Issues For Stay-At-Home Moms
By Robert Farzad
Whether your divorce was complex and contested, simple and amicable, or somewhere in between, at some point it, like all divorces, came to an end.
“Now what?” It’s a fair question for a stay-at-home-mom. Divorce is a new chapter in a mother’s life and that chapter may come with initial trepidation.
In this article, we are going to talk about some of the challenges that SAHM face after the divorce case has ended, specifically on the issue of child custody, co-parenting, communication and dealing with a difficult dad.
Nothing in this article is intended to be nor should it be construed as legal advice. I am a California licensed attorney and my area of law is divorce and family law. If you have questions about your family law case, including post divorce judgment issues, please consult with an experienced attorney in your State.
You Can’t Divorce Your Children
The old adage that you can “divorce your spouse but not your children” certainly holds true after a divorce judgment. In California, custody and visitation is an ongoing and evolving issue, the evolution taking place as the children grow older.
Rarely is the custody order in the divorce judgment the final order that stays in effect until the children are no longer subject to the court’s jurisdiction (power) to make orders. In California, that is age 18. That’s because as children age and mature and circumstances begin to change, it is natural for a non-custodial parent to want more time with the kids. Even situations that involve 50-50 custody often can result in future disputes.
What can you do as a SAHM to bring stability and reliability to the parenting schedule that was ordered? This of course assumes that you were happy with the final results and you don’t feel the need for immediate changes because of new events.
The Co-Parenting Cure
Emotions can interfere with communication. It’s not easy after splitting up, especially if it was caused by a breach of trust such as infidelity, to cooperate in parenting. This can manifest itself in different ways especially if the other parent is unstable.
As a SAHM you have time to dedicate to your children and if the other parent works and does not see the children on an equal time basis, most of the co-parenting and communication falls on you. That is exactly why you have to be vigilant with co-parenting issues. One of the biggest reasons noncustodial parents seek a modification of a custody schedule is that the custodial parent (often the SAHM), does not communicate, does not co-parent, engages in gate-keeping or even alienation.
How Do You Co-Parent As A SAHM?
First, pick a reliable method of communication.
One effective tool is Our Family Wizard. It is a website bulletin board that allows parents to communicate with each other regarding developments in their children’s lives, something as simple as a doctor’s appointment or as elaborate as changing schools. Where it is most effective is the ability to see login and logout information so that neither parent can take deceptive tactics and claim they attempted communication when they did not.
If Our Family Wizard or even email communication is not your thing, sealed notes during exchanges can help. It is important that the child not see the notes you’re passing to the other parent because nobody wants children to act as messengers. The note can update the other parent with developments. Make sure you keep a copy of the note.
Ideally of course you and the father can have a dialogue with each other and communicate by phone or in person about up-to-date developments in your children’s lives. That is the best kind of co-parenting. Can you do it? You should at least try. Rising above past events and doing what is best for your children is the path to peace.
Dealing With A Dangerous Dad
You may have sole legal and sole physical custody. Was it the father’s endangerment of the children, domestic violence, or substance abuse? Something else? No matter the reason, unless the father’s parental rights are terminated, you may find yourself back in Court at some point. Fathers who have lost custody, especially those fathers who also come with an unhealthy dose of narcissism, may bide their time and find any excuse to gain more time or even custody.
How do you avoid this?
Take away the excuses.
Don’t disparage or alienate: It bears repeating. No matter how difficult the father has made it, stay away from alienating the children from the father or disparaging him to the children. If you are back in Court, the last thing you want to face are allegations of either against you – you give the father a reason to place you under the microscope and the Court the cause to question your motivations and credibility.
Follow court orders: Court orders are directives, not suggestions. If an order has become inconsistent with the children’s best interest, then speak to a child custody lawyer to seek a modification of it. By making unilateral decisions as to when and how you will or will not follow orders, you not only give the father a reason to take you back to Court but you may face, depending on your State’s laws, contempt proceedings. Be smart. If your children’s health or safety are in danger, consider whether the police or child protective services should be called and involved.
Be child-focused and centered: The father may try to bring you into arguments. Upsetting you, causing you to “react”, even speaking some hostile words towards him may be just what he wants. Deny him the satisfaction. If you have been through a child custody battle and you rightfully got sole custody, it’s time to move forward, not fall into old traps or look back. Your children have no doubt suffered as you have. What they need most is your nurturing and peace in their lives. Give them that by giving them a mother who is focused on them and their best interest.
Keep a log of communication and concerns: Child custody issues often end up in a “he said, she said” battle. By keeping a log of all of the relevant communication and concerns, your “she said” may get more weight because you kept track of the issues as they occurred. The Court may be more likely to believe that you are not engaging in revisionist history. If there are witnesses to the father’s misconduct (neighbors, teachers, even family or friends), make a note of it and take down their information. Your family law lawyer will appreciate the diligence and it will make your case’s presentation easier if you end up in Court.
About the Author: Robert Farzad is a California divorce and child custody attorney and the president of Farzad Family Law, APC located at 1851 East 1st Street, Suite 1150, Santa Ana, CA 92705. Nothing contained in this article is intended nor should it be construed as legal advice. Please consult with an attorney in your State if you have any legal questions about your specific case.