Saturday, December 05, 2015

How Much Do You Have to Cooperate With Visitation?

Recently, I was asked how much a mother has to cooperate in getting her children to go to visit with their dad.  She says that even though her divorce decree gives the father the right to see the children, they do not want to go with him for visitations and she doesn't want to push them to go.

Each case is different based on the facts of the case.  The age of the children, and the recent events that affect their relationship with the father would change the specific answer I would give.  But generally, I would say that even though the mother's legal obligation may be limited, her moral and ethical obligation to the kids means she should do more than the minimum demanded by law.  The mother's very question is subject to scrutiny and even a little suspicion.  The natural state is that children love their father and want to be with him.  If this is not the case, then something is very wrong and social science has shown that this this broken relationship with the father will have long term negative consequences for the children. The fact that the mother seems unconcerned that the children don't want to see their father- and is more focused on her own legal obligations suggests that she may be engaging in some passive parental alienation.

As far as her legal obligations goes, the Texas Penal Code sets out the offence of Interference with child custody:
      (a)     A person commits an offense if the person takes or retains a child younger than 18 years when the person: (1) knows that the person’s taking or retention violates the express terms of a judgment or order of a court disposing of the child’s custody; or (2) has not been awarded custody of the child by a court of competent jurisdiction, knows that a suit for divorce or a civil suit or application for habeas corpus to dispose of the child’s custody has been filed, and takes the child out to the geographic area of the counties composing the judicial district if the court is a district court of the county if the court is a statutory county court, without the permission of the court and with the intend to deprive the court of authority over the child.  (b) A noncustodial parent commits an offense if, with the intent to interfere with the lawful custody of a child younger than 18 years, the noncustodial parent knowingly entices or persuades the children to leave the custody of the custodial parent, guardian, or person standing in the stead of the custodial parent or guardian of the child. (c) It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(2) that the actor returned the child to the geographic area of the counties composing the judicial district if the court is a district court of if the court is statutory county court, within three days after the date of the commission of the offense. (d) An offense under this section is a state jail felony.
[Tex. Penal Code 25.03]

There if very little case law on this subject but one court attempted to set out some guidelines:  In Ex parte Morgan, 886 S.W. 2d (Tex. App—Amarillo 1994, no writ), this court ruled that a parent could not be held in contempt where she passively failed to insist that her children visit their father, but not seek to impede the visitation or encourage the children to resist it.  The court stated that if “a parent has encourage minor children to resist court ordered visitation with the other parent, the line has been crossed between passivity, which is punishable by contempt, and overt conduct, which would be punishable. Again, the well-being of the children is served by both parents’ encouragement to the children to love and respect the other parent.”

Within the spectrum of visitation disputes, there may be instances in which: (1) a parent actively discourage or impedes visitation; (2) a parent passively fails to insist that a child comply with visitation; or (3) a parent is legitimately unable to compel a child to comply with visitation.  The courts have held that the defense of involuntary inability to comply applies only to the third alternative, and not to the first two.  Ex parte Rosser, 889 S.W. 2d 382, 386 (Tex. App.-Houston[14th Dist.], 1995, no writ). 

While I see nothing in the law that says the mother is required to drag a child to his father’s car and put him in the front seat, the mother should do everything to encourage the visitation within reason as this is best for the child and make the child available at your front door at the designated time.  The mother has an obligation to put her own feelings aside and do truly EVERYTHING as a parent she can to foster a positive relationship and get the children to go with the dad.  The Court in the Ex Parte Morgan case clearly stated this obligation: "It is imperative that both parents recognize that their personal feelings must be submerged in cary8ing out their responsibility to obey the law and, by doing so, demonstrate to their children that they should do so as well." ( 831).

If you need more information on these issues, please visit our website at

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Getting Text Messages Into Evidence

We text every day- many times without thinking about the fact that these hasty words are perfectly preserved and readily available to be used against you in your divorce or family law case.  

Galveston family lawyers and other practitioners are eating these bits of evidence up like candy in domestic cases.  But there are still some issues about getting evidence of a text before the court that the attorney must consider.  Like all pieces of evidence, attorneys must show that the evidence is an actual document (or an "authentic" true copy) that wasn't fabricated.  Attorneys must also show that the text should be allowed despite the general rule that hearsay (an out of court statement offered as the truth) is not allowed because it is so unreliable.

In the case of Butler v. State, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals set out the following predicate:

Q. What is [Appellant’s] phone number?
A. 361-215-3899.
Q. Does that number appear on all the pages of the exhibit?
A. Yes.
Q. How do you know that that is [Appellant’s] telephone number?
A. Because that’s where he called me from and that’s what’s on the
same exhibit in front of me.
Q. You’ve read the text messages in the exhibit?
A. Yes.
Q. Who sen[t] you those text messages?
A. He did.
Q. How do you know that it was him?
A. Because he was the one texting me back and forth and he had
even called in between the conversations talking mess.

The Court of Criminal Appeals said that it was not enough for a lawyer to prove that a text was sent to a certain person's phone.  The lawyer must also prove that it was received by the certain person (NOT just the person's phone- because phones can be stolen).  So an attorney must also show that based on the response to the text or other context clues that the phone receiving the information was under the control of the other party.  

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Americans Believe That Clerks Must Issue License

Linda Massey opposes gay marriage.  But she was incensed last bummer to see that Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk, was refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

"If the government says you have to give out these marriage licenses, and you get paid to do it, you do it/" says the 64-year-old retiree from Lewiston, Michigan. "That woman", she said of Davis, "should be out of a job."

Americans like Massey are at the heart of a shift in public opinion, an AP-GfK poll has found.  For the first time, most Americans expect government officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, even over religious objections.

It's partly a matter of expecting public servants to do their jobs.  But more broadly, the issue touches on a familiar dispute over which constitutional value trumps which:  religious freedom, or equality under the law?

The question in recent months has entangled leaders with political sway, among them Pope Francis and the 2016 presidential contenders.  But its not a new conflict for a nation that has long wrestled with the separation of church and state.

Where Davis's answer was the First Amendment's protection of religious freedom- and she severed jail time to back it up- a majority of respondents don't buy the argument when it comes to public officials issuing marriage licenses.  That's a shift since an AP=Gfk survey in July, when Americans were about evenly split.  Then, 49 percent said officials with religious objections should be exempt from issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples and 47 percent said they should be required to issue them.

Source:  U.S. News & World Report

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Child Preference for Managing Conservatorship

There seems to be a lot of misconceptions about what the Texas Family Code says about allowing a child to express their preference about who will be the managing conservator.

In Texas, a child over the age of 12 may file with the court in writing the name of the person whom they have preference to determine the primary residence and make other significant decisions.

Although a court may give this preference serious consideration, the court is not bound by it.

Additionally, in nonjury cases, the court is empowered to interview a child of any age in the judges chambers and without parents or their attorneys being present. (TFC 153.009).

If a child is over 12 and one of the parties request it, a record of the interview shall be made and included in the record of the case.  If the child is under 12, the court can determine if the interview will happen.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

A Better Marriage is Better for Your Health

From TIME: 
Studies have pretty consistently shown that being married and staying married is better for your health. The married population lives longer and gets less sick. But a new study out of Utah suggests that it’s only really happily married people who get the full benefit.
People often think of marriages as happy or unhappy, but they are rarely so easy to classify. Couples in what the researchers called “ambivalent marriages,” unions that are not bad enough to leave but still have distinctly negative attributes (and no, this is not all marriages—just about 75% of them, says the study), do not get many of the advantages of those whose marriages are very fulfilling, the researchers found.
The study, conducted by Brigham Young University psychology professor Wendy Birmingham, and published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, asked 94 couples about their spouse’s behavior and what the study romantically called their “interpersonal-functioning.” A quarter of the couples were genuinely happy and had no complaints. But three quarters of the marriages fell into the ambivalent category: mostly their spouses were great, but there was some areas in which they were unsupportive or overly negative.
“There was a high level of positivity in the marriage, but there was also negativity,” says Birmingham, who cites the example of a wife who’s a great partner but not happy with her man’s career, or a husband who’s a wonderful dad and lover but very critical. “These are people who are committed to the marriage. There’s just a lot of negativity, which is negating the positive physiological benefits.”
Read more here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

U.S. Navy Considering Extended Paternity Leave

From Medina County Gazette:
The Navy’s top officer said Tuesday the service is considering extending paternity leave for new fathers.
The Navy currently awards married fathers up to 10 days of paid leave upon the birth of a child. In July, the Navy tripled paid maternity leave for female sailors and Marines to 18 weeks.
A female sailor asked Navy Adm. John Richardson during a meeting with hundreds of service members at a Pearl Harbor pier whether the Navy might increase paternity leave as well.
Richardson said it was something officials in Washington were now discussing.
Richardson and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Mike Stevens called about 10 sailors who became new fathers within the past year to the front of the pier and asked them how much paternity leave the Navy should offer.
The group quickly discussed the issue, and then replied their consensus was that the Navy should give 30 days of paternity leave.
Richardson said he’ll take that opinion back to Washington.
Read more here.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Abortion Group Asks Top House Republican to Investigate New Videos Online

From Fox News:
A trade group for abortion providers is asking a top House Republican to investigate after secretly recorded videos were posted online by a conservative blogger who wrote that he got the footage from a congressional source.
The National Abortion Federation said Friday that the videos were recorded at recent meetings by the Center for Medical Progress, a small group of anti-abortion activists. The center's furtive recordings of Planned Parenthood officials discussing their retrieval of fetal tissue have sparked an uproar by conservatives and unsuccessful efforts by congressional Republicans to cut Planned Parenthood's federal funds.
The federation obtained a court order in San Francisco against public release of the footage. But in recent days, videos have been posted online at, a conservative website.
That website's founder, Charles C. Johnson, wrote on his site that he has obtained "all of the Planned Parenthood tapes" and got the recordings "from a source on Capitol Hill."
Read more here.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Top Ten Ways To Be A Great Example To Your Children

Whether you are a parent contemplating a divorce, a parent involved in an ongoing custody dispute, or a parent struggling to be cope after a divorce, one thing remains unchanged- you are the parent of a child who, now more than ever, needs you to be a source of strength and stability.  
Parents are role models to their children at all times- even when you think your kids aren't looking (maybe even ESPECIALLY when you think they aren't looking!)  And if you involved in a Texas custody dispute, then there are many OTHERS who are also evaluating your ability to be a role model to your child or children.  Those who are carefully watching you can including your ex-spouse, his or her lawyer, attorney ad-litems, child protective services, grandparents, grandparents attorneys, custody evaluators, parent coordinators, mediators..and of course (and ultimately) the judge in your case.
The best way to appear to be the best parent you can to ACTUALLY be the best parent you can be.  You need to be an excellent example to your children because they learn by example.  Aside from your legal case, you owe this to you children.

Here then are the top ten ways to be a great example to your children.

1. Live a Healthy Lifestyle

How can you say your are keeping your children healthy when your cupboards are filled with junk food and cookies, you watch T.V. for hours on end?  By eating properly and getting regular exercise, it not only sets and example for our children but gives you the energy to play with them and be involved with their busy schedule.  If you live a sedentary lifestyle, chances are your children will too.  Childhood obesity has become an epidemic in American society which can lead to depression and disease. Be a healthy example for your kids by living a healthy lifestyle.

2. Improve Yourself Constantly

There is always something new in life and you need to be an example to your children to be a lifelong learner.  You should always be looking to improve your "game" because your children will adopt that attitude too.  Learn a new skill.  Try a new activity.  Explore whatever is exotic. Not only will you be a good example of a well lived life for your children, your own life will improve and will make you a happier parent.

3. Give Back To The Community

By going out and helping in the community, you will give your child a deeper sense of responsibility for, and attachment to a home and place.  This is especially important if your are experiencing a time of upheaval in your family.  One of children's greatest fears during divorce is that they will loose their place in the world.  By making it a regular habit to get out in your community with your family and volunteer your time and talents your child will know they belong. 

4. Open Up To Your Kids

You should NEVER share the details of your divorce with your children, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't let your children know who you really are.  Children are looking to you give them the model of how to behave in society.  And they will learn not only when you show them how you have successfully navigated life, but they also learn if you open up and show them how you overcame those times when you fell short of societies expectations.  Do not hide who you are as a person to your children. Being strong means showing vulnerability.  I am not saying you should talk about your divorce in detail or use your children as your own emotional crutch.  But you can share your past experiences when it is appropriate: mistakes and victories. Take your children to work with you and let them see your daily life. Let them see how you interact with other adults and how you carry yourself. 

5. Maintain Self-Control

If you are involved in a legal battle, you will be stressed as never before.  Releasing your emotions, whatever they may be, is healthy and will reduce stress. However NEVER do that in front of your children.  If you allow yourself to loose your cool in front of your kids, it will damage them psychologically, will damage your relationship with them, and may very well damage your law suit.  Every healthy adult should have enough self-control to not regularly blow up in front of their children.  If you can't- then you need to seek out help such as a counselor or therapist. 

6. Right Relationships

We have many important relationships and not all of them are going to be pleasant. Maybe there are issues with your parents, stepparents, brothers, sisters, or ex-wife. Forgive and give grace. Seek to be right in your relationships over being right. Make it as hard as possible for anyone to say anything bad about you. Be an initiator and take always personal responsibility first.

7. Respect and Listening

If you want to teach your kids how to be confident, it starts with showing them respect for who they are and listening to their own unique thoughts. This is a tough aspect of leadership, but the best leaders listen carefully and talk far less. Open your mind and your ears to what your children are telling you. They will, in turn, learn to do the same later in life.

8. Positive Attitude

There is plenty of negativity to be found in society today. Do not add to the daily chorus your child experiences. Instead, display a positive and reassuring attitude and optimism. They need to be able to look at you and know that you are a believer and not a cynic.

9. Goal Setting
Setting goals is important to give us a benchmark of where we are going and the progress we are making. Implementing and achieving those goals are of equal importance. When our kids see us moving along exactly according to plan, it shows them the importance of organization and self-discipline in their daily life. Help them come up with their own set of goals and praise them when the goals are met.

10. Walk the Talk
The single most important aspect of being your children’s role model is to always say what you mean and mean what you say. Walk the talk. Back up your words with visible and concrete action and be a man of integrity and value. Actions speak volumes. “Well done is better than well said.” – Benjamin Franklin

Monday, May 04, 2015

Three Common Factors To Common Law Marriage

The following is a reprint of an earlier blog post.

Texas is one of the dwindling number of states that continue to recognize the informal or "common law" marriage. Basically it works this way: if you act like you are married, the state could consider you married even if you never got a license to marry or had a marriage ceremony.

The issue of common law marriage usually comes up when the practitioner is faced with a petition for divorce and there are property issues to be decided. If there are no property issues to divide, there has been no formal marriage, and neither party want to be married, it is usually just best to follow the KISS principal and "fagetaboutit".

In those cases where one side is trying to assert a community property interest in a putative "martial estate", the first issue you must deal with is: "was there a marriage?"

Under TFC 2.401(a)(1), you can have a court declare that a marriage exists if you have a written declaration of marriage. I can't imagine a real life scenario where this would happen, but if you can think of one, then I'd love to hear about it. I mean, after all, wouldn't you just get a marriage license?

The much more "common way" for a "common law" marriage is covered under TFC 2.401(a)(2). In it the following elements must be met for an informal marriage to exist:
  1. The parties agreed to be married;
  2. they lived together as husband and wife;
  3. they represented to others that they were married.
Remember that once established, the "common law" marriage is just a binding and valid as the formal, ceremonial kind.

3 Important Points About Your First Meeting With A Divorce Lawyer

Many people who are interested in seeing a divorce attorney have never been to an attorney before and aren't sure what to expect.  So here are three important points about your first meeting with a divorce lawyer.

1.  This is a relationship test.  

The purpose of the first interview in a divorce case is to determine whether the attorney and the client can work together.  The relationship between an attorney and his client can be a very sensitive one due to the nature of the personal information that has to be shared.  If an attorney and client wish to work effectively together, there must be a good natural feel to the communication flow.  You may be required to reveal some very embarrassing information to this person.  You should be sure this is a person you feel comfortable with.  You have to go with your gut on this one.  It is also the attorney's interview as well.  If the attorney thinks that your values conflict with his, he will decline to represent you.  I have turned down potential clients when I felt the their motives were destructive to themselves or their children.  I think most ethical attorneys would do the same.

2.  This may not be the right time.

Many times clients come in for an interview just to get general information.  It is not unusual for a client who has come into my office for information and I will not see them again for a long time- sometimes years.  Maybe they just want information to help them make a decision about their marriage.  Maybe they just want to be able to tell their spouse that they have been to a lawyer in order to get their spouse's attention.  On occasion I am hired to file a suit, but then the client doesn't really want to follow through to the final decree.   I try to spot these clients ahead of time and advise them to seek counseling as a first measure.

3.  If you are ready- so should be your attorney.

There are some clients who come to my office who are ready to file and follow through right away.  This may be because they are being forced to respond to a divorce suit filed first by their spouse, or because they have come to realize that the pain of remaining in the relationship is worse than the pain of divorce.  Either way, they attorney should be ready to draft responsive pleadings right away and handle any deadlines that exist.  If this is your case, you should bring any paperwork you have received from the court or a process server and be prepared for your lawyer to begin the longer process of gathering information and determining your goals and the best way to handle the case.

The initial attorney interview may be a new experience for some people, but it should not be viewed as an intimidating thing.  It is usually the first small step to a better life.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Divorce Stats: Not As High As Most People Think

Most people think the divorce rate is 50% or higher but the divorce has actually been dropping for some time now.  Texas has followed suit with the nation by see a steady decline in divorces since the 1980s and 1990s.

In metro Houston, 42.1% of the population over 15 is married.  This is lower than the Texas and the national average of 50%.  The second most common marital status is single and never married at approximately 39%.

This is good news for all the romantics and optimists out there.  As an institution marriage brings many wonderful benefits to couples who choose to enter into it.  At my firm, we are NOT advocates of divorce.  We try to encourage our clients to work things out with their spouse if possible, but we are there to make sure the divorce process is fair if it is not possible.    

Sunday, April 12, 2015

3 Excellent Reasons To Do Your Own Divorce (from a Divorce Attorney)

When a divorce is on the horizon, many people will run out and retain an attorney and have that professional do all of the details on the case from the beginning to the end. But this may not be necessary in your case.  Instead of retaining an attorney, in many cases it may be best to simply consult with an attorney and do the divorce on your own.  If your situation warrants it, you CAN do your own divorce and this article will give you three excellent reasons why you should.

There is no doubt that divorce is a terrible thing to go through.  For the thousands who experience it yearly, it is rarely without some pain.  Aside from the emotional turmoil, the legal aspects are what create the most stress.  Getting the right attorney is essential to reducing your stress- but too many folks think that the traditional reaction of immediately hiring an attorney on retainer is always necessary.  I say "MAYBE NOT". If you have the right set of circumstances, it is entirely possible to get a divorce without RETAINING an attorney.- but instead taking charge of your own case by doing your own divorce.  So here are three excellent reasons to do your own divorce:

#1:  Taking Control of Your Divorce Case Can Be Very Empowering.

By the time many people are ready to get a divorce, they have been through the emotional wringer.  Their self-esteem has been battered and their sense of control over their lives has been bruised.  If they then go out and retain an attorney and direct him to take care of everything, there is a good chance that no matter how excellent a job the attorney does, the client will feel that their lives have been manipulated- yet again.  Taking direct charge of the process of your divorce can be a great way to get back the control you feel you have lost in dealing with a failed marriage.  If you feel you can think things through and make careful decisions about your divorce, you may find that doing so helps you get back your mojo.

#2:  Involving An Attorney Can Be Like Pouring Gas On An Open Flame.

There are some attorneys who market themselves as "bulldog" attorneys.  They prey on the fears of their clients by conducting a very aggressive and expensive legal campaign which in the end gains the client nothing more than they would have gotten through settlement and sometimes even gets them less.  Aside from that kind of obvious legal combustible, there are a couple of other reasons that getting a lawyer can blow things up.  

First, if you hire an attorney, that will encourage your spouse to "lawyer up" too.  And even if you got a conscientious lawyer who is trying to settle the case on best terms for you, that doesn't mean your spouse's attorney won't be one of those "bulldog" types.  If so, then your attorney will have to respond to all the nasty legal maneuvers that will do nothing but increase the cost of the divorce.  You can best avoid this by not getting an attorney at all and trying to do this without "lawyering up".

Second, even if you both have ethical attorneys who are trying to keep the tension and the costs to a minimum, an attorney's involvement in a case will still complicate it far more than if you did it on your own.  The reason is that attorneys are always worried about their own liability in a case.  They are in constant fear that at the end of case, a client will sue them for being an ineffective attorney- for not doing all that could have been done to win the case.  So if you want to shortcut or speed up some part of a case because you think it doesn't apply to your situation, then the lawyer will either push back or outright refuse to skip certain parts.  Take discovery and valuation of property for example.  This is the part of a divorce where attorneys send out formal demands for the value of all your property.  Suppose you KNOW your spouse will not try to take your grandmother's tea set in the divorce.  The attorney will still want to get an evaluation of it JUST IN CASE the issue goes to trial.  You may be convinced it will not be an issue, but your lawyer is just doing his job if he prepares for the worst and demands an accounting of it.  This will cost you money and complicates the case.  If you are in control of your own divorce, then you can take this risk of not valuing all the property if you choose to.

#3.  Doing Your Own Divorce Is Cheaper.  Duh.

Lawyers are not cheap.  Some are more expensive for good reason- they have expertise in certain aspects of divorce that took many years to come by.  Some kinds of divorces need that expertise.  But most cases don't require it and you are wasting your resources by buying all that.  

Some lawyers are more expensive because they have high overhead- they like to surround themselves in large lavish offices and have all manner of assistants and staff that are not necessary in today's automated world.  They jack up their bills to pay for all that and the free gourmet coffee you are offered at your first meeting with your lawyer will wind up costing you thousands extra at your last meeting with him. 

Finally there are attorneys who demand outrageous rates and will nickle and dime you on every minor transaction because they are - well greedy.  These type prey on the fact that most people aren't knowledgeable about the services an attorney offers and they don't shop around the way they would if it was any other kind of service.  Many people shopping for an attorney will go with the first ad they see in the yellow pages or in the first listing on the internet.  Believe me, if you want a good value in your legal services, go to the second page of listings in Google.

The bottom line is that you don't have to retain an attorney.  If your case is simple and you have basic agreements with your spouse and you are able and willing to stay in charge of your divorce and act as your own attorney (pro se) you can do much of the work yourself. 

HOWEVER, even the simplest of divorces involve complex paperwork and court procedures that are different from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  People may not need a full service law firm for most of their divorce, but most people attempting to do their own divorce would be foolish not to at least have the consultation of a licensed attorney to give them advice when things get complicated.  Books and automated forms on the internet are usually NOT adequate to the task of getting all the paperwork done right the first.  If you rely on those you will probably do it wrong and wind up wasting hundreds of dollars and many hours or your time.

If you attempt to do your own divorce, you should seek the advice of an experienced divorce attorney who is willing to provide "unbundled" services.  These attorneys will do those parts of your case that are too complicated and offer consultation on those parts you can do on your own.  This is an innovative way of offering services that just might be the best for your situation.

If you have any questions about unbundled divorces, you can check out my firm's website at for more information. 



Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Top 7 Questions To Ask When Taking Care of Kids During a Divorce

If you are divorcing or are recently divorced, it is vital that you keep your children's best interest in mind.  It is often easy to loose your bearings as you are caught in a whirlwind of legal activity and emotional distress which all divorces bring.  This turmoil can make it hard to determine if you are doing all you can do to for your child.  So here are the top seven questions you should ask yourself to make sure you are still being the best parent you can be during a divorce.

1.  Are you being there for your child?  You will be drained and you will want to withdraw into yourself during a divorce, but your children need to know that you are still there for them and you will continue to provide emotional support during this time.  Divorce is stressful on everyone and your child needs to know that you are there to answer their questions and help them process their painful feelings.  You do not need to be instantly available 24/7, and everyone needs some mental downtime, but you must make it a point to generally be there when your children need some answers, or just some hugs.

2.  Are you giving your kids needed encouragement and approval?  Kids of all ages seek out the encouragement and approval of their parents.  It is vital to their self esteem to know that you think of them often and are proud of them.  Particularly at a time when they are submerged in self doubt over the divorce, you have to show them in both expressed and subtle ways that you think they are great.  Be generous with your praise.  Carry their pictures in your wallet and their drawings on your desk.  Constantly stoke their self-esteem by praising them.  Now more than ever, they need to be assured that they are worthy of being loved.

3.  Are you treating your kids like people?  Your kids are unique individuals with their own personalities, and perspectives.  You need to be sensitive to their experience of the divorce and how they can be different from yours.  

4.  Are you trying to have a positive relationship with the other parent?  Even though you feel you would be better off having less contact with your ex, or soon to be ex, spouse, this may not be what is best for your kids.  Research has shown that children make the best recovery from divorce when both parents are actively involved in the children's life and the interaction is conflict free.

5.   Are you modeling to your kids how to handle stress?   Divorce is an extremely stressful time.  If you demonstrate your ability to handle the stress of divorce without resorting to becoming violent, verbally abuse, or using drugs or alcohol, you kids will know that it is ok if you occasionally express anger and frustration.  Kids need to see you handle stress without losing control.  They then won't be fearful when you get angry.   

6.  Are you maintaining family and community ties?  Chances are you kids are experiencing the loss of a full-time parent.  They should be allowed to find the comfort of familiar surroundings and support such as scout leaders, church leaders, friends and neighbors.  You may feel like you want to get away and start a new life from your old, but your children need the familiar ties of their community especially at this time.

7.  Are you making every effort to peacefully resolve issues with your ex, or soon to be ex, spouse?  Your kids will be less fearful and stressed if they see you and the other parent working cooperatively.  If they observe examples of flexibility, consideration and cooperation, in resolving parenting issues, they will be less fearful that the aftermath of the divorce will be a never-ending battle of wills- with them in the middle.

Divorce is one of the most painfully stressful times in anyone's lives - and even the most well meaning of parents can fall into a spiral of emotion where they forget to keep their children's best interest at the front of their attention.  When you find yourself in an emotional tailspin from divorce, ask yourself these seven questions to keep your perspective - and your focus on being the best parent you can to your children.