Divorce can be an especially painful process for parents with infants.  In addition to the stress and emotion of caring for a new baby, the parents also have to adapt to living apart and co-parenting under less-than-ideal circumstances.  And, unlike older children who are capable of expressing their feelings verbally, it can be difficult for parents to determine how their conflict is affecting their infant.

In his column this week, parenting advice columnist Mr. Dad responds to the concerns of a man in just this situation.  His key points:

First, it’s not the divorce itself that can negatively impact a baby, it’s the behavior of the parents during the divorce. Obviously, a baby is not capable of understanding what a divorce is. However, babies can and do pick up on the emotions of their parents; they will react to a hostile or depressed home environment.

Indeed, because of this, Mr. Dad points out that parental separation can actually be good for a baby, as it may eliminate hostility in his environment.

Secondly, living in a high conflict environment or with a very depressed parent will affect a baby’s behavior and development.  A baby who is living with openly feuding parents may be prone to cry and fuss more than a baby who is not.  A baby with a parent too depressed to pay full attention to him may start exhibit depressive behaviors, such as sluggishness and decreased appetite.

In order to avoid this, Mr. Dad advises both parents to put their child’s needs first and avoid engaging in conflict in the baby’s presence.  (This advice is obviously applicable to children of any age.)  Secondly, in the case of an infant, set up a schedule where each parent can see the baby on a daily basis.  This will encourage bonding because babies have very short memories and need regular contact to build a bond.  This is especially important for dads, who do not have the natural, daily connection of breast feeding to share with their child.

Finally, be sure to be interactive with your baby during the time you do have – play, sing, cuddle, etc.  Don’t let your emotions about your spouse get in the way of your growing relationship with your child.

Check out Mr. Dad’s whole column here.

Colorado-based family law attorney Edra J. Pollin has posted some excellent advice bout what not to do during your divorce trial on the Huffington Post’s Divorce blog.

Several of Pollin’s tips could all be said to generally fall under “treat the court with respect” category: dress appropriately, pay attention to the proceedings, do not roll your eyes in response to testimony from your spouse, and  DO NOT use your phone in the courtroom.  Treating the court, the judge, and the other parties with respect goes a long way towards helping your establish credibility in the eyes of the judge.

For spouses in custody disputes, Pollin cautions that you should be prepared to be asked about, and to list, positive things about the other spouse’s parenting skills.  This definitely does not come naturally for a lot of estranged spouses, but as Pollin notes, “if you can’t say anything positive about your spouse to the court, you’re probably not saying anything positive about your spouse to the kids.” This is a question that you may be asked more than once during your divorce, especially if you have a parenting evaluator or GAL appointed.

Check out all of Pollin’s tips here.

The Minnesota Divorce and Family Law Blog is an excellent site for both regional and nationally relevant information.

The blog writes about a cool new web tool (no, not runpee.com, the site that tells you when you go pee during a movie). The gloriously simple idea of meetways.com is to let you find a convenient half-way point between two different places.

pushpin-map

Although the easy, free site can be used for any meeting purpose, it is particularly useful for a high tension situation, such as sorting out where to hand over kids for visitation when neither parent wants to do more of the driving. Just plug in two addresses (or zip codes), then hit enter for a halfway point.  You can even ask for a list of pizza or coffee or burger places between the two places. Plus there’s an iphone app.

Although meetways can help you coordinate a good meeting place between you and your ex – say a fast food restaurant -  sadly, it cannot do the actual driving.  So you may still have to wait for the ex to show up. For help with this, check out our article on how to prove a no-show.

fast-food

Tips: Get Two Receipts To Prove A No Show

Tired of waiting with your kids for a flaky ex who’s always late for visitation or doesn’t show up at all?

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Try this: First, meet at a fast food place, such as McDonalds or Starbucks.  If the handoff is supposed to be for 5:00 pm, buy something small, like a soda, right around 5.  Then, before leaving in frustration, buy something tasty for your disappointed child or children at 5:30.

Keep the receipts.

Send a copy to your lawyer.

It’s uncanny how “I just want my freedom” can slowly morph into “I just want to be treated fairly,” then “I can’t let him/her take advantage of me” till one day you’re telling your lawyer to write a letter to your ex’s lawyer over an old couch.

oldcouch

Decoupling from a marriage or long-term relationship is a tough, emotional process, and it can be incredibly hard to stay focused. Most people at some point in the process see themselves feeling pettier than they had ever thought they would. Part of hiring an experienced lawyer is not just having a hired gun but having an experienced guide to help you choose reasonable goals and stick to them. This is particularly important if your ex’s attorney is eager to run up the bill by fighting over every little thing.

There are going to be things worth fighting over – houses, pensions, spousal maintenance, parenting plans. If your ex is determined to be unreasonable, this may mean going to court. And if you do go to court, you might as well play to win.

The trick is to work with your attorney to ensure that your hard-earned money is well spent on things that really matter to you. Choosing your fights, and letting go of the smaller stuff is often difficult, but it’s a big part of the process of getting on with your life.  One reason people tend to over-value things like furniture is that it becomes an unfortunate metaphor for the larger personal investment that didn’t rise in value as they might have hoped.  Gaining perspective on this is critical to getting through the process in one piece.

Personal property is rarely worth paying your lawyer to fight over on an item by item basis. I usually recommend (in cases without domestic violence) that my clients try to agree with their ex, without attorneys, on splitting the tangible personal property such as televisions, computers, furniture, books, CD’s, DVD’s, kitchen utensils, garden tools, etc. This not only saves money, but can often be a means of working towards closure for both parties.

If this kind of agreement is impractical, I suggest that my client make a spreadsheet with a proposed split of furniture and other personal property, listing each item at garage sale prices (not replacement prices). This way the items can at least be negotiated in a more efficient way between counsel. We often hit a point of diminishing returns, however. It may not feel fair to let your ex have the couch, even if it is old and a bit worn. But it usually makes more sense than paying me to fight over it.

Some people, sadly, insist on being petty to the end.  I have had clients move into the family home at the end of a relatively peaceful negotiated settlement between attorneys, only to find that their ex had removed everything that wasn’t nailed down, even the light bulbs from the sockets.   I remind my clients that while light bulbs are relatively inexpensive to replace, the person who did this has to live with what they’ve done, and how they’ve acted.

In the end, remember: The best revenge is to live well. You can always buy a new couch.