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Fatherhood, Co-Parenting and Child Support information. Get a better of understanding of your rights as a parent before you go to court. We will also give you information on how to be a better father and co-parent with the mother. Our goal is to increase father's involvement in the family structure.

Divorced Dads and Co-Parent: Respect a Child’s Love

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Once upon a time, there was a happy family—dad, mom, and their little boy. One year, Dad and Mom gave their little boy a puppy for his fourth birthday. That little boy and his puppy became best friends, as little boys and puppies do. The puppy was involved in his whole life as a playmate and confidant. Every night the puppy slept at the foot of the little boy’s bed and helped him eat the crust of every sandwich he enjoyed. Later, the little dog waited at the door every afternoon to meet him when he got home from school. They did homework together, talked about friends at school, and cried over losses together.

Then one day, Mom and Dad decided they needed to divorce, and the family changed forever. During this frantic, frustrating time, Dad was having a particularly upsetting day, angry about Mom, the divorce, money, and other grown up things, when he walked into the living room and saw that dog with those important papers in his mouth! And not only had he torn them up, he had also left a “gift” right in the middle of the room … again.

Dad lost it, yelled at the pup, kicked it across the room, then grabbed it by the scruff of the neck. Then he turned toward the little boy, who was witnessing all of this, and said, “This dog is going away! Don’t you ever play with him again! He is a bad, bad dog! I’m calling the dog pound to pick him up right now!” Then he threw the dog out the door.

Can you imagine how that little boy felt as he saw his best friend kicked and then thrown away?

However badly that little boy was hurt by what happened with his dog, and however much he loved his constant companion, I can promise you that he loved his mother a thousand times more than his dog, and his heart was broken a thousand times worse when his father said the same things about the mama the boy loved so much.

Our children are quite literally made up of us—fathers and mothers. Deep inside every one of the trillions of cells that makes up your child is pieces of his mom and dad, in DNA, curled up together. Your child is honestly a “chip off the old block” of his two parents. You know that, but too often you probably forget.

And whether it was intentional or not, maybe you have tried to turn your child against his mother—either directly by telling him mean things about her, or indirectly by just hinting negatively about her. Maybe you have said things like, “Oh, that’s just your mom, you know how she is.” Or, “Well, I’m not surprised she did that ….” And make no mistake, these kinds of comments move you dangerously close to placing yourself between your dear, sweet child and someone he loves more than anyone else, except you.

The danger is that, when you talk trash about your child’s other parent, three things happen:

First, you break your child’s heart. Children love their mamas and daddies, even when they don’t act right or when they hurt each other. And you cannot change that.

Second, you’re damaging your relationship with your child. Even if what you are saying is gospel truth, in your child’s mind you’re like a schoolyard bully or anyone else who says something bad about his mother. His natural reaction is to defend her, prove you wrong, or just separate from you emotionally (if not physically). It’s like you’re intentionally closing down your child’s heart toward you, because you’re attacking his mama.

And third, you’re likely not bothering your ex at all. Usually a divorced dad talks bad about his ex-wife to feel like he’s getting back at her somehow, but in most cases, she quit caring about what he says a long time ago. What a waste—especially if you’re damaging your relationship with your child in the process. It’s like shooting yourself in the foot.

In over two decades of working with broken families, I have never seen one parent’s attempt to turn a child against their other parent to be successful. Never. Sometimes it just breaks the child’s heart. But often it will create deep, festering scars in the relationship with the manipulative parent that may never heal.

Permit me to say that bad-mouthing your child’s mother—especially when your child can hear—is wrong, damaging, and just plain foolish.

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The Marriage During Quarantine Edition

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Friday, April 10, 2020

The Marriage During Quarantine Edition

Remember Plato's Allegory of the Cave? In it, he imagines that a group of prisoners have been confined since birth with no knowledge of the outside world. They're chained, facing a rock wall, with a fire behind them. All they know of life is the shadows cast by those living it. Eventually, one of the prisoners escapes and is startled by the outside world.

 

There's more to the allegory, but that's the gist. And right now, we're experiencing more or less the opposite of that prisoner. We're looking at shadows. The world has been reduced. But reality didn't change. Only our experience did. Many parents and partners and people are, understandably, struggling to adjust.

 

In some ways, the hardest thing to adjust to is each other. Being in the cave is fine -- a fire feels nice on your back, but being chained to people is hard. In China, now emerging from quarantine, divorce lawyers have waiting lists. That boom will come to America as well. Deep breathing can only get couples so far.

 




How to Help a Marriage Thrive Under Pressure

The coronavirus is putting an unprecedented amount of stress on couples. Here are some ways to cope

 

Understand That Everyone Needs Time to Realignt

Life has changed. Many among us have gone from a 'thriving' experience to a 'surviving' experience seemingly overnight. This isn't easy and requires time for everyone to adjust. Understanding this is crucial. "This difference in mindset can create a unique tension and demand a focus on psychological survival," says Louis Laves-Webb, LCSW, LPC-S, an Austin-based psychotherapist "The skill set that survival demands is different than what is required to thrive and can include: greater flexibility, presence of mind, a sense of urgency, and functionality over process." 

 

Create New Structures

In times of chaos, those with structure thrive — and are less likely to smother one another in their sleep. As many of our pre-existing routines have been rendered useless, now's the time to create new ones. "It is critical that a new routine be established that allows each member of the family to satisfy some of their needs to be met in regards to personal space, virtual work, virtual communications with friends and family, groceries and meal times, exercise routines, and rest/relaxation," says therapist Robert A. Grigore. So, sit down together and figure it out . Consider all the details. Make a plan. Amend that plan. Plan it out again. Then plan it out some more.

 

Set Boundaries

Most couples are now forced to occupy the same living space, however large or small that may be. There is no way around that. But that doesn't mean that you have to be on top of each other all the time. Do what you can to draw lines of demarcation. Designate a work space for one another. Give yourselves the spaces you need to be productive and active without crowding them.

 

Be Honest About Time Alone

We all need time to ourselves. The need is even more so, what with no more commuting, gym-time, bar-time, barre-time, sports-time, or whatever-time. "Simply put, we are not used to being confined to our homes," says. Laves-Webb. "This dynamic can be taxing even under the best circumstances. Take time to go outside, go to another room or shut your door for a period of time in order to reset, create mental recalibration, and to have a pressure release valve for everyone involved." Couples need to communicate this need and make time for it to happen without resorting to passive aggression or resentment.

 

Figure Out How to Fight

"It can be extremely helpful to come up with expectations as to how to handle disagreements and tensions that will escalate into arguments," says Grigore. Here's a start: Agree that any family member can pause a disagreement in order to return to it at a later time when they need to work out their thoughts. Go from there.

 

Give One Another the Benefit of the Doub

"You're both dealing with increased stress and unpredictability, so it's likely that your partner isn't actually trying to annoy you or act selfishly — they're probably genuinely overwhelmed and not thinking as clearly as usual," says Jessie Bohnenkamp, a licensed professional counselor based in Virginia. "If you need to bring up an issue, focus on the specific behavior that's bothering you rather than criticizing your partner's character or personality."

 

Here's an example. Instead of saying something like You always expect me to clean up after you. Try, It would be really helpful if you could clean up after your breakfast before you start working.

 

Set Aside Specific Time to Vent

When it feels like the world is burning, some people tend to spend all day talking about each little flame. Others ignore the heat. Neither approach is worthwhile. Couples need to figure out times to vent to one another during the day. Bohnenkamp suggests that during this each partner gets 10 or 15 scheduled minutes to talk about whatever's on their mind — work stress, worry about their parents' health, the state of the world, money concerns, whatever. "This time to come together and support each other is a wonderful way to stay on the same page, reduce each other's stress, and stay connected and strong during this stressful time," she says.

 

Make Time for Other People

Friends, family, and co-workers help us vent, gain perspective, or just forget about the day-to-day for a while. Even while social distancing, we all need to find ways to connect with people outside of marriage. If you belong to a group or club, see if they can hang out over Zoom or another video conferencing service. If you want to connect with family members or friends one-on-one, set up a daily Facetime call. Making time for interests and connections outside of the marriage can ensure that everything stays level inside the marriage.

 

Remind Yourselves: These Are Crazy Times

"During times of uncertainty, we go into survival mode, becoming hyper focused on ourselves. By extension we become less tolerant of others and more likely to snap at our partners," says therapist Ebru Halper. "External stressors will take a toll on a marriage, even on really strong ones. When there's friction, tell yourself 'This is very stressful for both of us. We are doing our best.'" At the end of the day, our best is all we can do.

Co-Parenting During COVID-19

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Thursday, April 09, 2020

Co-Parenting During COVID-19:

7 Tips For Navigating Custody Agreements

The COVID-19 crisis can make co-parenting more difficult
for divorced parents with custody agreements.
Here's how to navigate some common scenarios.

By Jeremy Brown | Apr 07 2020, 6:16 PM



The coronavirus pandemic has turned lives upside down in ways that we are still trying to figure out. And  for all of the family strain that has come from living under quarantine, it is perhaps divorced parents are feeling it the most keenly. With schools closed and kids home, co-parents are adjusting to a new routine, trying to adhere to social distancing practices while also honoring custody agreements that are already in place.

“From the cases that we are seeing and hearing about, the biggest issue is about whether the parties are on the same page with social distancing,” says Sheryl Seiden, a founding partner at Seiden Family Law. “It is important for parents to remember that children need the love and affection of both of their parents in difficult and upsetting times like these, so parents need to put aside their differences and try to agree to a schedule or a system that protects the children physically and emotionally.”

For divorced or separated parents, co-parenting in general can be stressful, what with juggling schedules, calendars, commitments and new lifestyles. But in an era where just leaving the house could put you and your loved ones at risk, the stress is amplified even more.

“A lot of things have been stirred up,” says Rosalind Sedacca, CDC, a divorce and co-parenting coach, mentor, and the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. “One of which is the equation of custody even when the children just live a few blocks apart. Work schedules are different, people may have financial problems, parenting plans are unable to be followed. We need parents to be extremely flexible and cooperative in making changes that really work for these times and for the children.”

But, even the most well-intentioned co-parents can come up against unexpected challenges or situations, especially while navigating the COVID-19 crisis. We ran a few scenarios past the experts to gauge how co-parenting couples can best respond.

The Problem: One parent is taking social distancing less seriously than the other. They’re bringing the child or children to parks, religious services, or other gatherings that have been deemed unsafe.

The Solution: Communication is key, but, even in such dire circumstances, so is compromise. As much as we might like to draw a line in the sand, experts say that could actually create more problems. “There can be ways of compromising,” says Sedacca. “Saying, ‘If we do this or that your way, then let’s do two things my way.’ This way, everyone feels that their values are being validated while others are being compromised.”

Of course, when a child’s health and safety is at risk, then it becomes imperative for the other parent to speak up. However, they must do so in a way that does not sound like they’re simply enforcing their own opinions on the other parent. “There are a lot of articles online being written by mental health professionals,” says Sedacca. “You could show one to your partner and say, ‘Well, you may feel this way, but look at all of these articles that are saying you shouldn’t do this, or you should do that.’ And that’s a way of validating their opinion.”

The Problem: One parent doesn’t trust the other and tries to bar that parent from visitation.

The Solution: Unfortunately, this is a common situation in divorce cases, even without the added strain of coronavirus. One parent may feel that the other is not responsible enough or too lax with the rules and use that as an excuse to keep the kids home. Seiden suggests that parents try and come to an agreement ahead of time about how they will have quality time with their kids while keeping social distancing protocols in place.

“One approach that often works is to have both parents submit their proposals to ensure parenting time continues and social distancing is maintained,” says Seiden. “If they both submit their proposals without one party seeing the other party’s proposal first, chances are there will be some common themes that can be expanded upon.”

Sedacca agrees that putting your thoughts in writing is a good way to illustrate your concerns without the other partner feeling attacked. “It may be easier to send an email with some points,” she says. “Say, ‘The reason I’m so upset about this is one, two, and three,’ and try to create a valid argument that’s not emotionally crazy but that just addresses the points. Staying calm and not pointing the finger or demeaning the other parent is important.”   

The Problem: One parent is very worried and telling the kids coronavirus horror stories.

The Solution: It’s a scary time for everyone, and uncertainty abounds. But giving into fear, and especially bringing kids into it, can only be counterproductive. “You will need to work to neutralize this for your child, again without throwing the other parent under the bus,” says Dr. Vanessa Lapointe, a psychologist and Family Expert for Life360. She recommends saying something along the lines of ‘Sometimes when our brains get very worried, we look around and all we can see are the scary things. It doesn’t mean those things are true – it is just what happens when brains are in a scared state.’ Then, highlight the inherent positive in this, saying “And even though we don’t need to be concerned about that kind of stuff, do you know what I really love? I love that [the other parent] loves you so much that you are the number one thing their worried brain thinks about.”

The Problem: One parent is very rigid and insists that schedules, appointed times, and dates have to be adhered to, despite whatever changes might come up.

The Solution: Generally speaking, structure is important in a co-parenting arrangement, as it creates stability and order in kids’ lives. However, times are different now and, more than ever, it’s important to be flexible. “Flexibility is critical,” says psychotherapist Dr. Dana Dorfman. “This is an extraordinarily stressful situation and can be an opportunity to model flexibility, prioritization, and values to children.”

“This is not a time to be rigid,” says Seiden. “For example, the parents need to have flexibility to adjust schedules to minimize exchanges, increase telephone or video contact between one parent and the children, to adjust schedules so that both parties can work from home, and to modify communication methods.” However, Seiden stresses that neither parent should be taken advantage of the flexibility to modify custody or parenting issues that do not need to be modified. 

The Problem: One parent loses their job and cannot pay child support.

The Solution: There is no roadmap for the situation we’re living in, and, as a result, it’s impossible to prepare for every eventuality. To that end, experts agree that, should one parent find themselves out of work, understanding should be the first response.

“In most cases, compassion breeds compassion,” says Dorfman. “This sentiment goes a long way, though it may be difficult to muster during trying times. Minimize hostility and suspending resentments amidst a crisis is advised.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the unemployed parent is off the hook for payments. Even in the wake of a lost job, support arrangements must be made. “Instead of demanding a modification of child support the day that he or she loses his or her job it is likely a better strategy to let the other parent know what happened and to start doing his or her best to tap into resources available and to look for other employment opportunities,” says Seiden.

The Problem: Tension threatens to spill over into an argument or bitter dispute.

The Solution: Everyone’s nerves are frayed beyond their limits these days, and, when it comes to divorce, COVID-19 is adding stress to an already stressed situation. Experts say to be mindful of every word you say right now, because you don’t want it to come back to haunt you, with Sedacca even suggesting having more conversations in writing than in person. “Don’t talk on the phone,” she says. “Put it all in writing. Send each other [texts or emails] that are fact-based. Don’t get into a lot of exposition and talking about other things. Stay very focused on the arrangements and the reality of what has to happen to take care of the children.”

However, it’s not realistic to assume that all communication will be done via text, and couples should have some arrangement in place. Ben Heldfond, who, along with his ex-wife, Nikki DeBartolo, is the author of Our Happy Divorce says he and his ex have a plan that they adhere to avoid communication breakdowns: the four texts/email rule. “It is simple and easy,” he says. “After the fourth text/email goes back and forth, it is time to get on the phone. Email and text are an easy way to communicate, but sometimes people hear what they want, and tones are never accurately portrayed.”

The Problem: Work schedules are different now, and families with healthcare workers/first responders may need extra latitude.

The Solution: Sedacca recommends parents whose work schedules have changed as a result of COVID-19 should meet with a mediator to see about renegotiating the parenting arrangement. Conversations can be had about allowing the children to spend more time with one parent or another as their work schedule dictates.

“A parent who was working a 40-hour week and is suddenly working a 60-hour week has different responsibilities,” she says. “If they’re a health worker, there may be health risks that they’re dealing with, and we don’t want the kids to be affected. So, it’s a good idea to have a counselor or mediator talk with both of you and find some way of remediating the agreement.”


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About DFFC

The Delaware Fatherhood & Family Coalition is an extension of the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program and the Responsible Fatherhood Initiative created specifically to give a voice to fathers and the importance of their involvement for the well-being of their children.


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