You may read stories about people trying to avoid being served with legal papers. This rarely happens, and in most divorces, this critical step is handled without drama by spouses who understand their marriage is ending. 

A divorce is a legal action. A necessary step in the process is serving the non-filing party (the defendant) with the complaint. Most divorces are not surprises, and agreements are often worked out before a divorce complaint (which is filed with the court stating the party seeks a divorce, why, and the basic facts of the case) is finalized. Usually, service, though necessary, is a formality. 

What is Being Served? 

That complaint is completed and filed with the court. A copy is provided (or served) to the defendant. The court will not want to proceed without proof the other spouse has a copy of the complaint. 

In Pennsylvania, your spouse must be “personally served” with the complaint (though that does not necessarily mean they are handed the complaint), a notice that the party can defend their rights, a counseling notice, and any other documents filed with the complaint at the courthouse. This must be accomplished within 30 days of the complaint’s filing (90 days if they live out of state). 

How Can My Spouse Be Served? 

Service can be accomplished by: 

  • An unrelated individual older than 18 hands the documents to your spouse and fills out an affidavit describing how that happened. There are companies whose employees provide this help (people referred to as process servers) as well as the local sheriff’s department. 
  • Certified mail with restricted delivery is a cheaper route and an option when the two of you cooperate to end your marriage. With this kind of delivery, there would be an acceptance of service form for your spouse to sign. 
  • The defendant’s attorney accepts service on their client’s behalf. If your spouse is not represented, they may consent to our office mailing them the complaint, and then they fill out the acknowledgment of service form. 

The defendant has 90 days after service of the complaint to file an answer in response. The service process is similar in New Jersey, but the defendant has 35 days to file an answer. 

Why Should I Not Do This Myself? 

There are many benefits to hiring an attorney to represent you in a divorce. The process can involve several steps involving various filings with different requirements and deadlines, depending on your case’s complexity and how much the two of you work together to finalize the divorce. 

A significant benefit of retaining our services is we deal with all these details, including service, not you. You do not have to worry about whether your spouse will try to run and hide from the process server or if the service will be on time. You will not have to spend time recruiting your neighbor’s unemployed son to serve the papers. 

Divorce is stressful enough. Why add to it by trying to do it on your own? Making sure all the requirements of the divorce process are followed is a crucial part of what we do. This allows you to spend your time and energy on more important things like your well-being, job, and kids.  

Contact Karen Ann Ulmer, PC, today because we are here to help. If you are considering getting divorced and have questions, or you have decided it is right for you and you need legal representation, call us today.

Do you feel that your life or safety is threatened by a loved one, family member, or someone who is close to you?   

If so, a restraining order or a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order requires an abuser, or potential abuser, to stay away from you and leave you alone. If an order is in place and violated, the person can be arrested. It is not a perfect solution to domestic violence, but victims are in a better position when one is in force. 

What is a PFA? 

A PFA is a court order giving protective “relief” to victims (and their children) for up to three years if the order is made final. You can file for a PFA order from the court for yourself and/or your children, but the forms are complicated, so you should seek legal help. The order could make it illegal for the alleged abuser to contact, abuse, or harass you and your children. The abuser could also be ordered to return your personal property.  

Who Must be Involved to Qualify for a PFA? 

The incidents must involve: 

  • Family or household members 
  • Sexual or intimate partners  
  • Parents of the same child or children 

They can be: 

  • Married or divorced  
  • Domestic partners who never married 
  • Current or former sexual or intimate partners 
  • Same-sex partners 
  • Parents, children, or siblings 

If your situation does not involve these individuals, other orders may help: 

  • Adults and minors could ask a court for a Sexual Violence Protection Order if a stranger, acquaintance, or co-worker committed a sexual assault.  
  • A Protection From Intimidation Order can help minors if they are stalked or harassed by a non-relative like a neighbor, coach, or someone known by the family who is 18 or older. 

In addition to these orders, if a crime happened, the police can be called to the scene, and the abuser may be arrested. If the incident is in the past, a police report can be filed, which may also lead to an arrest. 

What Situations May Lead to a PFA? 

If you are going through these circumstances or have recently, you should consider getting a PFA: 

  • The person caused or is trying to cause you physical injury. 
  • You are in fear of imminent serious bodily injury. 
  • You are the victim of sexual assault or rape. 
  • The person is stalking you. This is engaging in conduct or repeatedly communicating to another in circumstances showing an intent to put the person in reasonable fear of physical harm or cause substantial emotional distress.  
  • Your child suffered physical or sexual abuse. 
  • The person is interfering with your freedom of movement. 

Please call our office if you have any questions or doubts about whether your situation is severe enough to qualify for a PFA. 

How to File for a PFA in Bucks County 

The Bucks County Court of Common Pleas Domestic Relations Division in Doylestown is the right place to file a completed PFA form if the county is where: 

  • You work or live (It must be where you live if you are asking the court to order the abuser to leave your home.) 
  • The abuser works or lives so they can be served court filings 
  • The abuse took place 

If it is an emergency and the court is closed, there are time-limited orders that a District Justice can grant. 

You will get a hearing date in Doylestown. The judge may have additional questions and may grant your request for a temporary court order. The abuser is served with the order, and another hearing will be scheduled with both parties to determine whether it should be made final with a term of up to three years.  

Often the parties will negotiate terms of an agreement which the judge may make part of the final order. If there is no agreement, both parties will give their side of the story, and other testimony and evidence may be submitted. The judge would decide whether to extend the PFA and, if so, under what conditions and length. Attorneys can represent both parties. 

What if the Abuser Violates the PFA? 

You should contact the police. If enough evidence shows the order was violated, officers can arrest the person who would be charged with indirect criminal contempt. If those charges go to trial, you may need to testify. 

Like most arrests, the abuser will probably be released from custody after being processed. If you feel you may still be in danger, you should contact a domestic violence advocate to discuss what you can do to protect your safety. 

Is My PFA Order Valid in Another State?  

Your order is valid across the state and in every other state, and on tribal lands. If you travel or move, you should have a copy of the order certified by the court (it has the court’s seal) and others with you in case it becomes an issue. 

If you think you will need a PFA, or you want legal representation because you have been served with one or have a PFA hearing, contact Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., Attorneys at Law. We can help protect your rights and safety and those of your children. 

Denying custody is generally viewed as a drastic step but, depending on the circumstances, possibly a justified one. Often these situations involve a parent who cannot care for and make decisions for a child. They might be incapable of caring for themselves due to a severe physical or psychological illness, substance abuse, or involvement in criminal activity. There is a legal presumption that a child should have both parents in their life, but that can be overcome with evidence if it is not in the child’s best interests. 

What is Custody? 

There are different types of child custody. The status of each can be determined by the parents’ agreement (subject to a judge’s approval) or court order: 

  • Legal: This is the ability to make crucial decisions for a child (legal, educational, health, and other issues impacting their fundamental well-being). Legal custody is either shared or one parent has it. It is not split based on the subject to be decided, such as one parent deciding on issues related to education while the other is in charge of healthcare. 
  • Physical: The right to have your child live with or spend time with you. This could include sole, primary (the child lives primarily with you), shared, or partial custody. 

Visitation allows a parent to spend time with a child but not have legal or physical custody. Visiting can be supervised by a third party if a parent is especially troubled. It must be an extreme situation for a judge to deny child custody and visitation to a parent. A parent unable or unwilling to support a child may voluntarily give up these rights. 

How Does a Court Decide Who Should Get What Kind of Custody? 

When deciding child custody, a court determines what is in “the best interest of the child” and creates an order to accomplish that. There is a presumption both parents should share legal custody as long as both are considered competent caregivers. 

What Are Some Reasons a Parent Should Not Have Child Custody? 

This issue can arise during an initial custody dispute or after a custody order goes into effect. If conditions change after the order is in place and you fear for your child’s well-being, you can request the court modify the order, or if it is an emergency, you can file a petition for special relief. 

If you can show a risk of imminent harm to your child, issues that may persuade a judge to grant you sole physical and legal custody include: 

  • Substance abuse: Simply having this problem may not be enough to deprive a parent of custody rights. If this is an issue, both parents may face drug tests, and if one tests positive, they will probably be required to undergo periodic testing and treatment. 
  • Serious, untreated mental health problems: If the parent can show they are being treated and following their healthcare provider’s instructions, they may maintain custody. If they refuse to be seen for a possible psychological issue and or will not accept treatment, they risk losing custody.
  • Domestic violence: If a parent’s history of abuse is documented with medical or psychological records, police reports, criminal convictions, or child welfare reports, the parent may lose custody rights. These rights may be regained if they show they are in treatment and no longer engage in these episodes. 
  • Debilitating physical disabilities: If your spouse is severely disabled and that seriously affects them physically and mentally, they may be denied custody.

Like every legal issue, evidence is critical. No matter the problem, it must be documented with notes, witness testimony, photos, and videos. The more mature your child is, the more impact their testimony will have. You should keep evidence securely away from the other parent and your children, physically and or electronically. 

Records from law enforcement and healthcare professionals are also critical. Both sides may hire experts to give their opinions if the issue is physical or psychological. The same may be true of the alleged emotional or psychological impacts on your child.  

False Claims Could Backfire 

If you make allegations but lack evidence to support your claims, the other parent could accuse you of abusing your child by needlessly putting them through the dispute and abusing the court process. As a result, your ability to maintain custody could be challenged. 

The lawyers at Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., can protect you and your children if the other parent is unfit to be in their lives or you are facing baseless claims that you should not have custody. Contact us today to see how we can help. 

Not to sound like a lawyer, but that depends. If you feel unsafe or your spouse drives you crazy, you should move, but you should be aware of and prepare for the negative consequences. If you can still tolerate each other and be civil, you’re probably better off staying in the home, at least until you reach a divorce agreement. 

Moving out makes the most sense when: 

  • You’re earning an income that will pay for both homes’ expenses 
  • You don’t have kids or, if you do, you aren’t interested in having primary custody 
  • You (and your kids) must leave an abusive situation 
  • You’re not interested in owning the house when marital assets are divided 

Should you stay or should you go? You have to consider the issues: 

  1. Would Moving Impact a Custody Dispute? 

If you have kids, do you plan to move out with them, or will they stay with the other parent? Moving out of the home while your kids remain will likely impact your custody claim, so if that’s a priority, stay where you are. 

Unless you’re involved in an abusive relationship, it’s usually in a child’s best interests to stay in the family home during a divorce because it should minimize the potential disruptions to children’s lives.  

  1. How Would Moving Affect Your Finances in the Short and Long Term? 

Moving means two households and possibly twice as many expenses. Leaving your marital home doesn’t mean you no longer need to worry about its bills. If you share the title and a mortgage to a house, you must keep up the payments. You’ll have your new expenses, plus your old ones. Can you swing that? 

Your house may be the most valuable asset the two of you own. Though it’s no guarantee, when it’s time to decide who will get the house, the spouse living in or maintaining it can have a stronger claim than the one who moved out or who isn’t helping to maintain it.  

If you want the house when marital property is divided, remaining in it may help protect your interests. Leaving is not a big deal if you don’t want the house and would rather have your share of it paid to you in cash or some other asset. 

  1. Might Remaining at Home Push the Divorce Process Along? 

Emotionally, moving out can be a mixed bag. In the short term, the two of you are physically away from a source of stress which should improve your peace of mind. This reduced stress takes some pressure off and makes finalizing the divorce less urgent. Therefore negotiations may drag out longer. If you share the same household, the two of you may be more motivated to get the divorce over and done with. 

Don’t Make a Move Without Talking to Us 

Moving out of your marital home may have far more consequences than you realize. You may see living on your own as a major goal that shouldn’t wait for a finalized divorce. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to achieve that with minimal impact on your interests. It may also be a significant financial stretch that can impact your ability to get custody of your kids and your house as part of the division of assets. 

Should you move during your divorce? Like all other issues, that depends on your goals, situation, and the law’s impact. If you’re thinking about getting divorced and how that’ll impact where you’ll live, contact us here at Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., so we can answer your questions and discuss how we can help you.  

A properly executed, valid agreement made before or after a couple marries should simplify divorce proceedings. Prenuptial (or in Pennsylvania, premarital) agreements are better known and, generally, easier to enforce. A contract made after a marriage takes place (a postnuptial agreement), though different, can accomplish many of the same goals and be very useful if you divorce. 

What Can a Postnuptial Agreement Cover? 

Postnuptial agreements can cover critical issues, so you should have legal representation when one is negotiated and executed. Without a lawyer’s help, you may agree to a one-sided contract that can severely disadvantage you if you divorce. A red flag would be if your spouse is represented by an attorney, but you’re not. 

Postnuptial agreements can lay out what happens to the couple’s assets and debts if they divorce, ideally shortening the divorce process and simplifying it. A wide range of issues can be covered, including what happens to a business that one or both parties own. They can also set down rules on what will happen to assets if a spouse engages in destructive habits like infidelity, substance abuse, or squandering the couple’s resources. 

What Must a Postnuptial Agreement Have to be Enforced By a Court? 

There are many potential issues concerning the enforceability of Pennsylvania postnuptial agreements: 

  • They must be in writing. 
  • There should be full disclosure by both parties of income, assets, and property, but that can be waived by one or both parties.  
  • A postnuptial agreement, ideally, should be fair, but that’s not a requirement. Courts interpret these agreements by using contract law. Its focus is more on the fairness of the process and less on the outcome, though a court wouldn’t approve of a spouse being left destitute. 
  • Both parties must voluntarily and fully agree to the agreement’s terms. A spouse may claim their agreement was the result of fraud or duress, so it shouldn’t be enforced.   

If you’re going through the time and expense of this process, you should make sure what you want becomes a reality. Legal representation should prevent enforcement problems before they happen.  

When Only One Spouse Wants a Postnuptial Agreement 

Agreements can be very helpful from a legal perspective, but creating one may not excite your spouse as much as your lawyer.  

  • Both of you may have fundamental disagreements about how assets would be handled through a divorce 
  • One may fear the process of creating a postnuptial agreement will needlessly add stress to your relationship  
  • If one of you earns much more than the other, the one making less may fear an agreement will put them at a disadvantage 

If these are issues, the two of you should have open and honest discussions. If creating an agreement is important to you, but your spouse refuses, contact our office so we can talk about this and the best way to move forward. 

If you have any questions about postnuptial agreements or want help negotiating and drafting one, please contact us here at Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C. We can discuss your options and how we can help you.

Like most lawsuits and legal disputes, nearly all divorces resolve outside of a courtroom. Most parties can’t justify the costs of a trial in money, time, energy, and stress. How you approach your divorce and its resolution depends on you and your spouse.  

Divorcing spouses come from all different emotional directions. They may be heartbroken, emotionally exhausted, or enraged. They may be willing to settle at all costs and just get the divorce over with or be eager to fight over every penny. After learning about the law and going through the process, most couples, no matter their starting point, realize that reaching a resolution is the best option. 

Do You Want to Go to Court? 

Going to court usually happens when one or both parties are unreasonable. One side may look at the issues rationally, but the other makes unreasonable, unacceptable settlement demands. Sometimes both parties are willing and able to use litigation to try to legally bludgeon the other spouse to get what they think will be a victory. 

There are many reasons to avoid litigation. The cost in time and expense can be substantial, especially if the issues are complex and there’s a lot of evidence that could be admitted. Even if you get a favorable judgment, the other party may appeal, potentially prolonging the case for years. 

Litigation puts the outcome into the hands of a judge or jury. It’s like handing over your car keys to someone you don’t know and giving them directions, but they ultimately decide where you’ll end up. In this situation, the issue is not which town you’ll be in. It’s what will happen with your future life, your finances, and your children. 

How Do You Want to Approach Your Divorce? 

Nearly all divorces are uncontested, but you could try to fight your spouse’s attempt to get one. Unless you have compelling reasons, contesting a divorce when your spouse no longer wants to be married, for practical and legal reasons, probably doesn’t make sense. 

If the two of you understand the relationship is over and have no (or few) axes to grind, a collaborative divorce is worth considering. It’s a divorce in which both parties agree to do their best to resolve their issues out of court (though resolving them in court is an option if their efforts fail). It works best when you’re both amicable and will talk and act in good faith. It may also work when financial issues are already worked out in a prenuptial agreement.  

Disagreements that you can’t resolve need not end up in court. Another option is using a mediator, a neutral third party (usually an attorney, sometimes a retired judge) who helps both sides reach an agreement. In addition to representing parties, we at Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C. also mediate disputes between divorcing couples. 

Do You Want Legal Representation? 

The answer should be yes. If you’re of low income and have few assets, you may qualify for help from a legal aid organization to help you and your spouse divorce. Otherwise, contact our office. Your situation may be much more complicated than you think, and your spouse’s proposals may not be as reasonable as they appear. You must understand your rights and protect them during a divorce. A mistake made when you do it yourself may haunt you for the rest of your life. 

The attorneys at Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., can answer your questions and represent you in your divorce, no matter which approach you take or how it’s resolved. Contact us today to see how we can help you.  

A divorce starts a new chapter of your life. But even after it’s final, your life will not turn on a dime, especially if you share children with your ex-spouse. There will be loose ends to tie up and details to address. Where do you start? 

What’s in Your Divorce Agreement? 

The divorce agreement is part of your divorce order. It will require you and your spouse to do certain things by given dates. Some things are time sensitive, like changing property titles and deeds. 

Compile a list of what needs to be done and when, and calendar each task. You must honor your end of the bargain and keep track of your spouse’s obligations, so if they miss a deadline you’ll know about it.   

If you have a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO), it’s a court order that may require one of you to share your retirement savings with the other. It’s often part of the process that divides spouses’ assets, and their requirements are time-sensitive. 

Will You Need Health Insurance? 

Unless you’re old enough for Medicare, have health insurance from your employer, or already purchased it yourself, you’ll need health coverage. If you got it through your spouse’s employer, you could continue it through the COBRA process for up to three years. This is probably pretty expensive, so you might just want it to be a bridge to more affordable coverage. One option may be an Affordable Care Act (ACA) plan or a policy you buy from an insurance agent. 

If you have kids and your ex-spouse gets medical benefits from work, maintaining that coverage is probably the best option. If not, COBRA or the ACA may be good options. 

What’s Your Credit Score? Is it Getting Better or Worse? 

Protecting your credit score will allow you to borrow money and get lines of credit at the lowest interest rate possible. Here are post-divorce steps you can take, according to AARP

  • Close joint accounts: Your ex-spouse may run up debts and be late with payments or not pay at all. Inform creditors of your divorce and that you’re not responsible for further debts. 
  • Get monthly statements: If joint accounts have outstanding balances, these statements will show you’re making timely payments. 
  • If you move, file a change of address notice with the U.S. Postal Service: If you don’t get a bill, you won’t pay it, and that will harm your credit score. If you pay bills online, getting monthly statements or changing your address won’t be issues. 
  • Use credit cards wisely: Don’t engage in binge “retail therapy” shopping if you feel depressed. You’ll only feel worse when you get the bill, and your credit score will suffer if you don’t make payments on time. 
  • Regularly check your credit reports: See if there are any errors or problems caused during your marriage or divorce. Take action if you find them. 
  • Freeze your credit files: Given your spouse knows your Social Security number and other critical information, you may fear they may engage in identity theft. If so, a credit freeze should prevent any new accounts from being opened in your name 

Be proactive because preventing financial problems is easier than unwinding them after they happen. 

Have You Updated Your Estate Planning? 

If you had estate planning done during your marriage, you likely named each other as your primary beneficiaries. You probably don’t want your assets going to your ex now, though you may feel they can handle being a trustee for a trust that benefits your children. Make sure your estate plans accurately reflect your wishes.

Is Your Divorce Over, But You Still Need an Attorney? 

We will fight to protect your interests and work to ensure you’re in the best position possible after your divorce is final. Contact Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., Attorneys at Law, for a free consultation so we can discuss your situation and how we can help. 

While many married couples handle their estate planning matters together, they don’t have to. A husband or wife can create a will without the input or even knowledge of their spouse. However, that doesn’t mean that spouses don’t have protections against being written out of the other person’s will or that there aren’t other factors to consider in estate planning.

Find out more about how wills may be treated when two people are married. Then learn about how an estate planning attorney can help you protect your legacy or contest a will if you feel you are being treated unfairly after the death of a loved one.

Your Spouse Can Make a Will Without You Knowing It

Anyone who is 18 years or older can create a will in Pennsylvania. For a will to be valid, it typically needs to be executed in the presence of two witnesses. Those witnesses sign indicating they understood the person to be signing a will and that they witnessed the person doing so of their own accord.

Nowhere in the law does it say that a married person must notify his or her spouse that a will was created. It’s even possible that you might know about a will that your spouse created earlier in the marriage and that they created another one later that you don’t find out about until it’s time for probate.

In Pennsylvania, Surviving Spouses Have Rights

However, surviving spouses in Pennsylvania are protected by some rights. That means that your spouse probably can’t create a will that cuts you out of all inheritance.

Pennsylvania law provides married people with a right to election when their spouse dies. You can elect to receive a third of qualified property under this election. Qualifying property includes:

  • Any property that would go through probate or be included in a will
  • Property associated with income that the spouse was entitled to during the marriage
  • Part of joint accounts the deceased spouse owned
  • Annuity payments if the spouse that passed away was receiving payments from an annuity purchased during the marriage
  • Gifts of more than $3,000 made within the year prior to the other spouse’s death

Life insurance payouts, retirement plans, and certain property transferred by the deceased spouse with the permission of the surviving spouse are not included in this election option.

You can assert your right to election after your spouse dies whether or not there is a will in place. If there is a will and you have not been left anything in it, you can use the election right to claim one-third of eligible property. Even if you have been left something in a will or trust, you can assert your right to election instead. However, if you go that path, you may forfeit your right to the property left to you via those other estate channels.

In some specific scenarios, you don’t have a right to this election. A legally binding prenuptial agreement or post-nuptial agreement may include language that waives this right. If you’re divorced, you also don’t have this right, and that’s also the case if you have deserted your spouse or failed to perform the duty of a spouse for a year or more.

Divorce Can Impact How a Will Is Enforced

Divorce can have other implications on wills and estate administration too. The impact of divorce on a will that includes provisions favorable to an ex-spouse may be to disqualify them. If there is not clear language in the will that the provisions were meant to stand even after a divorce, the court may consider them ineffective because you are no longer the spouse.

This is only the case if you get divorced after your spouse made the will. If your ex-spouse includes you in a will created after you are divorced, those provisions would stand.

However, if you are not yet divorced but divorce proceedings are in motion and grounds have been established, you may lose your right to anything left to you as a spouse in a will created before divorce proceedings began.

Working With an Estate Planning Attorney Can Help You Protect Your Legacy and Your Loved Ones

As you can see, wills, probate, and other estate matters can get quite complicated. Whether you want to plan your estate and create wills and other documents that stand the test of time or you want to assert your rights as a surviving spouse, working with an estate planning attorney can help.

Some of the things an experienced estate lawyer can help with include:

  • Creating valid wills that hold up to legal scrutiny and help ensure your wishes are protected
  • Advising you about the benefits of other estate options, including trusts—and helping you execute on those options if desired
  • Helping you contest a will or assert your right to claim a spousal election if needed

If you are dealing with estate issues, feel you have been cut out of a rightful inheritance, or want to plan ahead to protect your legacy, reach out to Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., Attorneys at Law to find out how we can help.

Parenting plans must be handled with good faith and flexibility. Problems arise when a parent acts in bad faith and ignores their obligations. If you feel this is something you’ll just deal with to avoid a confrontation, know that the situation won’t improve by itself. You’ll reach a point where you’ve had enough.

In most cases, divorces involving couples without kids are simpler because their relationships as spouses (with some exceptions) and individuals will end. That’s not true when parents divorce. They’re responsible for the same children, and unless one parent walks away from their child or is deemed unfit, they both have the right to maintain relationships with their child.

What is a Parenting Time Plan?

A parenting time plan aims to meet everyone’s needs as reasonably as possible by setting out a schedule of when a child will be with a parent. During the school year, the child may spend weekdays with one parent and the weekends with the other (or the weekends are split). This could also involve the child living with a parent during the summer and school vacations. Holidays are usually split between the two parents. Your parenting plan should be customized to fit the lives of those involved.

Ideally, the plan works for everyone, or minor changes are made over time. A child or parent may be sick. A parent may have a long, unexpected business trip. Cars break down. Traffic jams can cause delays, especially if a child and parent have a long distance to travel. These issues should be handled reasonably and unemotionally by the parents.

What Problems May Arise With a Parenting Time Plan?

Sometimes the situation is not ideal. One parent may see the plan as optional. It’s something they change at the last minute without consulting the other parent or child. One parent may feel the plan unfairly limits their time with the child, so they invent their own informal plan by returning the child later than they should.

This can be a serious problem for you. When your ex-spouse is chronically late or fails to communicate with you, it shows a lack of respect for you, your time, and the divorce order. Depending on the child’s age, their plans can be disrupted too. You may miss work or family obligations. Planned time with friends can be disrupted.

How Can I End Parenting Time Conflicts?

Here are some things to think about if you’re in this situation:

  • Is the other parent doing this to you because you’re doing the same to your ex? Are your hands clean, or is this an exchange of fire with your children stuck in the middle? If you’re guilty of the same thing, you must stop.
  • Does the other parent know their obligations? Does a lack of understanding or communication cause these issues? Don’t launch into a verbal attack. Clarify who needs to do what, and when. If the other spouse’s life has changed and the plan is no longer practical, try to work out a solution.

How Can an Attorney Help With Parenting Time Plan Problems?

If neither of these approaches gets results and your ex-spouse acts in bad faith, start documenting the problem. Create a journal with notes of your conversations. Confirm the discussions with a text or email. Keep these emails and texts discussing the situation.

When your child is picked up or returned late, take a photo or video with your smartphone. It should have the date and time when it was made. This is critical evidence that may allow you to leverage the court’s power to help you.

You should also call our office and get legal help. If you haven’t been divorced before, this may be the first time you’ve dealt with this problem. We’ve had many clients suffer through parenting plan battles. We’ve seen approaches that work and those that do not. We’ll put together a plan to get this under control.

One of our attorneys may speak with your ex-spouse or their attorney to try to straighten this out. Mediation may be worth a try. If all else fails, we can go to court to enforce the existing parenting plan and consider asking a judge to find your ex-spouse in contempt of a court order.

At Karen A. Ulmer, P.C., we know how to protect our clients and hold lying spouses accountable. Contact us today to see how we can help you.

You may have a good idea of what they’re going through if you’ve been divorced. If not, your child is experiencing a stressful and possibly traumatic experience. They need love, support, and understanding. They don’t need to hear from someone who is judgmental and wants to blame someone. 

They may have been in a bad, possibly abusive, relationship, so this may be good news. If the marriage was a weight pulling them down, a divorce will lighten their load in the long term and put them on a new path. Your child may be on an emotional roller coaster, moving from relief to anger, fear, and guilt, so be prepared for the ride. 

Be Understanding 

As best as you can, be a role model. Support them emotionally and give them the best advice you can. If their needs are beyond what you can provide, find a support group or therapist who may be able to help. If there are times you don’t know what to say, you may feel like you’re not doing any good. Just giving your time and being with your child may be enough. 

Don’t Bash the Ex 

You may think you’re making your child feel better by saying how awful their spouse is and supporting their decision to end the marriage. But your child may feel embarrassed, stupid, or foolish because they invested so much time, effort, and emotion into a marriage with such a terrible person.  

Attacking the spouse is a particularly bad approach if the two have children. The spouse will probably still play a significant role in your grandchildren’s lives. Don’t complicate relationships by telling your grandkids they’re better off without the other parent or trying to prevent them from seeing each other. 

Be Loyal Up to a Point 

Let your child know you’ll be there for them through the divorce and beyond. If your child’s way of coping involves substance abuse, get them help. If the marriage broke up because of your child’s bad behavior (lying, being unfaithful, drinking too much or using drugs, refusing to get mental health care), be loyal by trying to help them work through their faults and getting them the help they need. If they continue their bad ways in their relationship with you, you must set hard limits on what’s acceptable and enforce boundaries. 

Don’t Be a Bulldozer Parent 

As much as you want to help, and as distraught as your child may be, they need to work through this themselves. You can’t do this for them. Steer them into thinking about issues they must resolve and ask questions to help their thought process. Don’t game plan their future life or give them a checklist of what to do and not do. Give advice, and don’t issue orders. 

Avoid ‘I Told You So’ 

You may have seen the divorce coming for a long time because they weren’t a good fit. You may have even told your child this before they married. Don’t build yourself up by tearing your child down. They have enough problems. They’re second-guessing and maybe blaming themselves for the situation. Don’t pour salt into the wounds. 

Tell Them They Should Talk to An Attorney 

If your child is thinking about divorcing or their marriage is breaking apart, they should contact Karen A. Ulmer, P.C., to learn how we can help. We can explain divorce law, help them understand their rights and responsibilities, and suggest the best way to start a new life.