Thursday, June 5, 2014

Divorce & Kids: Drafting The Final Decree ~ 10 Tips

like all decrees and the law they vary from state to state 
and country, so be sure to ask your attorney what is 
legally permissible in your divorce decree... this post is merely to be used as
a brainstorming of ideas between you and your attorney

I had no idea until after the finalization of my divorce and receiving the final copy of the divorce decree that had been filed in court how many things were amiss… things that should have been included yet had never occurred to me during the course of the divorce due to my own inexperience but later in retrospect I realized were must haves.

When going through a divorce we may be asked by our attorney:

"What do you want to do? What do you want to put in the decree?"

If we don't know the questions to ask… if we aren't knowledgeable about what we can include in a final decree we may be left scratching our heads wondering "Ummm, I don't know? What should I put in it?"

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
 for tomorrow will worry about itself.
 Each day has enough trouble of its own.” 
Matthew 6:34 (NIV) 

We naturally look to our attorneys for guidance in this arena… and obviously hope for some active input without having to drag it out of them. Yet also part of the equation is our ex. We know him (or her) better than anyone so even though our attorney may really see no need for meeting at a neutral location for exchanges and believe we are exaggerating much to our irritation… the truth is… it's going to impact us long after the ink is dry on the decree… not our attorney once finished with our case and having moved on in life.

In Matthew 6:25-34, 
Jesus specifically told His followers not to worry about food or clothes because God would provide for their needs, just as He does for the birds of the air. This promise of provision and protection applies to all areas of our lives, including help with our problems and easing our inner-most anxieties.

You, the parent is who is going to have to deal with the ex and find a way of co-parenting that is healthiest for you and your children. If this means meeting to exchange them at a neutral location versus your home and thankfully not having your ex in your face on your front porch trying to push boundaries, then yes, it's essential for your decree to reflect what is best in regards to your situation… not what is easier for your attorney's office to draft.

So what can you have put in the final decree?

Naturally it depends on your personal situation. We can't get too crazy but we can definitely set some reasonable boundaries. The most important thing is we don't want our decrees to be so vague that were always having to check in with our attorney for clarification (that gets expensive quick) because what is printed in black and white the ex "interprets" differently than what you're reading in plain and simple terms.

Obviously any ideas listed here you should run by your attorney first and foremost to get their thoughts and how they apply to your situation.  If you're new to all this and have no clue what to even ask your attorney for… depending on your ex's behavior here are some general ideas for your decree to get you started thinking about specifics and run by your attorney…

Have a neutral meeting place to exchange the children. Maybe this is McDonalds. If your ex is prone to violence a police station might be a wise choice. A neutral meeting place keeps you off your own turf and significantly brings down any power plays going on.

You can have your decree state no drinking while in the presence of the children. If you put this in the decree like any other behaviors you're perhaps asking your ex to not engage in while in the presence of the children keep in mind that you will be held to this rule also.

Phone calls are often a big issue between ex's and their children. Parents want to check in with their children periodically during the week and say hello. But then they are met with phones no one answers and continual voicemail. They are ignored and times when the children are to call one parent they don't.  Get around this continual source of friction by having the decree state maybe two or three nights a week (ex; if you're doing 50/50) they can talk to their other parent for 15-30 minutes. Days and times can be specifically put in the decree.

You're recently divorced and come to find out your ex decided it would be a stellar decision to introduce the children to the woman he cheated on you with during the marriage… or maybe just some random woman he met at a bar last week… or last night. You can get around this fiasco by having the decree state he (or she) must be in a one year exclusive relationship before introducing the new partner to the children. At least then if it's not followed you have it in writing what was to be followed.

Your final decree possession schedule should have a start date… if you don't know where to start from how will you know what to do next year?

If you have two children, the tax deductions are easy. Each of you can take one child… if you have first choice… as a mom if you're receiving child support choose the younger child, as they will turn eighteen later.

You can alternate longer periods of time with your children in the summer to make vacation planning easier. It might be that you alternate two weeks versus every other. I can't say I personally agree with this scenario in my own situation but for couples who have an amicable co-parenting relationship that is free of one parent being manipulative, controlling, etc and putting the children's best interests ahead of their own… then it certainly may be a good fit.

The final decree can state specifics regarding the children's on going therapy… like who they should be seeing, how often, etc. It might be wise to have a back up of one or two other therapists you've agreed upon listed in the decree in case something happens to your current therapist… like they move away or your insurance suddenly stops paying for sessions. It's always good to have a back up plan because trying to find agreement on a new therapist for the kids might be like butting heads with your ex… and if you can't agree… guess what? You're going to spend a bunch more money on mediation or court fees.

If you don't agree your kids should have their own cell phones and yet your ex does… you don't have to give in to what you don't believe in. You can have the decree state that electronics won't be brought to your home. You can also video tape exchanges with your phone for your own protection. You can record a call that is between you and your ex. If your ex is technologically savvy and you believe he wouldn't hesitate to bug your phone, your home, your car, etc… spend the money to have your property swept for peace of mind. If your ex has your vehicle tracked without your knowledge you can notify the police and file a report and have the device removed.

You can have a morality clause in your decree where it's prohibited for your ex to have any overnight guests in the home. Will he (or she) follow it? Only you know the answer to that… but it may be something that you should add if they are dating before the divorce is even final… which is not in the children's best interests at all… before the dust has even settled. When in doubt it's always best to have everything in writing so later if something was to happen you can point out to the judge that x,y,z was not followed… it's always better to be prepared.

© ~ 2014 

To My Readers: 

Thank you for reading, 

commenting and sharing! 

Related Posts: 

A Must Read For All Parents & Judges: Sociopaths and The Family Court System 

The Devil Works In Child Custody And Yet I Praise God 

Divorce & Children: 50/50 Custody 

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