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.  

Divorce is a frustrating experience, though actually having a divorce granted is often a great relief. But not every divorce is the same. Some are based on faults, some are based on irreconcilable differences, and others yet are hard-fought battles in order to achieve freedom.

If you are considering a divorce, then you already know that you are going to be going through a rough experience. But what you might not know already is how long it will take. That’s a question that’s a little harder to answer than you might have thought.

The reason it’s hard to answer is that it depends on the circumstances of the divorce itself. To get a sense of how long your divorce may take, we’ll look at the different kinds of divorce there are. We’ll see how long it takes when there is no fault, how long it takes when there is fault, and how long it takes when the divorce is contested; that way, you can have a sense of how long yours will take.

How Long Does a No-Fault Divorce Take?

A no-fault divorce can be one of the quicker ways to achieve a divorce. The idea of a no-fault divorce is that nobody involved was at fault, the relationship between the spouses has hit some irreconcilable differences, and therefore the only way to move forward is separately.

Because nobody is at fault, these divorces can often move forward rather quickly. However, it’s important to note that the divorce could be contested and this, in turn, would greatly lengthen the process. However, we will be discussing contested divorce in more depth below, so for the purposes of this discussion on no-fault divorce, we will assume that it is uncontested.

There are two ways to get a no-fault divorce, and they take vastly different amounts of time. The first way, which is the shortest, is for you and your spouse to both consent to the divorce. When this is the case, you could have the divorce finalized 90 days after filing. This is the mandatory waiting period in Pennsylvania and so you won’t be able to speed that up.

The other way to get a no-fault divorce requires that you and your spouse be separated for at least two years. This would mean then that this approach could get a divorce finalized two years and three months later. Clearly, the faster route is to both agree to a no-fault divorce, otherwise you’ll have to wait.

How Long Does a Fault Divorce Take?

A fault divorce is different in that it is directly stating that one of the spouses is at fault for the divorce. Legally this means that the at fault individual is guilty of:

  • Adultery
  • Abandonment (for at least a year)
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Bigamy
  • Or they were convicted of a crime that would see them behind bars for two years or more

Divorces of this nature can be long and costly. You can’t just say that your spouse is guilty of one of these, you need to prove it. While this is easiest when they are convicted of a crime, it can be much harder to prove extreme cruelty or adultery. It takes time to gather evidence and build a case that will prove the allegations.

Thankfully, though, if your particular case is easy to prove then it could move quite quickly. A fault divorce is not subject to the three month waiting period discussed above. This means that if you already have enough evidence, this type of divorce should, in theory, be faster. 

How Long Does a Contested Divorce Take?

A contested divorce can take a very, very long time to resolve in some cases. A contested divorce is simply a divorce wherein the two parties disagree on different parts of the divorce agreement. So it could be a loveless marriage that both individuals want out of, but because of a disagreement on the divorce agreement it could be dragged out for years.

Disputes typically arise in regards to the distribution of assets of the marriage, as well as child-related issues such as the amount of child support or the custody of the children. These fights can become quite intense.

One thing that often helps to speed up the process is to work with an attorney as a mediator. A mediator acts as a neutral third party to engage the fighting parties in a structured resolution-focused discussion in order to try to come to agreeable terms. A mediator isn’t a couple’s therapist; they aren’t going to try to make you like each other. Their goal is to bring the conflict to an end.

This is often the best way to bring a contested divorce to a close. If issues continue to long, and especially if they are negatively impacting the children of the marriage, then the courts may make decisions for the couple in order to bring an end to the ordeal. This may resolve any conflicts that were still open, but it removes control from the parties involved. This means that the resolution isn’t necessarily going to be agreeable to either individual.

The reason that we mention children of the marriage specifically is that the courts really do pay special attention to how the process is affecting them. They also want to ensure that the decisions the couple makes or outcomes they fight for are appropriate. So one parent trying to gain sole custody only to deprive the other of their children would be looked at negatively by the court and almost certainly never get the request granted. But a spouse seeking sole custody to protect the children from an abusive parent would be a whole different story.

Is There Any Way to Speed Up My Divorce?

If you are looking to get divorced, then one thing that could help speed up the process is to attain the services of a qualified and experienced divorce attorney. They can file paperwork on your behalf to start the divorce process, or they can help you to build a case for a fault divorce prior to filing.

Should the divorce go forward smoothly, then you won’t need their services for very long. But if your spouse contests the divorce, then your attorney is in the right position to get a quick start on whatever legal challenge comes your way.

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. 

In Pennsylvania, your date of separation can be a big factor in your divorce. It may help determine how assets and debts are divided, for example. But many people mistake their date of separation for the moment they officially state they want a divorce.

Find out more about why your date of separation is important and how the courts might determine when it is if you and your spouse can’t agree. Then learn how a family law attorney in Pennsylvania can help you protect your interests in a divorce.

What Is a Date of Separation?

In Pennsylvania, the date of separation in a marriage occurs when it is apparent that two people are no longer living together as a married couple. The most obvious form of separation occurs when at least one person moves out of the home, but a couple can be separated without taking that step. For example, if two people stop wearing their wedding rings and agree to sleep in separate rooms and only live as roommates for practical purposes, it could be a sign they are separated.

Why Does Your Date of Separation Matter?

The date of separation—and not the date you file for divorce—becomes an important marker in a divorce when it comes to dividing marital property and debts. It may also be a consideration for child support and alimony payments.

When it comes to dividing marital property, Pennsylvania follows the concept of equitable distribution. That means property isn’t necessarily divided along a 50/50 split (as is typical in community property states). Instead, the court considers the financial details and situation of each person and tries to allocate property fairly given those factors.

All assets acquired during the marriage are subject to this fair allocation by the court. Of course, a divorcing couple may also negotiate their own settlement, but, again, any assets acquired during the marriage are fair play.

What is not subject to these negotiations or allocations are assets acquired after the date of separation. Those are considered the individual property of each person.

The same is true of debts. Debts acquired during the marriage may be allocated to either spouse as is deemed fair. Debts acquired after the date of separation are the sole responsibility of the person who acquired them.

You can see that there may be an incentive for one spouse to push for a certain date of separation that the other doesn’t agree with. A different date might leave one person more assets or less debts. Courts can also order someone to pay child support or alimony retroactively, and that retroactive date can reach as far back as the date of separation.

How to Determine Your Date of Separation

In many cases, spouses do come to an agreement on when their date of separation was. If you’re trying to get through a civil divorce without a court battle, for example, you may want to negotiate together to choose a date that works in both of your interests (and which meets the standards for separation).

When spouses can’t agree on a date of separation, the court makes a decision—often after hearing from each side on why a certain date is the right date. Some facts the court looks at when determining a date of separation include:

  • When someone moved out. If one or both people moved out of the home they shared and did not again reside together, that is typically a pretty decent indicator of the date of separation.
  • When a couple stopped acting like a couple. The court may consider when you stopped sleeping together or having sex, wearing your wedding rings, or telling people you were married. Other indicators you are no longer a couple might include dating other people and telling your friends that you were separated.
  • When couples took separate financial or legal actions. If you closed your joint accounts and opened individual ones, contacted attorneys to discuss divorce, or updated your wills to exclude a spouse, these can be indicators of separation.

In many cases, one of these details alone won’t demonstrate a date of separation. For example, you might consult a divorce attorney after an argument or when you and your spouse are considering a potential separation. But if you keep going to marital counseling and show up at family events clearly together, you’re probably not actually separated yet.

If spouses can’t agree on a date of separation and courts don’t have enough evidence to choose a specific date, the court may simply consider the date you filed for divorce as your date of separation. After all, in 2021 alone, more than 31,000 divorces and annulments were granted in Pennsylvania. The courts may not have time to dig any deeper into when, exactly, two people stopped living as if they were married.

Why You Might Need a Divorce Attorney

The details really matter during a divorce. Getting them right and understanding how they impact your case can help you stand up for your rights and protect your interests. A divorce lawyer fights to protect your interests and works to ensure all the small details are covered.

If you’re considering a divorce, contact Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., Attorneys at Law. We can help you plan ahead to protect your assets and interests—as well as the interests of any children—during and after your divorce.

If you’re awarded or have negotiated spousal support (alimony) as part of the divorce order, whether you work after it’s final may be an issue. Collecting support doesn’t necessarily mean you must work, nor does it necessarily allow you to stop working. It depends on your circumstances. 

Your spouse can’t force you to work after the divorce is final, but they may ask the judge to lower or end your alimony if you don’t have or are not actively seeking employment or a better-paying job. The judge would weigh that against the circumstances you claim would make that unreasonable or impossible. 

What is Spousal Support or Alimony? 

It can be one of several economic changes due to a divorce. One party would pay the other as part of ending the marriage. Arguments for alimony include one spouse sacrificing their earning power by caring for children or otherwise supporting their spouse and their career, so it would be unfair not to compensate the person. 

Pennsylvania statutes don’t require alimony.  Granting it must be “reasonable,” and the alimony must be “necessary.” There are 17 factors a judge must consider, and a judge could come up with more if they’re “relevant” to your case. Some of the factors spelled out in the law include: 

  • The parties’ relative earnings and earning capacities 
  • Their ages and physical, mental, and emotional conditions 
  • The extent the earning power, expenses, or financial obligations of a party will be impacted because they’re a minor child’s custodian  
  • The parties’ living standards during the marriage 
  • Whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of self-support through appropriate employment 

The court order would include how long alimony would be received. The time frame could be limited or indefinite but must be reasonable under the circumstances.  

Why Would Your Spouse Want You to Work? 

It’s in your spouse’s financial interests to limit or prevent you from getting spousal support because the less you receive, the less support they pay. They would claim it’s not reasonable or necessary for you to receive so much support.  

If alimony is part of a divorce order and later your ex-spouse claims a substantial change in circumstances has taken place, they may try to have the order changed, so you receive no or less alimony. 

If the judge sees things your spouse’s way, they may consider your circumstances, education, and work experience and estimate the income you should earn if you sought employment (imputed income). Given that income, the judge may decide if you should receive support and if so, how much. 

Why Shouldn’t You Work? 

You’d have to give reasons why alimony is necessary and receiving enough to support you fully is reasonable. 

  • You’re unable to work. You’re too old or may have a physical, emotional, or psychological disability that makes working impossible. 
  • You’re the full-time caregiver of your minor children, so given the demands of parenthood and daycare costs, working is impractical. You have a stronger argument if you have multiple kids and or they have special needs that take more time and energy. 
  • You’re the full-time caregiver of a parent or other family member. 
  • Your standard of living established during the marriage should continue. You didn’t need to work while you were married. The fact you’re divorced shouldn’t change that.  

You would need evidence to support your claims. Your opinion wouldn’t be enough. 

How Might This Be Resolved? 

The judge may make a compromise between both parties’ positions. You would get enough alimony to fully support you for a limited time, then it would decrease and eventually end. In this period where you need not work: 

  • You should improve your education, skills, or experience so you can get a decent-paying job 
  • Your disabilities would be treated, and job training should help you find work 
  • Your children would mature, requiring less time and effort on your part, allowing you to work  

The judge may also agree with your spouse, and you’ll get no or little alimony. Like all divorce-related disputes, you and your spouse avoid the risk of losing the case at a trial by negotiating an agreement. 

If you’re considering getting divorced, involved in a spousal support dispute, or your ex-spouse is trying to end your alimony payments, please contact us here at Karen A. Ulmer, P.C. We can discuss your options and how we can help you. 

Congratulations! It took some work, but you got the house after your divorce. Hopefully, you’ll spend many happy, healthy years there. But you run the risk of nightmares all homeowners may have (raccoons in the attic?), plus some that divorcees in particular face.

Surprise! You Have an Open Home Equity Loan!

Marital homes and mortgages are usually in both spouses’ names. The house may be in your spouse’s name only, but you’re taking over ownership. As part of transferring the home to you, you would refinance the mortgage or get a new one, so you’re the only one responsible for paying for it.

As part of the approval process, you may discover an unpaid home equity loan (HELOC) on the property. Your spouse may have taken it without your knowledge or forged your signature on the application. They didn’t disclose it during the divorce process, and your attorney may have used a quitclaim deed to change ownership, so no title search was done.

Home equity funds may be accessed by your ex-spouse through checks or a credit card, which may only need one signature. Contact the lender and cancel all credit lines if this is the case. Put the creditor on written notice that you’re not responsible for further debts. If you’re the victim of identity theft, you could file a police report.

Ending the Nightmare and Preventing Future Ones

Your house is the collateral for a loan your ex took out. From the lender’s perspective, your divorce doesn’t change the fact someone needs to pay the debt. Ideally, when confronted with the truth, they’ll have the resources to pay it off and take care of it, but that’s probably unlikely.

Call our office as soon as possible. We can discuss how to make this right. Your ex-spouse may have failed to disclose the loan or lied about it. Unless we can work this out with your ex, we need to go back to court and change the divorce agreement or order to reflect this newly discovered liability.

The amended order should spell out how your ex will resolve the issue. If they don’t have the money on hand to pay the debt, they could be required to sell or liquidate assets or property to clear it up.

This HELOC can be a big problem, but also a sign your ex may have left other financial landmines behind. We may review both parties’ finances again to ensure that’s not the case. If your ex owns their own business, that may be worth looking into because it can be used to hide assets.

If you’ve gotten nasty surprises after you thought your divorce was final, please contact us here at Karen A. Ulmer, P.C. We can discuss your options and how we can help you.

There could be several dates in a divorce agreement or order. If your ex-spouse is missing deadlines it can make the divorce process more difficult and irritating. This could be an intentional act or your ex could just be disorganized and inconsiderate. Either way, it’s not something you should tolerate. 

Many divorce issues are date-driven, including: 

  • Signing documents finalizing the divorce 
  • Paying child support 
  • Paying spousal support 
  • Splitting bank, investment, and other accounts 
  • Sharing custody which involves dates describing when you’ll spend time with your child 
  • Changing the title to your home 

Late arrivals can be incredibly irritating if the two of you share child custody. If the other parent is constantly late when returning your child to you, they are stealing time you should have with your child. Your ex-may also be in the habit of making partial alimony or child support payments, with the remainder being late or never coming at all. The more inches you give to your spouse, the more miles they will take. 

Issues like this show how grown adults can revert to immature children. They may be sloppy and poor time managers and not take responsibility for their actions. Your ex may also be spiteful, making your life more painful and difficult. 

What Should I Do If My Ex-Spouse Never Does Anything on Time? 

Document what is happening. Dates and deadlines should be part of divorce documents. You should keep correspondence, emails, and texts containing dates and times. Make copies of checks or keep copies of financial records showing when you’re paid and how much. Follow up on blown dates and late arrivals with emails documenting the problem. 

You are building a case against your spouse. That requires facts and evidence. Create a paper trail of what’s going on. Organize your documents, then create one listing what problems happened and when.  

Copy your documents and write a letter stating what dates and times were supposed to be met and what happened. Send it certified mail to your ex and follow up with a phone call to discuss how these problems will be prevented in the future. 

What Can an Attorney Do If My Ex-Spouse Continues to Be a Problem? 

Call our office if your ex-spouse doesn’t care and is unwilling to change or says they’ll change but fails to follow through. The information you documented and organized will be critical to the next step. 

There must be consequences if an immature ex-spouse won’t change their behavior. You must make non-compliance so painful that following the rules is the better option. We can ask the judge to hold your ex-spouse in contempt for failing to follow court orders.  

The judge may be reluctant to “drop the hammer” on your ex-spouse and give them another chance. If time with your children has been impacted, you may get additional time. If the situation is difficult enough, the judge can fine your ex-spouse. 

The attorneys at Karen A. Ulmer, P.C., know how to protect our clients and hold ex-spouses accountable. Contact us today to see how we can help you. 

If your spouse is talking badly about you to your kids, it needs to stop. Neither parent should degrade the other when speaking to their kids. Divorces can get very heated, but this emotional poisoning can harm the child. If this is happening, have a direct talk with your spouse and make it clear that this is unacceptable. 

If you’re lucky, maybe your spouse’s off-hand bad joke about you was misquoted by your child. Your spouse may have been talking to someone else, unaware that your kids could hear the remarks. If so, your spouse needs to be more careful.  

If this was an intentional verbal slam or an attempt to harm your relationship with your kids, it needs to stop immediately. Make it clear this won’t be tolerated. If it continues, our office can communicate with your spouse, and if that fails, we can seek a court order prohibiting this from happening and potentially cutting back the time your spouse spends with your kids. 

Are Your Spouse’s Words Harming Your Relationship With Your Child? 

They may have a tough enough time seeing their parents end their relationship. One loved parent telling them their other loved parent is a bad person is not good for anyone. Children need as much peace and certainty in their lives as possible. 

The official term for emotionally manipulating a child against the other parent is “parental alienation.” It, according to Psychology Today, happens when a child refuses to have a relationship with a parent because they’re being manipulated by the other. It can be exaggerating something, telling lies, or saying hateful things.  

Parental alienation can happen during a divorce, but it may take place before one starts or after it’s finalized. It could include emotional blackmail, where one parent threatens to withhold love or attention if the child continues their relationship with the other. A parent may convince a child to make a false claim of abuse or neglect. The parent may make the child promise that these statements and acts are secrets that can’t be revealed. 

What Impact Can Parental Alienation Have? 

As a result, a child may be distraught, confused, angry, sad, and lonely. Children may not understand why they love someone the other parent hates. They may be afraid to speak honestly with the targeted parent and lack evidence that what they’re being told is untrue. In extreme cases, this can impact a child’s relationship with a parent for years. 

Parental alienation can have more than an emotional impact on you and your child. It can affect custody proceedings. If your child is mature enough, a judge may give weight to your child’s opinion on which parent should have what kind of custody. If parental alienation colors that opinion, it can impact your case. If the other parent is interfering with the time you’re allotted with your child, that failure to cooperate can be used against them. 

If you suspect parental alienation is affecting your relationship with your child, please contact us here at Karen A. Ulmer, P.C. We can help clarify what’s going on and stop it. 

Starting a new life during or after a divorce is difficult enough. If one of your beloved children is your spouse’s spy, it can make things that much tougher. You need privacy, though depending on your child’s maturity, you may have a hard time keeping it.

Like so many other issues, you need a frank, adult discussion with your spouse on what is shared by whom and when. This must be tempered by your child’s age, personality, and maturity. What you should expect from a seven-year-old is different from what you should expect from a 17-year-old.

Sharing Too Much is Bad

You should both agree that your kids shouldn’t be telling the two of you details about each other’s lives. You also shouldn’t use your child to collect intelligence on each other nor should you believe everything you hear.

Generally, we want our kids to share. We want them to talk about their day and share their feelings, toys, and time. But they must learn that sometimes sharing is not a good idea. They must understand that some things, like information, shouldn’t always be shared. It may be difficult for a child to draw lines between things they can talk about and what they can’t.

It may not be your spouse bribing your child for the latest dirt. Your child may see it as a game. They have something they think has value, so they may believe they’ll get a treat if they tell it to you. The more you tell them you don’t want to hear it, the more they may want to spill the beans.

The two of you should also agree to communicate things impacting your child openly. It’s one thing to date someone new and maintain your privacy, but if they come to your home and meet your kids, you should let your spouse know what’s happening.

Sometimes, Not Sharing Enough is Bad, and Lying is Never Good

You must clarify to your child that there are still important things to talk about, like if someone is abusing, bullying, or harming them. If you or your spouse is losing control and lashing out at your child or neglecting them, that’s not a secret they should hold. Your child needs to understand which secrets to keep and which ones to divulge.

Telling your child you want to keep your privacy so they shouldn’t disclose some things is one thing. Telling them they should lie to cover something up for you is another. You’re setting an awful example for your child that will come back to haunt you. If you teach your kid it’s okay to lie, that’s a lesson they’ll use for years.

In the future, when you catch your child in a lie and it angers you, who’s to blame? Don’t you think your child will throw back in your face the lessons in lying you taught them? Parents in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

If you are considering getting divorced or need legal representation in a divorce matter, it is critical to get help and guidance from a trusted expert in family law. Contact us here at Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C. to see how we can help you.