Parenting Plan Guidelines

No two people are the same, and chances are, you can see this fact distinctly even between your own children. While they have the same parents, it may seem they have nothing else in common.

With so many differences, it’s hard to know where to start when it comes time to determine a parenting plan. If every child is unique, where can you find guidance?
The good news is, while children’s personalities and likes/dislikes differ, children within certain age groups have similar needs. Here, we’ll describe some of these basic needs and general guidelines for fulfilling them.
Children from Birth to 2 1/2 Years
The over-arching need for children within this age group is trust and consistency.
Children need to learn to trust their world and their caregivers. They need their caregivers to consistently respond to their needs.

A first step, of course, is to be sure children’s caregivers (whether it’s a parent, family member, or a childcare provider) are always there for them. It’s important not only to be there consistently but also to be there in a consistent manner. Deal with challenges in a similar manner, feed them in a similar manner, put them to sleep in a similar manner, etc.

Keep a consistent schedule, as well, with the same feeding and sleeping times regardless of where a child is. Be sure children always have something familiar surrounding them (blankets, toys, etc.)

Finally, this age range is when a lot of decisions about your child’s upbringing are made. Be sure both parents clearly agree on how children will be raised to avoid any conflict in their presence.

Children from 2 1/2 to 5 Years
As with younger children, children in this age group require consistent schedules and familiar surroundings.
But, in this age group, children are also becoming more independent. They need chances to learn and explore, and they need to be able to express their feelings.

Children are aware of an established schedule, so changes to it will be more difficult. Gradually introduce change into their lives.

Children are also more able to understand your attitudes and actions at this age, so even more than with younger children, it’s essential to maintain a positive or at least neutral attitude toward the other parent.

Children from 5 to 12 Years
Children’s independence continues to grow in this age group.

Consistency is still important, especially concerning their school and activities, such as sports, lessons, etc. Be sure they are able to maintain the same activities regardless of the parent they’re spending time with.

A major need with children in this age group is clear communication – communication between parents and between parents and their school.

Another important need during this stage is proper role models. Role models at this age include parents, so maintain respectful relationships. Be sure children have consistent opportunities to spend time with their parent of the same gender.

Children from 12 to 18 Years
As children become the most independent in this age group, it will become more difficult to maintain regular contact and schedules when it comes to time with both parents.

Along with this independence also comes more thoughts and questions. Allow children to question decisions, beliefs, and even your break up.

Consistency in how you’ll handle questions from your children and what rules you’ll have for them is important now. Be sure children know rules are consistent between both parents, so they don’t try to pit one parent against the other.
While there are different needs for children of different ages, many of these needs can be addressed with clear communication and consistency. Be sure to think through your parenting rules and plan carefully, and you’ll be on your way to a much easier transition for your children.

Virtual Visitation A Real Option

Talks about virtual visitation aren’t new, but virtual visitation as a viable option in child custody cases is becoming more realistic and more common every day.

First, you may be wondering just what virtual visitation is.
Many people think of it as the next best thing to seeing your children in person. When parents can’t have face-to-face visits, they can have visits electronically – via email, instant message, video chats, texting, and more.

Most commonly, it allows parents who live in different locations than their children to be more consistent presences in their lives. However, it has been an option for parents who are incarcerated, parents who can’t see their children because of domestic violence disputes, or simply to supplement in-person visits for parents living in or near the same locations as their children.

So, why is it a more viable option today? For several reasons, ranging from affordable technology to state legislation.

Continue reading “Virtual Visitation A Real Option”

Minnesota Families of Divorce: Education Requirements

The Minnesota State Legislature requires that all parents filing for divorce attend an educational program. The Hennepin County District Court requires that children of a divorce attend an educational program, as well.

Educational programs are required because parents have found them helpful to understand the legal system and their responsibilities. If you don’t attend the classes, a judge may refuse to schedule a hearing or grant your divorce. (However, if the children in the marriage for which you’re filing for divorce weren’t born to or adopted by both parties, you do not need to attend classes.)

You should finish these educational programs as soon as possible after you file for divorce. Your children should attend their program within 60 days of you filing for divorce. You must attend the programs before your divorce is final.

Your educational program will be determined based on the type of agreement you’ve reached within your divorce and child custody proceedings. Continue reading “Minnesota Families of Divorce: Education Requirements”

Custody in Minnesota: What does it mean?

Outside of the legal profession, custody is simple. After a divorce, who takes care of your children?

Within this simple question, though, other details come up.  Where will your children live? Who will make decisions about raising them?

There are two different kinds of custody and two different ways each can be awarded to a parent by the court.

Below are the ways the Minnesota Statute defines custody and our practical definitions:

Legal custody

  • Statutory definition: “Legal custody means the right to determine the child’s upbringing, including education, health care, and religious training.”
  • Practical definition: When you have sole legal custody, you alone make the major decisions about raising your child. When you have joint legal custody both you and your child’s other parent share in making major decisions about raising your child.

Physical custody and residence

  • Statutory definition: “Physical custody and residence means the routine daily care and control and the residence of the child.”
  • Practical definition: When you have sole physical custody your child resides mainly with you.  When you share joint physical custody, your child usually spends substantial time in both your home and your child’s other parent’s home.

Custody determination

  • Statute definition: “Custody determination means a court decision and court orders and instructions providing for the custody of a child, including parenting time, but does not include a decision relating to child support or any other monetary obligation of any person.”
  • Practical definition:  A custody determination sets forth the legal and physical custody arrangements for you child as defined above.  These orders may include, or may not include, financial responsibilities for each parent, as well.

Understanding Legal Terms

Undergoing a family law proceeding is hard enough. And then there’s the legal lingo.

What’s the difference between a “legal separation” and a “divorce”?
What’s the difference between “joint legal custody” and “joint physical custody”?

At a time when you already have a lot to think about, trying to understand complicated legal terms is the last thing you want to do.
Continue reading “Understanding Legal Terms”

How to Help Children Coping with a Divorce

Coping with a divorce is difficult for everyone involved, but it can be particularly difficult for your children. When you’re not even sure how to deal with the situation yourself, it’s confusing to try to help to help your children cope, too.

A good, simple rule is to be as open and honest as you can about the details of the divorce that will impact your children’s lives, while accepting their emotions, even if you’re surprised by these reactions. Continue reading “How to Help Children Coping with a Divorce”

Finding a Divorce Lawyer

Coping with a divorce is a difficult, emotional process, and the complicated forms and paperwork involved as you begin your divorce proceedings don’t make things any easier. During this challenging time, it’s important to find a lawyer that will not only guide you through the facts of your case but one that will also put you at ease. Working with a lawyer that isn’t right for you, whether it is because of their experience or their philosophy, can have a lasting detrimental impact.

But with everything going on in your life and all the information out there, it’s hard to know where to begin. While choosing a divorce lawyer is a personal decision that’s unique to you and your situation, here are some tips to help you start sorting everything out.

Start Searching

Of course, it’s not as easy as it sounds, but starting a conversation with a variety of divorce lawyers is the only way to begin.

  • Start searching with your local bar association or among friends.
  • Ask for detailed recommendations, considering lawyers’ strengths, weaknesses, and areas of expertise.

Set Up Meetings

Once you determine some prospects for your divorce lawyer, meet with a few of your top options. Meeting in person will help you determine if your prospects’ personalities match what you’re looking for in a divorce lawyer.

Prepare Yourself

Taking the first steps to set up meetings is important, but the preparation you undergo for these meetings is also essential. Think about concerns you have and your main objectives in your divorce case, including property rights, custody, visitation, and alimony/spousal maintenance. Consider asking the lawyers:

  • How many years of experience do you have?
  • What are your areas of practice? How many of your cases are divorce cases?
  • Are you familiar with divorce proceedings in my state and county?
  • How long will my divorce case take?
  • How much will your services cost?
  • How can I keep these costs down?

Evaluate Your Meetings

Take some time to think about your experiences after you’ve met with a few divorce lawyers. One essential factor is whether or not a lawyer made you feel comfortable in general.

  • Did the lawyer answer your questions in a way that you could understand?
  • Did they ask you appropriate and thoughtful questions about your case?
  • Did their attitude toward your case match your own?

Hire Your Lawyer

After careful evaluation of your meetings, you’ll be ready to make a decision.

  • Before you sign the agreements, carefully review the fees and fee structures.
  • In addition to simply filling out the paperwork to get started, don’t forget to set some expectations for your case. Confirm that your lawyer knows what final outcomes are important to you.
  • Finally, set up guidelines for communication, determining how often you will communicate with your lawyer and through what methods (phone, email, in person).

Finding a divorce lawyer and beginning your divorce proceedings can be an intimidating process, but in the end, finding the right lawyer for you will make a positive difference in your divorce case and in your life.

Appeals Court Limits Permanent Alimony

“Appeals Court Limits Permanent Alimony” is an Associated Press article  partner Linda Allen.

A spouse who doesn’t try to become self-sufficient after a divorce shouldn’t be awarded long-term alimony, the Minneasota Court of Appeals has decided.

A three-judge panel ruled Tuesday in the case of Patricia Youker, who earned a two-year fashion degree during her 18-year marriage. She was dressing mannequins for a department store and earning much less than her husband, Nick, when they divorced in 1999.

Continue reading “Appeals Court Limits Permanent Alimony”