.m. on Friday, if he is available to be with the child personally.

A step-parent, grandparent, or other responsible adult designated by the non-custodial parent may pick up the child for visitation, so long as the non-custodial parent will be with the child no later than 7p.m. (assuming a 5:30p.m. pickup time).  The non-custodial parent MUST inform the custodial of who will be coming to pick up the child if not the parent.

Holidays:  The non-custodial parent will have the child for holidays as described below.  The custodial parent will have the child on the opposite schedule.

ODD YEARS EVEN YEARS
Child’s birthday on day BEFORE or AFTER, 3pm to 9pm Child’s birthday ON THE DAY OF the birthday, 3pm to 9pm
MLK Day weekend, from Friday 6pm-Monday 7pm President’s Day weekend, from Friday 6pm-Monday 7pm
Spring Break 6pm the day school lets out to 7pm the day before school resumes Memorial Day weekend, from Friday 6pm-Monday 7pm
July 4 beginning 6pm the day BEFORE the holiday until 6pm on the day AFTER the holiday Pioneer Day beginning 6pm the day BEFORE the holiday to 6 pm the day AFTER the holiday
Labor Day weekend from 6pm Friday to 7pm Monday Columbus Day from 6pm the day BEFORE the holiday until 7pm ON the holiday
Fall School break (if applicable) from day school is out at 6pm until day before school starts again at 7pm Halloween on the day it’s celebrated (if not on the 31st) from after school until 9pm, or if NOT a school day, from 4pm until 9pm
Veteran’s Day from 6pm day BEFORE the holiday until 7pm ON the holiday Thanksgiving holiday from Wednesday at 7pm until Sunday at 7pm
The first half of the Christmas school holiday from the 6pm the day school gets out until 1pm on the day halfway through the holiday period if there are an EVEN number of days in the vacation, or until 7pm if there are an ODD number of days The second half of the Christmas school holiday from time indicated in ODD years description until 6pm on the day before school resumes—the point being to equally divide the holiday between both parents
   

Father’s Day always with Dad, Mother’s Day always with Mom, from 9a.m. to 7pm of the holiday for each parent.

Summer extended parent time—4 weeks total for non-custodial parent, 2 weeks of which is uninterrupted parent time.  (During the “interrupted” time, the custodial parent gets a mid-week visit as described above.)

Custodial parent also has 2 weeks uninterrupted parent time, when non-custodial does not have weekends or midweek visits.

**For children under 5:  The only difference is in the extended parent time in the summer. 

18mos-3 years: 2 one-week periods, separated by 4 weeks, at the option of the non-custodial parent, one of which is uninterrupted. (custodial parent has 1 week uninterrupted as well)

3yrs-5yrs:  2 two-week periods, separated by at least 4 weeks, at the option of the non-custodial parent.  1 two week period is uninterrupted. (custodial parent has 1 week uninterrupted as well.)

starting-line

Gotta start somewhere…

From the FB Archives: November 17, 2010

*I love this one.  From a very long time ago.  My brother continues to struggle, but this is what’s inside him…even if he can’t see it right now.  And I believe he can come back to this; but then, I’m biased, because I love the guy to death.

17 November 2010

Bit of a Rant 🙂

I was going through one of my saved emails folders tonight and came across this gem.  It was a response from my brother to an “I Voted Democrat because…(fill in the blank)” type email that I’d forwarded to him.  To give you some background:  My brother barely graduated from high school, and is a felon in Idaho because they have a “3 DUI’s equals a felony law”, and his “first” DUI was a prosecutor’s Good Idea for a plea bargain when he was a teenager (I’m thinkin’ 15 years old, but I could be wrong on the exact age), instead of a minor possession charge. (Incidentally, I’d like to find the prosecutor and punch him in the throat for THAT bit of grossly horrible legal advice).

My brother’s thoughts on the Economy, American Ingenuity, Etc.:

“I believe this is the way it is suppose to be. Our freedom to think is being stripped away by seat belt warning chimes, metaphorically speaking. The opportunity to surrender our minds is readily available and most people will. I believe this will lead to the downfall of society, but lets not think of it as an end but a new beginning, for when society falls natural selection can once again cleanse the gene pool of those who would blow dry their hair in the shower if the tag didn’t tell them not to. I don’t think I’ve heard of a single great thing this nation has accomplished by playing it safe (Franklin, key, kite, lightning… I rest). Necessity is the mother of invention and if our greatest necessity is how we can change the DVD without leaving the couch, then by God we will find a way. By adopting this safety first mentality we are allowing trillions of tax payer dollars to be sent into the private sector to save businesses that should have gone the way of the dinosaur due to their failure to adapt, and why? To save jobs? Stabilize the economy? It looks to me like the economy was stabilizing itself. Natural selection. And to those who would lose their jobs, why would they be too incompetent to survive? The field they specialized in would have new openings for business owners who could provide jobs for others. These monster companies started that way: Americans with a dream and the balls to do something about it. Well, I have balls and I’m not afraid to let ’em hang out from time to time, and I believe there are still others out there that have balls; I’ve seen them from time to time. The state of our country is wonderful for those who are still able to say, “Hey, lightnin’ storm comin’. Better get my key and kite.”  These are exciting times we live in. Everyone doesn’t have to believe the same thing. Some things are true whether you believe them or not. Just a little rant…”

I’m gonna add a Hear, Hear to this, even though I may be coming Damned close to being “de-selected”.  But then I’m a raging Libertarian :).

ingenuity

 

From the FB Archives: April 2, 2013

*Things got better for a minute, so I could take a deep breath…and then they tanked again after this.  Such is life.  And I AM in a much better place now.

2 April 2013

The Miracle of the Passage of Time

I signed a new client today, with the accompanying retainer payment, and got payments from a couple of other existing clients on their monthly bills.  And as I was getting in my car to go to the bank to deposit them, I could not help but reflect back.  Not too long ago, every new client with new retainer money, every payment from a client on work I’d done for them, was a miracle–a sudden, miraculous gift from heaven, that swooped in at the last second and saved me from imminent financial ruin.  There were a lot of financial miracles back not too long ago.  The man I did not know who paid for my gas when my credit card (unbeknownst to me) was expired and declined after I’d put $20 worth in my car.  The large Christmas present from my grandma that paid my child support and a couple of bills.  The money stuffed in my purse from my aunt that bought gas money to get home to see my kids.  The rent paid from across the waters by my big brother, coincidentally on HIS birthday.  And every time a check came in from a client, it was like some of the weight that threatened to crush me continually was lifted, if just for a little tiny bit of time.

 

I marveled today that I am not in that place anymore–that place of wrath and tears, beyond which looms but the horror of the shade, to quote William Earnest Henley, in that poem I love, Invictus.  There is still significant struggle, but it’s no longer for the basic necessities of life.  I have enough to keep consistently afloat every month, without the cellphone company calling and threatening to disconnect if I don’t pay immediately.  And today I am grateful, and marvel at the miracle of the passage of time.  I used to really like that quote, “It will all be ok in the end, and if it’s not ok, it’s not the end,” but I had a hard time feeling it.  I’m starting to feel it.  Thank God for that.

take-a-deep-breath

From the Archives: FB Notes September 25, 2012

*It’s always odd to look back to the same dates from years ago…Some things have gotten easier; some, not so much.  My number of moves since my divorce is up to 15… but hopefully I’m where I’ll stay for at least the next 5 years or so.

Wouldn’t Want To Get Too Comfortable…

In the first year I was divorced, I moved 3 times and held 3 different jobs (2 at the same time, then a new job altogether).  Not trying to be flaky, just trying to hold it together financially, so that I wasn’t always being strangled, get into housing that worked with my kids (when I had them), and trying to work my work so I could still see my kids ever.  In the second year, I moved twice and worked a regular job, a bunch of temp jobs, and finally a regular job again.  In the third year, I moved again, this time to Laramie to law school.  I moved back to my parents that next summer, then into a different place in Laramie in the fall; to Yellowstone the next summer, then back in the fall; to Utah and in with friends while I studied for/took the bar exam the next summer, then to my aunt’s after that, then to the house I’m in now.

 

All told, I moved 13 times in the first 5 years after my divorce.  I worked at least that many different jobs, and drove nearly 200,000 miles so that I could see my kids on a regular basis through all this.  Since moving back to Utah in 2010,  I’ve worked for 5 different law firms/attorneys…some with better luck than others.  My most recent, Feller & Wendt, was really great.  And then it was really stressful.  And then they cut me loose.

 

That was a week ago.  Today I went into the office to do the whole “wrap up” thing with business with them.  They are truly leaving me better than they found me.  They cut me loose because they don’t want to do domestic law AT ALL, not even in their peripherals, so I am taking all but the most horrible of the domestic cases (less than a half dozen) lock, stock and barrel–all monies due and owing to date become mine, and all monies earned going forward are mine.  100%.  Which is a helluva deal.  But they wanted me to lease my office from them for more than I can afford, and it’s 15 minutes away from the courthouse, and 20 minutes from my house, and all in the wrong direction from the locations of all of my out-of-valley cases (better than half of them).  Not really worth it to pay more than I can afford for space that doesn’t really work for me.

 

So I’m taking my practice back home.  Which is good and bad.  Good because I go back to being able to work in my jammies ;).  Bad because I am ALWAYS at work, and I have no place to bring clients or meet new consultations.  I have to do my own billing/accounting, etc., again, which I hate.  And I am again alone.  No one to commiserate with/to, no one to bounce ideas off of.  I hate that too.

 

What I LOVE is the autonomy.  No one breathing down my neck.  No one telling me when I have to be in the office.  I have other obligations in life that are NOT work related, that are really more important, and now I can be, again, more available to those people who matter most to me:  My boys.  But still;  I only lasted 9 months.  It’s extremely disappointing.  I was so looking forward to being a Real Lawyer, in a Real Firm, for a Really Long Time.  It seems in my life, nothing stays the same for longer than a few months.  Which is why I say it’s a good thing I am so damn flexible.

 

flexibljuggling

This, but without the smiling…

I’m gonna cry about this for a little while, because I’m so tired and so not wanting to move my office/make another major transition on top of **The Face issues, but whaddaya gonna do? Suck it up and move on, that’s what.

 

Finally, a quote I saw on a mug several years ago (and ended up buying):  “Just when the caterpillar thought it was the end of the world, it turned into a butterfly.” (anonymous)  Am I a butterfly yet???

**“The Face” issues–I got a staph infection in my face, which turned into a nightmare, all at the same time as this was happening.

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