A way to mitigate the effects of divorce on kids

It’s never an easy conversation to have with clients, when discussing child custody and child visitation, determining the primary residence for the children. This article defines “birdnesting”  or “nesting” after a divorce as leaving the children in the family home, and parents come and go in rotation.

While this may be unconventional, there is a level of mindfulness on behalf of the parents that makes this scenario work. In nesting, children are able to stay in the home, maintain their neighborhood friends, stay in the same schools, and have the least amount of disruption to their daily life.

While this may work for some couples, it seems that the majority of my divorced or separated clients would benefit from only a short-term nesting arrangement.

Read the full story here https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/birdnesting-gives-kids-one-stable-home-after-divorce-does-it-ncna935336

Third-party custody and visitation of children in a divorce

All parents want a loving atmosphere for their children. And typically, when there are more people to provide support for the children, the better. “Third-parties” such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and even family friends (“fictive kin”) often take part in caring for a child by babysitting, or sometimes providing long-term care. However, in some situations, a parent might not be fit to parent their children.

In those cases, these third-parties may want to pursue “non-parental custody” of a child. These cases are difficult, as a parent’s right to exercise control over his or her child is protected under the United States Constitution. If a grandparent or other third-party wants to obtain legal custody of a child, then the third-party must prove that a parent is unfit, or that placing the child with the parent would be detrimental to the child’s growth and development.

Also, even if obtaining non-parental custody is not feasible, when the relationship between the parents and the non-parents falls apart, the non-parents can pursue court-ordered visitation. This is referred to as “third-party visitation.”

These types of cases most frequently arise in the form of grandparents seeking visitation with their grandchildren (although nothing prevents someone who is not a grandparent from seeking visitation). Under Washington law, a third-party may request visitation with a child in the event that the parents are divorced, separated, or in the process of a divorce.

In order to be successful in this request, the third-party must demonstrate  — among other factors — that he or she already has a significant relationship with the child. The trial court will consider a list of other items in determining whether visitation is in the child’s best interest, including the reasons the parents object to visitation, the relationship between the third-party and the parents, the strength of the relationship between the child and the third-party, and the visitation schedule in place between the two parents.

If the third-party proves all of the factors associated with third-party custody, then it is presumed that visitation would be in the child’s best interest. A parent may produce evidence to rebut this presumption, and demonstrate that visitation would endanger the child’s physical or emotional well-being.

A third-party should be cautious about when to bring such an action. For one, there is the potential of forever alienating the parents of the child. Also, if a third-party cannot successfully prove a pre-existing significant relationship with the child, the third-party may be ordered to pay the attorney’s fees incurred by the parents.

Third-party custody and visitation cases can be complicated and challenging, with the odds in favor of the parents, no matter how wonderful the relationship between the third-parties and children may be. We at The Levey Law Group have extensive experience helping both parents and third-parties in these types of disputes. Call us today at (253) 272-9459 to set up a consultation to discuss your case and your options.


Can a Parenting Plan Be Modified?

One of the most important issues that will be on the table if you are getting divorced as a parent of dependent children will be the matter of child custody. Our family law practice is centered in Tacoma, Washington, and in our state a parenting plan must be presented to the court when a divorce proceeding is underway.

Clearly, it is best if both parents can come to a mutually agreeable arrangement. In many cases, one parent will have physical custody, with the other parent enjoying visitation rights. Legal custody gives a parent the ability to make decisions on behalf of the child. Even if one parent has primary physical custody, both parents can have legal custody. It should be noted that the court will decide on a parenting plan after hearing all the facts if the parents cannot come to an agreement. The court would ultimately make a determination based on the best interests of the child.

Parenting Plan Modification

As we all know, the only constant in life is change. If circumstances shift at some point in time, one of the parents may feel as the though the existing parenting plan is no longer acceptable. Under these circumstances, in the state of Washington, the parent requesting the modification could file a Petition for Modification of Adjustment of Child Custody Decree/Parenting Plan.

The individual who is filing for the modification is considered to be the “moving parent”  in legal parlance. The moving parent must be able to convince the court that things have indeed changed significantly, and the moving parent must also  prove that the modification will serve the interests of the children. Unless the proposed changes are very minimal, the moving parent would be required to attend an adequate cause or threshold hearing to make his or her case for a parenting plan modification.

Schedule a Consultation

In addition to the Petition for Modification of Adjustment of Child Custody Decree/Parenting Plan, other forms must be filed, and you have a much better chance at success if you can proceed with the assistance of a licensed Seattle-Tacoma family law attorney. If you would like to discuss a parenting plan modification or any other matter with us, send us a quick message through our contact page to request an initial consultation.

Social Media After the Final Order

We live in an age of constant communication and information exchange. People use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms to remain connected to family and friends. We share ideas, photos, opinions, and updates on our day-to-day lives. It is no surprise that those involved in family law disputes may turn to social media to vent and receive support. When, though, does this sharing turn into “oversharing,” and can this type of sharing be restricted by the court?

Courts are quite reluctant to restrict an individual’s right to freely express him or herself. Even if your former spouse is taking every opportunity on social media to trash you or air the details of your divorce proceedings, the family court is unlikely to restrict your former spouse’s right to do so. An important exception to this could be if one or both parents are using social media as a way to undermine the other parent’s relationship with the parties’ children.

For example, if your former spouse makes repeated statements about your exceedingly poor parenting abilities on Facebook and tags your child in the post, the court is unlikely to be particularly sympathetic to your former spouse. A court will want to make sure that a child is protected from the attempts of one or either parent from alienating the child from the other parent. To that end, the judge could enter an order restraining that type of statement.

Another example could be if intentional social media posting is interfering with your employment or business. This could come in the form of your former spouse making disruptive or false posts on your business’s Facebook page, done in an attempt to erode your business or even get you fired. With no legitimate purpose behind these types of posts, a court may be more likely to issue an order restricting your former spouse from making attempts to intentionally disrupt your business or your employment.

Statements that are threatening are usually treated differently by courts. If your former spouse is making overt threats on social media, then this matter should be treated seriously. Statements that your former spouse or partner intends to do physical harm to you or your children should be reported to law enforcement officials. Repeated incidents of this type of behavior may become grounds for a restraining order or even harassment charges.

Social media is everywhere today but can create problems even after a divorce is over. We have experience in helping our clients navigate this complicated issue. Contact our team today at (253) 272-9459 to discuss your case and your options

Aggressive Parenting and How to Deal With It

Even couples in the most committed and stable relationships often have differences in opinion over parenting styles. It is no surprise, then, that when couples separate or divorce, parenting styles may become even more disparate. Parents must learn to work together and co-parent even in two separate households, with two separate parenting styles. While different styles are to be expected, there are times when the other parent goes beyond a simple difference in opinion or style and crosses over into inappropriately aggressive parenting.

Aggressive parenting can come in a large variety of forms. People commonly think of an overabundance of yelling directly at the child, but that is not all that can qualify as aggressive parenting. Unnecessary restrictions on the child, lying about or grossly exaggerating claims of the other parent’s parenting deficiencies, controlling behavior, or attempting to get coworkers and friends on “their side” can all be examples of aggressive parenting. Even when not aimed directly at a child, these techniques can adversely affect the child. Children can start to perform poorly in school or exhibit anxiety. Even worse, a child can start to emulate the aggressive behavior.

The first step to dealing with an aggressive parent is to take a step back and not engage with the aggression. If your former spouse or partner, for example, is verbally aggressive and yells at every custody exchange, you may want to bring a trusted friend with you to the exchange and under no circumstances should you reciprocate the aggressive verbal behavior.

Another technique could be to engage in family counseling. This would include not only you and your child, but also your former spouse. A counselor can help the family better learn to communicate and function as a supportive unit, even while living and parenting in two different households.

 Finally, if all else fails and your former spouse continues to act aggressively despite your best efforts, it may be time to talk to your attorney about a motion of contempt and/or modifying the parenting plan in some way that helps reduce the other parent’s negative behaviors. Aggressive parenting directed at a child can clearly be damaging to that child. However, aggressive parenting directed at you is still damaging to your child. This can result in feelings of worthlessness or anxiety in your child. Parental alienation syndrome can also be a result. Aggressive parenting is not in a child’s best interest, and in extreme enough cases can be a reason for a court to modify a parenting schedule.

 Co-parenting with an aggressive parent is difficult even in the best of circumstances. We have extensive experience helping our clients navigate these situations. Call us today at (253) 272-9459 to discuss your case and your options