Tag: kids

How do you survive if the narcissist won custody of your kids and you have to accept it?

Hard truths incoming.

When dealing with a co-parent who is afflicted with a personality disorder, do these things, and do them all at the same time:

1) Examine your own personality flaws first. Acknowledge and work to correct your own personality flaws. You may gain insights into the other parent you couldn’t see before. If you must complain about the other parent’s personality flaws, do not do so without acknowledging and working to correct your own personality flaws. Be gracious (and that means when you don’t want to be).

In short: be humble, meaning open-minded, principled, and focused on solving the problem, not on self pity. Otherwise, you risk overlooking some (perhaps all) of the solutions, if there are any, to the problems you have with the other parent.

3) Adjust and adapt. When dealing with a co-parent who is afflicted with a personality disorder, you’re almost surely wasting time if you try to force or even to persuade the other parent to change. It is not fair that you have to do all the adjusting and adapting, but lamenting that fact is a waste. You need to understand and accept (“agree” is even better than “accept”) the fact that adjusting and adapting may be the only way to reach what peace and happiness there is to be had under the circumstances.

4) Engage in all of your dealings with the other parent with class. Fighting fire with fire burns you up emotionally and spiritually. Our children notice far more than we believe. “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” ― John Wooden

5) Reach out to God, sincerely. Lay your burdens at his feet and ask Him for help and guidance. He will “reach your reaching”.

For you own sake, be this way. It will take time and effort, but it will bring you peace and enable you to make the best of your situation).

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Why do kids talk and text online so freely with strangers?

Why do kids talk and text online so freely with strangers? Don’t they understand how potentially dangerous that is?

Why? Because kids that age aren’t very smart or wise. Don’t you remember how stupid and foolish you were as a pre-teen and teen? I don’t like to remember for myself, but I do. For some of us, it’s a wonder we’re still alive and didn’t do a stretch in juvie or worse for some of the stupid (though innocently committed) acts in which we engaged at that age.  

Kids need parental supervision. No matter “mature” or “intelligent” or “independent” you believe your minor children are, they are capable of exercising incredibly bad judgment and doing incredibly foolish, dangerous, and irresponsible things. Often without meaning to or without believing the risks are as great as they are. Those of us who survived to adulthood without bearing serious and lasting physical or mental scars are those who had good parents. Yes, some kids don’t have what is today the “luxury” of a mom and a dad to guide and shape them, but the ones who thrive are the ones who were blessed with good role models and mentors who took an interest in them and in their well-being and success.  

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

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How does a divorce and separation from one parent affect children’s future relationships? Can this cause trust issues or commitment issues in the kids’ future relationship?  

Can this cause trust issues or commitment issues in the kids’ future relationship? Yes, of course.  

How? When the children have witnessed and experienced the destruction of their parents’ relationship—a relationship that is not only part and parcel of their own relationships with those parents, but a relationship that shapes all other relationships between themselves and other people—it has adverse effects. Those adverse effects can—in the even of a separation and/or divorce—(and usually will) include difficulty with trust and commitment in the children’s future relationships. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

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How do I console a father who has lost custody of his child?

How do I console a father who has lost custody of his child?

“He’s [the father who lost custody] permanently damaged.” That’s what someone else wrote in response to your question. It’s true. Time lost between a parent and child is never found. These kinds of wounds can heal, but rarely will they heal fully or not leave scars.

There is still not just some consolation, but much consolation to be found, however.

First, all of us suffer injustices in life yet the overwhelming majority of us still have far more reasons to be happy than miserable. So does Dad. That’s not a Pollyanna view of life, it’s a fact. And a fact one must not let grief blind Dad to.

If one focuses on the negative to the exclusion of the good and positive, then all one will see is the negative and miss out on most or even all of the good. Parents who are alienated from their children have an obligation to themselves not to dwell on it. Feel the pain, of course. Don’t deny it. It’s inevitable and it’s necessary to let the pain run its proper course before you can start to recover.

But don’t let the pain drown you. Don’t let the pain and the bitterness deprive you of all the other good things life has in store for you. That’s what your alienating ex-spouse is hoping for. At the very least don’t give your alienating ex-spouse the satisfaction. Your kids need to see you can rise above this so that they believe they can rise above adversity too.

Second and more importantly (and this is the truth, even if it’s new to you or you think it’s silly; regardless, you have nothing to lose by exploring whether there really is consolation to be found here), by suffering and dying for you (and for your children), Jesus Christ has the power not only to right all wrongs in the next life, but has the power to comfort you and help you heal in this life now as well.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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What happens after an affair when you have kids?

What happens after an affair when you have kids?

I’ll answer as if this question were asked in the belief that the affair will have a profound effect upon child custody, child support, and/or alimony.

If you’ve had an extramarital affair, it generally won’t do your divorce case any favors, won’t win you any sympathizers.

But will it generally result in you being “punished” by the divorce court? The answer to that question is, in my experience as a divorce lawyer: probably not (unless your affair could be shown to have done your spouse and kids egregious financial, physical, or emotional harm) and/or you were a serial, unrepentant adulterer/adulteress).

Child custody: in the jurisdiction where I practice divorce law (Utah), it has been my experience that extramarital affairs are rarely seen as rendering a parent “unfit” to exercise sole or joint custody of his/her children.

While the court is required to consider “the past conduct and demonstrated moral character of the parent” (Utah Code § 30-3-10(2)(d)) in making its child custody evaluation and award, usually the court will reason that an adulterous parent is not inherently any worse as a parent than one who is not.

If the affair cause the parent to spend excessive time away from the children, caused the parent to neglect the children, or if the children’s knowledge of the affair caused the children serious psychological or emotional harm and/or the children distrust or hate a parent because of the affair, then it’s not really the affair that is the problem itself, but the effects of the extramarital affair.

Child support: I have never seen an extramarital affair cited as a reason for awarding more or less child support had the child support payor not committed adultery.

Alimony: in Utah (where I practice divorce law), adultery can affect the alimony award, but will not automatically have an effect on the alimony award. Here is what the Utah Code contains:

(b) The court may consider the fault of the parties in determining whether to award alimony and the terms of the alimony.

(c) “Fault” means any of the following wrongful conduct during the marriage that substantially contributed to the breakup of the marriage relationship:

(i) engaging in sexual relations with an individual other than the party’s spouse[.]

(See Utah Code § 30-3-5(9)(c))

What does this mean? The Utah Supreme Court construed that section of the Utah Code in the case of Gardner v. Gardner (2019 UT 61, 452 P.3d 1134 (Supreme Court of Utah 2019)):

¶ 26 As with harm in a negligence case, a “great number of events” may have contributed to a divorce. In fact, we have previously recognized “that it is seldom, perhaps never, that there is any wholly guilty or wholly innocent party to a divorce action.” So in almost all divorce cases, it could be argued that each spouse contributed in some way to the breakup of the marriage. But some causes are clearly more substantial, or significant, than others. So even though it may be impossible to state with certainty a sole, or even the first, cause leading to the breakup of the marriage, it will certainly be possible in many cases for a court to determine the significant or important causes of the divorce.

¶ 27 Accordingly, we conclude that “substantially contributed” to the breakup of the marriage is conduct that was a significant or an important cause of the divorce. Under this definition, conduct need not be the sole, or even the most important, cause for it to substantially contribute to a divorce. So when an important or significant cause falls into a category of conduct specifically identified in section 30-3-5(8), courts are authorized to consider it in an alimony determination, even if the at-fault party can point to other potential causes of the divorce.


¶ 53 Section 30-3-5(8)(a) requires district courts to consider the financial situations of both spouses as part of its alimony determination. Additionally, section 30-3-5(8)(e) urges district courts to “look to the standard of living, existing at the time of separation, in determining alimony in accordance with Subsection (8)(a),” and section 30-3-5(8)(f) provides that the “court may … attempt to equalize the parties’ respective standards of living.” Together these provisions codify the default rules that an alimony award should be crafted to “provide support for the [receiving spouse] as nearly as possible at the standard of living [he or] she enjoyed during marriage,” and, “to the extent possible,” to “equalize the parties’ respective standards of living.”

¶ 54 As we have explained, these default rules tend to further the court’s aim of achieving “a fair, just, and equitable result between the parties” because they typically put the parties in the best possible position to “reconstruct their [separate] lives on a happy and useful basis.” So the economic factors, and the general aim of placing the parties in the same position they enjoyed during the marriage, stand as an important starting point in any alimony determination.

¶ 55 But section 30-3-5(8) also provides courts the flexibility and discretion to depart from these default rules in certain situations where fairness demands. For example, in addition to the economic factors listed in section 30-3-5(8)(a), section 30-3-5(8)(b) also authorizes courts to consider “the fault of the parties in determining whether to award alimony and the terms of the alimony.” So the statute expressly provides district courts with the discretion to consider fault in determining whether to award alimony, as well as in determining the terms—the amount and length—of the alimony award.

¶ 56 Section 30–3–5 also provides guidance for how a court may adjust the amount and length of an alimony award in the event the court determines that one spouse’s fault necessitates a departure from the default economic alimony factors. For example, although section 30-3-5(8)(e) urges district courts as “a general rule,” to “look to the standard of living, existing at the time of separation,” it also instructs courts to “consider all relevant facts and equitable principles,” and grants courts “discretion” to “base alimony on the standard of living that existed at the time of trial.” When section 30-3-5(8)(e) is read together with section 30-3-5(8)(b)’s fault provision, it is clear that where a court determines that one spouse’s fault would make it inequitable to maintain both parties at the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, the court has the discretion to lower the award to an amount sufficient to sustain the at-fault spouse at a reasonable standard of living post-marriage, rather than the standard of living the couple enjoyed during the marriage.

¶ 57 Similarly, section 30-3-5(8)(f) authorizes courts to depart from default alimony awards where fault contributed to the break-up of the marriage. It instructs courts to “attempt to equalize the parties’ respective standards of living.” But it also notes that courts should do so only “under appropriate circumstances.” So once again, when this provision is read together with section 30-3-5(8)(b)’s fault provision, it is clear that courts need not attempt to equalize the parties’ respective standards of living where one spouse’s fault would make equalization inappropriate.

¶ 58 Therefore, under the plain language of section 30-3-5(8), courts have discretion to depart from the default economic rules where one party’s fault makes it appropriate to do so. Because the district court determined that Ms. Gardner’s conduct qualified as fault under the statute, the court was authorized to depart from the default alimony rules by reducing Ms. Gardner’s alimony award by some amount.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Should We Keep Our Divorce Struggles a Secret from the Kids?

Should We Keep Our Divorce Struggles a Secret from the Kids?

If a couple conceals their arguments from their children and divorce ‘amicably,’ does that send a message to the children that bad things can happen without any particular reason, even when everything seemed fine?

Yes, to an extent, but only to a certain extent. Keeping the trouble all hidden and bottled up inside until the powder keg blows is a recipe for disaster. divorce turns a child’s world upside down in the best of circumstances. The last thing a child needs is to be ambushed.

But do give these parents credit where credit is due. If they’re trying to shield their young, vulnerable children from serious marital discord, that’s admirable. Now it’s not good to be overprotective of children or mislead or deceive them, but sheltering children from more adversity than they may be prepared to handle? That makes all the sense in the world. how much or how little to disclose to the children is as much art as it is science. Each family and what the children can handle is different. parents are doing the best they can when they try to protect their children from their marital problems. The decent and reasonable thing to do is cut them some slack when they are trying to be decent and reasonable themselves.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Should we award custody to the parent who is a lower risk for COVID-19?

Should we award custody to the parent who is a lower risk for COVID-19?

Is it reasonable to give custody to the parent who is a lower health risk to the child during the Chinese coronavirus pandemic?

It is reasonable only if the “lower risk” is low enough to necessitate: 1) infringing the right of the children to the care and companionship of their other parent and 2) infringing the right of the parent to exercise his/her parental rights.

If one of you is a frontline emergency room doctor or nurse whose sole job right now is admitting people who are known to be infected with the Coronavirus to the hospital for treatment, while the other is a stay at home parent or a parent who works from home and thus has minimal contact with others, then in that situation it would make sense to award temporary custody of the children to the stay at home parent until the COVID-19 crisis passes.

But consider this: Should health care worker parents be cut off from kids during COVID-19? If a parent works in a hospital then he or she is going to be exposed to diseases of all kinds. It’s not as though once COVID-19 runs its course that this parent is never going to be exposed to other contagious, possibly even deadly, diseases. We don’t consider a parent who is a doctor or nurse inherently “unfit” as a parent just because he or she has a dangerous or potentially dangerous job. Can you imagine what would happen if the law provided that parents with dangerous jobs can’t exercise custody or parent-time of their kids?

It would also make sense for the parent who has been temporarily deprived of physical contact with the kids to be provided with ample and meaningful opportunities for the parent and children to interact by telephone and internet video conference. And it’s only fair that the deprived parent receive compensatory or make-up time with the kids once the COVID-19 crisis passes.

Now let’s examine a different job scenario. If one of you is a gas meter reader and the other is a stay at home parent or a parent who works from home, then neither one of you is at high risk of contracting the Coronavirus. Yes, the meter reader will come in contact with a few more people in the course of his/her work day, but not in close contact and not in a way that is likely to risk contracting the virus. So, while the meter reader’s risk is slightly higher than stay-at-home’s risk, both parents are low risk and there is no reason for the kids to be withheld from one parent because of a negligible, slightly higher risk.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Can parent whose parental rights were terminated live with the other parent and the kids?

If parental rights are terminated for the mother but not the father and they are still married with the children also living at home can the mother remain in the house with the children?

Sure, unless the court orders the mother to be separated from and to have no contact with the kids or orders the mother restrained and enjoined from living/lodging in the same place as where the kids reside/lodge.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277


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How can we change divorce court to make it easier on the children?

  • Institute a “loser pays the prevailing party’s attorney’s fees” rule.
  • make divorce cases more litigant focused and tailored to meeting their needs and the needs of their family, instead of tailoring the cases for the convenience of the courts and lawyers;
  • focus making divorce cases take less time to work their way through the court system. This reduces anxiety and emotional distress, reduces costs, promotes just and equitable outcomes, and helps prevent other abuses of the legal system caused by delays;
  • require judges to make commendably detailed written findings of fact and conclusions of law to support their rulings on every issue in a divorce case;
    • rather than make the standard a negative one (e., the ruling stands unless it can be shown to be an abuse of discretion) require that they show that their rulings are as equitable as they could reasonably make them for the parties and their children under the circumstances;
  • subject to rigorous, forensic psychological examination and evaluation every litigant in a divorce case in which child custody is an issue and where accusations of any kind of physical, emotional/psychological, sexual, financial, or any other kind of abuse of spouse or children are made.
    • Find out whether the allegations are true
    • Find out if the accusations are sincere or motivated by malevolence and/or intent to defraud the court
    • Why? Because:
      • if you are falsely accused of abuse, it will be the seriousness of the allegations, as opposed to the substance of the evidence, that will determine how your judge rules.
      • far, far too often courts, when confronted with allegations of abuse, take the easy way out and err on the side of caution. What I mean is that the courts will analyze the situation like this: “I don’t want to determine that there is insufficient evidence to support these abuse allegations only to have a child or ex-spouse wind up in the hospital or dead later. If that happens, then it looks like I failed to protect the ex-spouse and/or child, which will look like I failed to do my job competently. I may end up the subject of news reports that humiliate and embarrass me and lays my job as a judge in jeopardy. But if I take a “better safe than sorry” approach, then while I will be violating my oath of office by infringing on the parental rights of a parent who I am not convinced is an abuser (and thus denying the children that parent’s loving and beneficial impact on their lives), that would be nigh onto impossible to prove (and stories like this rarely makes the news anyway), and I so I all but completely avoid the risk of being faulted for failing to protect. That settles it. I will err on the side of caution.” That’s a gross miscarriage of justice, but it’s far too often what judges do in these circumstances.
    • All but mercilessly punish litigants and witnesses who lie to the court. The purpose of our justice system is to get to the truth and then apply the law based upon the facts as best we can know them. “Perjury is considered a serious offense, as it can be used to usurp the power of the courts, resulting in miscarriages of justice.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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