Make Your Missouri Divorce Less Painful: 5 Do's & Don'ts

Make Your Missouri Divorce Less Painful

Preparation, getting the right support, and making sure you educate yourself on the right and wrong things to do can make the process a little less painful. Let’s take a look at some of the best and worst things you can do during the divorce process.

Here are 5 Do's and Don'ts of Missouri Divorce

DO be fair and equitable

Unfair settlements can hurt everyone, including kids. Strive to make sure your assets and custody arrangements are good for everyone, including your children.

DO make sure you have a support network

Don’t do this alone! Make sure you have friends, family or a support group to act as your sounding board. During even the smoothest divorce, you will face a roller coaster of emotions, so ask for help when you need it. You can support all of your children through this process more easily if you have your own emotional reinforcements. Just as you need friends who have your back during a divorce, you need legal and financial advice as well. Don’t try to figure out the best settlement options via Google; talk to an attorney who can give you advice based on your specific family and financial situation.

DO empower yourself

Educate yourself about divorce, the process, and the financial implications. Talk to an attorney and find out every step, how settlements can work, and options for child custody and support. You’ll feel more confident knowing what’s possible and what happens next. DON’T Use your kids as a wedge Your kids are hurting too, but they shouldn’t be asked to take sides – they should be neutral parties to the divorce. Most importantly, don’t say negative things about your spouse to your children or withhold time with them to punish your spouse. Your kids will need the support of both parents right now.

DON'T stay in the dark about your finances

If you haven’t been involved in financial planning or discussions during your marriage, you can go in to the divorce process at a disadvantage. Make sure you know the assets you and your spouse own, including property, bank accounts, insurance policies and retirement plans. You’ll also need this information to plan and budget for your life after the divorce.

Mary Neff is an experienced problem solver.  She works hard to support her clients so they can clearly and gracefully navigate one of life’s most challenging transitions.  Mary is a licensed Missouri and Illinois family law attorney, mediator and collaborative law practitioner.

Reach out to Mary to discuss your divorce options and how you and your spouse can divorce amicably.  Mary can be reached by phone at 314.454.9100, by email at mneff@aegislaw.com, or visit her website at https://aegislaw.com/who-we-are/mary-neff/com

How To Tell Kids About the Divorce?

More goes into telling your kids about divorce than just having a one-time, prepackaged sit down and delivering the information.

The stage of development that your child is in will have a big impact on how you have the conversation about your divorce and what to expect next.

Children who are young, under 5, are very egocentric, which means everything is about them. They also have a limited ability to talk about their feelings and no capacity to understand the complexities of something like divorce.

When having the divorce talk with your young child keep it simple.

Focus on what is going to happen, like who will live where and who will be taking care of your child. Make certain they know their basic needs will be met. Put yourself in their shoes. What does a 4 year old worry about? Here is a simple question you may need to answer: “Where will I sleep, who will tuck me in?”

Expect to answer the same questions over and over as they move through this stage of development. Your child may even leave one parent’s home and go to the next with questions of, “when is mommy or daddy going to be home”? This is quite normal.

Children ages 6-11 have more understanding of their feelings but see things very black and white.

If your child is in this age group, they often place blame on one parent or the other, or may even feel that it is their fault that the divorce happened. A child of this age may think that he or she said or did something that finalized your decision to move out or that they gave you the go ahead to break up their family.

Having ongoing discussions with your child about the divorce to reiterate the important things they should know is normal and in good practice.

The experience of your divorce changes over times as they grow and have their own life experiences. When they are children it is important to let them know who will care for them and that they came from love even though you are no longer married. As they get older something that may be important for them to hear is that not all marriages end in divorce and your path isn’t theirs.

Teenagers understand a lot more as they are more abstract thinkers than their younger selves.

Keep note of how your teen behaved before the divorce compared to after. Teens are tricky because they are generally moody creatures, so it can be hard to tell if they are moody from hormones or moody from the stress of divorce. One thing is for certain, they are impacted and may play the blame game as well.

Adult information is adult information.

Every situation is unique and if you need a consult do so, but a rule of thumb is that your teen may seem mature enough to hear the nitty gritty details about how your spouse cheated or said this or that, but keep it to yourself. This information will not gain their alliance long term and WILL NOT serve them well.

Even though you are getting a divorce, do your best to at least stay united on the parental front.

The more parents can come together in the consistency of their message to the kids about the divorce the healthier the kids will be. The happier the family will be. Never try to get your child to take one side or the other because that will only tear them in two.

Collaborative divorce will offer you more of an opportunity to do this because it makes space for emotion and healing whereas litigation focuses on legality.

If you need more guidance on this subject, Collaborative Law or other issues that arise in divorce you can contact me or any professional on the collaborative website.

About the Author : Kristin Craren

Kristin is a former member of CFLA.

Missouri Divorce and Child Support

Parents naturally are most concerned about their children at the time of divorce. One of the most important issues to be decided is how and in what amounts the children will be financially provided for.

Missouri Form 14

The Missouri Supreme Court has developed a way of calculating the amounts needed for support of children: it is called the Form 14 and it is readily available on the internet. The Form 14 child support amount is based on the gross (before tax deductions) income of each parent, the number of children of the marriage and various adjustments to income, including (among others) the cost of work-related child care and health insurance for the children.

Calculating Missouri Child Support

The Form 14 seems deceptively simple. It might appear that all one needs to do is plug in the gross income of each party, along with some other expenses like day care, and then out comes a child support number. Calculating child support is not, however, as easy as it might first appear. For instance:

These and many other questions can cause distress and conflict when trying to come up with the “right” amount of Form 14 child support. Fighting this issue in court can turn into a bitter and expensive battle with your spouse.

Collaborative Divorce and Child Support

In the collaborative divorce process you and your spouse can look at your individual circumstances and come to creative solutions that meet the interests of each of you and, most importantly, your children. With the help of your collaborative attorneys, your coach, and your financial professional, you and your spouse can discuss what your actual expenses are for your children and then come to decisions about how you want to pay those expenses. Maybe you will decide that no child support money will flow from one parent to the other parent and that you and your spouse will each pay certain expenses or certain percentages of all of the expenses for your child. Or, maybe you will decide that it is right that one parent pay child support to the other and agree on the correct amount for your family. Or, you might conclude that an agreed upon support amount will be paid less than 12 months per year.

The options available to you in collaborative divorce for making decisions about what is best for financial support of your children are limitless. Using the collaborative divorce process to analyze financial support of your children allows you, with the support and help of your collaborative team, to take a deeper dive into thinking about what your children need and what you and your spouse will be able to afford after the divorce. Once you are armed with the facts, you and your spouse can make informed decisions about how best to provide for your children in your unique family situation.

Parenting Plans and Collaborative Divorce

If you are getting divorced and have children 18 years old or under, you will have a parenting plan as part of your divorce judgment. A parenting plan establishes the schedule for the children’s care, the manner in which decisions regarding the children’s health and welfare will be made, and the support arrangements for the children.  It is essential to develop good parenting plans and collaborative divorce is a process that provides a great deal of support.

You Still Need a Parenting Plan

Even parents who are able to cooperate in sharing the children’s time will need a parenting plan. Your ability to agree with the other parent today doesn’t guarantee that level of cooperation in the future, particularly as the parents recouple, move, or experience other changes in their lives. The parenting plan establishes the fallback arrangements if the parents are unable to agree.

Parenting Plans and Collaborative Divorce Process

The collaborative divorce process provides parents with substantial support and expertise to assist them in establishing a parenting plan. Each collaborative professional team includes a mental health professional whose job includes giving the parents guidance regarding children’s developmental needs, and who can offer hints and suggestions on crafting a workable parenting schedule that takes into account the children’s ages and unique circumstances, along with the parents’ work and travel schedules and other potentially challenging issues that make fashioning a parenting plan more difficult.

For cases in which the issues surrounding the children are more complex, the collaborative team can be expanded to include a Child Specialist who can delve more deeply into the parenting issues by interviewing the children as well as counselors, child care workers, medical personnel, and others having knowledge about the children’s needs. The Child Specialist brings this information to the parents and assists them in coming up with a plan suited to the family’s unique needs.

Parenting is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor; no single plan suits all families. The children’s ages, health, and mental and physical conditions and limitations all need to be taken into account. Both parents’ needs and desires are also factors that must be dealt with. The Collaborative Process provides a forum for discussing these issues and the professional support, based upon experience and training, that will assist parents in coming up with an effective and practical plan.

Review the Collaborative Family Law Association's website for more information and to locate a list of mental health professionals and child specialists, trained in the collaborative divorce processMany professionals in the Collaborative Family Law Association offer an initial consultation at no charge, so you will have an opportunity to determine how parenting plans and collaborative divorce can help you in the divorce process.

Weathering Holidays After Divorce

The first few years weathering the holidays after a separation or divorce can be complicated, not to mention stressful, sad, and lonely. Some of the traditions your family had for years may no longer be possible and you might be left trying to figure out what to do.  It is also a time to be reflective and gracious and empowering in the creation of new traditions for yourself and your family.

But holidays can be happy after divorce. Here are some tips to help you manage.

Honoring the Change

As you approach this milestone in your divorce process, it’s important to take the time to honor the loss.  Whether the holidays were a happy and joyful time of year in your family, or a stressful and difficult to manage, it may be difficult to think about this drastic change in your life.

I can also be helpful to take a realistic view of what the holidays have been.  Many people “sugar-coat” the holidays because the spirit of the season can be so powerful – in reality, perhaps the holidays were not as joyful as you had hoped they would be, especially if you and your former spouse were in conflict.

Holidays Are About The Kids

More than anything holidays are about children and this will be their first holiday season with a new family configuration too.

Finding ways to wrap your head around the holidays is a helpful place to start.  Review your Parenting Plan, make sure it is clear and you understand the plan well.  If your Parenting Plan has not been finalized or if there are areas that seem unclear – review the plan with your former spouse to ensure you each have the same expectation of the time for each day.  Some people recommend that rather than attempting to “split the day” that one parent alternate years planning their celebration on the day before or after.  This way of planning can help families spend a whole day together on the holiday and can cut down on confusion, cause for conflict, and potential interruption to the newly established traditions. It can also better accommodate the possibility of travel.

When you have a clear understanding of the time you will and will not be with the kids it’s time to start planning.

Children, especially children over 4, will be aware of the changes to their family.  With your guidance and support they’ll be able to see this change as a chance to set up new, special time together.  If you can, let them have a few ideas to pick from so they can help share in the shaping of these new traditions.

Model the spirit of the season to your children, be kind and open about this new change.  If they know you are a little sad, that’s okay - it may help them talk about any sadness they are feeling.  Taking control of this step can also model to your children that they too can overcome sadness by creating experiences that shape their world. It is your time to develop the tradition in the direction you want.  Remember traditions aren’t just about eating and gifts – sights, sounds, smells, and activities can all be part of your new plan AND triggering these senses can also create fonder and more concrete memories in the minds of your children!

Holidays Are About You Too

Finally, think about the time you won’t be with the children.  Think about how you want to spend that time – friends, family, volunteer, quiet, movies, books, walks, trips. Taking care of yourself during this time will make this new milestone one of renewal and gratitude.  Something we all need more of.

When the holidays are over and you and your family have returned to a more regular routine take a few minutes to reflect.  What went well or felt special? What do you want to keep for next year?  Are there things you want to tweak or change?  Is it possible to reach out to your former spouse to share your observations, especially your positive ones?

Wishing you and your family happy holidays this year and in the future.

Developing Empathy: The Impact of Negative Comments During Divorce

How do you manage your feelings toward your ex-spouse when you are around your children?

If you have children getting divorced does not end your relationship with your co-parent.  So how do you keep your negative thoughts and beliefs about your co-parent from your child?  It’s tricky and it’s important.

What is Your Message?

Children understand their parents are divorcing because they no longer love each other, if they've seen you fighting through your divorce, they know you may not care about each other any longer either.

When a child internalizes the message that “Even if my parents cannot be together they can still care for and about me together” it can help that child heal from the grief and pain of the divorce more quickly and support the rebuilding of their resiliency.

However, if the message becomes “my parents are not capable of getting along, even when it has to do with something that is important as me” it can send the message that the child is unable to bridge the gap of love between her parents.

Children need to see their parents through the eyes of a child, not through the lens of the divorce.

Comparing Your Child to Your Ex-Spouse

Your child is a part of you: They may have your nose or your chin, your sense of style or your interest in how things work.   Your child is a part of the other parent too:  They may have their enthusiasm, their sense of adventure, or their sense of humor.

In her life your child may have heard similar comparisons as those above and she probably felt pride and a connection to her parent because of it.

If those comparisons turn into insults it can intensify a child's sadness and confusion. If instead of hearing a positive connection to their parent "You have your dad’s sense of humor" it shifts to "You are so slow, just like your dad" a child can translate that into a message from you about your love for her. So when a parent tells a child they are "just like their father" when talking about a disliked habit or characteristic that child's gets a message loud and clear "You don't like dad, and since I'm like dad in this way, you must not like me either".

Maybe your ex-spouse is not a good person – and you want your child to know so you can keep them from experiencing the pain you have felt.  Children need to determine their own beliefs about that parent and they will get there in their own way, in their own time (with the obvious exception of abuse or neglect). Having you as a sounding board, without adding fuel to the fire, is the best way to help that child cope with the possibility of a difficult relationship with the other parent.  Or it may be that your negative experience of your ex will never be your child's experience, that’s okay too.

Helping Your Child Transition Through Divorce

Know that a child can transition more quickly through the grief and pain of a divorce when their parents are able to manage their co-parent relationship with low conflict.  The benefit is that a child will grow up feeling loved and committed to by both parents even when they are not in the same household.

Dealing with an ex-spouse is a life-long journey.  You voyage from marriage to divorce to co-parenting.  Finding a way to make peace, even if it’s only one sided, can reduce the emotional sting these travels can produce.

Discussing Your Children in the Collaborative Process

Clients’ most urgent concern when confronting divorce is often the children. How often will I see them? Who will make decisions about my child’s health or learning issues?

Types of Child Custody

It’s important to understand that under Missouri law there are two types of custody: legal and physical. Legal custody – or decision-making authority - refers to who makes the decisions about the child’s welfare and development. This includes decision-making about such questions as religious education or whether and where a child will attend summer camp. Physical custody – better called parenting time - refers, of course, to where and in which household the children will be physically present at specific times.

Either type of custody can be “sole” to one parent or “joint” (shared) by both parents. If a couple has joint decision-making responsibility, they must first discuss and then agree about all issues relating to the child’s wellbeing before decisions are put in place.

Sole decision-making responsibility to one parent may occur when there is a lot of ill will between the parents and they are unable to have productive discussions about the children.

Joint parenting time usually means that each parent has substantial, but not necessarily 50-50, parenting time with the children.

When a parent is awarded sole parenting time, he or she has all or most of the parenting time with the children. This may be appropriate when one parent is impaired in some way and is unable to manage substantial parenting time.

Each parent’s rights and responsibilities for the children will be set out in a parenting plan that will become part of your divorce judgment. The court system uses a “check-the-box” form parenting plan that will likely not be suited to your family’s specific needs.

Using A Child Specialist Is Better Than Using A Judge

One of the greatest advantages of resolving your divorce collaboratively is that you and your spouse can, with the help and support of collaborative professionals, including a child specialist (a mental health professional with training specific to child development issues), develop a parenting plan that addresses your children’s unique issues now and over time, as the children grow.

Your child specialist will help you make decisions about parenting time and decision-making that meet your children’s needs and are most workable for you and your spouse. A parenting plan developed by a judge who does not know you and your spouse and does not love your children as you do - and one who is likely to use a “form parenting plan” - can result in long-term hostility and repeated litigation between the parents.

You and, most importantly, your children deserve a divorce resolution process that carefully considers the children’s needs. Resolving custody issues with the help and support of the professionals available to you, your spouse and the children in the collaborative process is much more likely to result in a parenting plan that not only meets your family’s unique needs, but also stands the test of time so that the parents will not need to return to court later to modify the plan.

How to Keep Your Children Out of the Middle of Your Divorce

Extensive research suggests that for children of divorce, what is most damaging is the experience of their parents fighting; how children adjust and fare after a divorce is closely linked to how their parents get along with each other.

Those children whose parents are civil and demonstrate good faith towards one another are much more likely to have an easier time with the divorce, and move forward with their lives.  When parents continue to have conflict, the children may experience a variety of difficult emotions.  Among the many feelings they may experience are fear, sadness, depression, feelings of helplessness, anger, and hopelessness.  As children mature into adolescence, these difficult feelings often lead to acting out behaviors, among them poor grades and underachievement, eating disorders, law violations, drug abuse, and promiscuity.

Kids know that their divorcing parents don’t get along and probably don’t like each other.  Knowing that often leaves them feeling as if they must choose between one parent or another.  For the child, having to make that choice is a no win proposition.   If they show any connection or affection towards one parent, they’re left feeling as if they’re betraying the other parent, and anguish over having to “choose” one parent over another.

Protect Your Children's Emotional Well-Being During Divorce

The following are some ways to think about your children’s emotional well-being:

Often parents with the best of intentions for their children unknowingly bring them into their divorce.

The following are some tips for keeping your kids out of the middle:

Make yourself available to your child; listen to them and pay close attention to their moods and disposition. Put their needs above your own, and let them know you’re there for them. Maintain as much structure and continuity in their lives as possible. Whenever possible and appropriate, offer choices to give them a sense of control over some aspects of their lives.

Remind yourself of the following:

References:

www.uptoparents.org

www.mediate.com

About the Author : Barbra Danin

Barbra has worked with individual adults and children, as well as with couples and families for more than 20 years. She holds a dual degree in Marriage & Family Therapy and in Clinical Art Therapy, and has practiced in hospitals, clinics, schools and the Family Court of St. Louis County. Barbra incorporates art therapy into treatment when appropriate, providing a non-verbal approach to understanding and expressing thoughts and feelings.

Collaborative Divorce: How Do You Know It’s Right For You?

How you divorce greatly impacts your children’s well-being and your own ability to move forward in life. There are many different methods to complete a divorce. So how do you choose the right method? Collaborative divorce is best suited for people who understand the value of divorcing well. Here are some questions you can ask yourself and if you answer yes to most of these questions then collaborative divorce may be a good fit for you.

  1. Do you wish to make life changing decisions from a place of peace and consideration, even though you might be feeling angry or scared now?
  2. Do you want the focus of your divorce to be on future solutions for you and your children rather than past disagreements?
  3. Do you want your children to be at the center of your decisions about separation rather than in the middle?
  4. Do you want a comfortable co-parenting relationship with your spouse?
  5. Do you want an attorney who is trained in interest-based problem solving and focused on settlement rather than an attorney who acts as a hired gun?
  6. Are you able to be in the same room as your spouse to speak about your own legitimate self-interests with the assistance of collaborative professionals?
  7. Do you want to play an active role in creating the outcome of your divorce?
  8. Do you wish to craft a divorce agreement that is tailored to you and your family’s needs?
  9. Do you value privacy in your personal affairs and wish to resolve your divorce outside of a public courtroom?
  10. Do you wish to use a divorce approach that supports and advocates for realistic settlements and transitions?
  11. After your divorce is completed, do you want to be able to look back and feel good about the outcome and how you handled yourself throughout the process?

If you answered yes to the above questions, collaborative divorce may be a good fit for you and you should consider meeting with a collaborative divorce attorney. Divorce is never easy, but when you choose the collaborative approach, you can divorce well and transition into a healthier future.

Jennifer Rench is an experienced collaborative divorce lawyer and mediator handling cases in St. Louis, Missouri.  She offers divorce mediation and collaborative divorce to individuals that want to divorce without going to war.

Reach out to Jennifer to discuss your collaborative approach to a more amicable divorce.  Jennifer can be reached by phone at 314-725-4000, or by email at jennifer@jrenchlaw.com. You can also schedule a free divorce consultation with Jennifer Rench at https://STLDivorceandMediation.com.