Discussions, memes, news reports and social media are inundated with information about Covid-19. What is not being covered what are divorced parents and single parents with custody orders are doing in regard to parenting time amidst the restrictions that we are seeing. Here are some things that you can do to maintain normalcy during this time of health concerns and crisis.

Follow your parenting time orders.

These are the orders that you agreed to or the court ordered prior to the Covid-19 crisis. What is written in the order is what the courts will enforce. Some individuals are questioning the ability of the court to enforce the orders when courts are limiting the hearings that they are handling right now. Oakland County Circuit Court has issued an emergency order that the court handling essential matters, which includes divorce, custody and parenting time matters alleging an immediate threat of harm to the children. In addition, all motion hearings are adjourned through March 31st. However, the court may hear an emergency motions by telephone.

If the other parent is denying you parenting time now, find out the reasons for the denial. Is your child sick and needs to be quarantined until the illness is confirmed by medical personnel or your child recovers? Does your child have a medical issue that makes them immunocompromised and the other parent is concerned about the child being outside?

Holiday parenting time, particularly Spring Break.

This has been a big topic recently in attorney forums and message boards. Clients across the state are wondering what to do about Spring Break and the school closure. First, have a conversation with the other parent. Ask what he or she thinks should happen. Share your thoughts with them. This is good starting point. Are you both in agreement to follow the school calendar posted last fall and follow the designated days for Spring Break on that calendar? If so, follow the parenting time order that you currently have.

Can we reach an agreement now?

Yes, you are always capable of modifying the parenting time agreement for the best interests of your children. If both parents agree that multiple exchanges are not good for the children and have worked out a compromise that maintains contact between both parents and the children during this time with minimal exchanges with a return normal parenting time after the crisis passes with some make-up parenting time, then reducing that agreement in writing as a Stipulated Order to be signed by the Judge and filed with the court is the best way to document the agreement and prevent conflict later.

Solutions available now

The key to managing and following the parenting time orders is to communicate with each other about what is best for the children. If you are having difficulties communicating with the other parent, contact an attorney today to assist you. Attorneys across the state are offering alternatives means of communicating with their offices outside of actually coming into a physical office. Ask what the attorney’s firm has available for you to have an initial consult with the attorney. Here are Melissa Pearce & Associates, we are rolling out several new services and options to help our clients in handling parenting time disputes quickly and with minimal court involvement. We are creating a page that places all our Covid-19 information in one space for our clients.

If you need help resolving any parenting time issue during this crisis call us at (248) 956-6933.

Occasionally, I have seen judgments that contain language for parenting time as being “reasonable and liberal upon agreement with the parties.” While the goal of this type of parenting is promotion cooperation in setting up a flexible parenting time schedule, it should only be agreed to under thoughtful consideration of several factors.

The Four Factors of Flexible Parenting Time

First, reasonable and liberal parenting time can allow for flexibility in scheduling parenting time for both parties, especially when one parent has a changing work schedule that will not work with specific parenting time. This type of flexibility can allow the children to be with one parent who is not working in lieu of attending childcare. But in order for this flexibility to work both parties should commit to adopting a flexible schedule and deciding that denial of parenting time will be limited to issues of child safety, stability, or health. The issue with having parenting time contingent upon the agreement of the parties is that the potential exists for one party to control the parenting time of the other by arbitrarily deciding to deny requests for parenting time. Such a parenting time arrangement can increase conflict between the parties, particularly when one party is consistently denying requests for parenting time.

Second, reasonable and liberal parenting time can result in frequent changes in the parenting time schedule. Young children may need a specific schedule that they can count on spending time with each parent. Frequent changes in parenting time schedules can disrupt young children’s sense of stability and result in emotional issues. Before agreeing to reasonable and liberal parenting time language, parents must be confident that the children are capable of handling the frequent changes in schedule.

A third factor to consider is what will the custodial or primarily physical custody parent (“primary custodial parent”) says that reasonable and liberal parenting is. If the primary custodial parent says that reasonable and liberal parenting time means two hours for a weeknight, alternating weekends, and specific alternating holidays, then that could be the schedule the court upholds. The primary custodial parent can change the meaning of what reasonable and liberal parenting time means as conflicts increase between the parties. If there is a potential for ongoing post-judgment conflicts between the parties, then adopting a reasonable and liberal parenting time schedule is not advised.

A fourth factor should be the needs of the children in developing strong and healthy relationships with the other parent. Consistency can provide the foundation that young children may need to form their own opinion of what is healthy development of bonds to each parent.

If these identified four factors or other factors that are relevant to your situation give you pause to think about adopting a reasonable and liberal parenting time schedule, then consider the adoption of a specific parenting time schedule. While some parents view the rigid details of a specific parenting time schedule to be harsh, it can provide the children and the court with details to know what is expected from each parent and at what time. It removes the potential for unilateral control and can minimize the post-judgment conflicts between parents.

Can I Change Parenting Time After My Judgment?

Parenting time is not something that once it is written into a divorce judgment is set in stone. It is modifiable while the children remain under the age of eighteen (18). While the children remain young, parents can agree to modify or change the parenting time to benefit the needs of the children and submit their agreement to the court for entry and to supersede a prior order. However, if the parents cannot agree on a modification to the schedule, then either party can move the court to enter an order modifying the schedule.

If you have a parenting time issue and need assistance in resolving it, contact our team and learn more on how we can help you move forward to positive parenting time with your children.

The beginning of the school year can be an exciting time for children. They are excited to learn who their new teacher is and if any of their friends are in their class this year. They may look forward to the annual school clothes shopping sprees or want to pick out their new school supplies. However, when parents are divorced, the new school year can bring about anxiety for children, especially when their parents do not get along amicably. Here are the best tips I have discovered to start the new school year off on a positive note for children.

  1. Use technology to share information. With the choices we have today, co-parenting can be made easy and information shared openly, even when you do not want to talk with the other parent. There are apps for the phone and computer that allow parents to communicate without having to have face-to-face conversations. Parents have the option of using a shared Google calendar, Our Family Wizard, CoParenter, AppClose, TalkingParents, WeParent, 2houses, or Truece to share information. The key to all these apps is that the parents agree on which one to use and both have signed up for an account. Some of the apps charge yearly fees and others are completely free. Some of the apps will allow parents to add third parties to the group, such as the children, grandparents, or professionals that are assisting the family. If you do add a professional, notify the other parent of who has been added. Do your research and agree on which application to use to communicate. Reach an agreement for a deadline to respond by, so everyone is clear on what is a reasonable time to expect a response, if one is needed. By using an agreed upon method of communication, parents can send messages or upload information for the other parent without worrying about interrupting work.
  2. Review your court order.  The start of the new school year is a good time to pull out your judgment and review its terms. If you have had post-judgment issues resolved during the previous school year, pull out those orders as well. If you have joint legal custody, remember that the other parent needs to be include in decisions regarding the child’s education. Decide if the school should be provided with a copy of the judgment or order. This may be necessary if one parent has restricted or supervised parenting time, the court has limited one parenting from picking up the children, etc. If the school should have a copy, provide it with the completed school forms.
  3. Plan for attending school activities in a positive manner. When parents do not get along or fight every time they talk, plans should be made for attending school activities. Decide if the parents will alternate months on helping in the classroom or attending field trips. Talk to the teacher about options for parent-teacher conferences. Are the teachers willing to have two separate conferences? Ask if a parent can attend by telephone, if that parent does not live close to the school district? For school concerts and plays, both parents can sit on opposite sides of the room and not speak to one another. The important thing to remember is that the child can experience the support of both parents without feeling like the child has to choose or is waiting for a blow-up. For some activities, each parent may have to decide to put their differences aside for a few hours.
  4. Properly fill out school forms and alert school personnel to our family dynamics. When filling out the school forms, list each parent’s name in the appropriate slot with their known contact information. This lets the school know who the legal parents are and how to reach them. If you have remarried, identify your spouse with the appropriate title. It can be helpful to let the teacher know how the child prefers to address stepparents. Agree on who the emergency contact individuals will be.
  5. Plan to share the cost of school supplies. Start discussing how to share the costs of supplies after the Fourth of July, if it is not clear in your court orders. Will costs be shared equally, or pro rata based on the parties’ incomes? Understand that the items being purchased are for the children and not property of the parents. The children should be allowed to freely move their school supplies between houses and school as the child needs. Discuss on the requested supplies for the classroom will shared. There should be discussions and an agreement as to whether one parent will do the shopping and the other parent will reimburse or if each parent will separately purchase their share.
  6. Allow the other parent to enjoy the first day of school. Discuss with the other parent if they would like to jointly attend sending the child to the first day of school. It may not be possible due to work schedules or distance between homes but be willing to extend an invitation. If the other parent cannot join in sending the child off to the first day of school, then share photos from the first day in a shared account or in social media that the other parent can see. Remember this is a day for the child.
  7. Discuss ahead of time what extracurricular activities the child can participate in throughout the school year. The start of a new school year is a good time to discuss how many and which extracurricular activities the child can participate in. A good starting point is what is written in the court orders regarding activities. Discuss with the other parent if there is a limit to the amount of funds that you can contribute toward extracurriculars. Extracurricular activities can include sporting teams, dance, after-school clubs, scouting, band, orchestra, or music lessons. If there is a disagreement about the child participating in a winter or spring sport, now is the time to bring the matter before the court for its assistance in resolving the dispute. If you wait until the start of the season, the child may not be able to participate that year.
  8. Decide how to handle school emergencies and unexpected school closings. Discuss with the other parent what information to communicate to the school on who to contact when there is an emergency or school unexpected closes. The discussion should include how the unexpected school closing impacts the parenting time schedule and an agreed upon time to exchange the child if one parent picks up from school outside of his or her scheduled parenting time. Decide now if there will be a group chat that will be used when an emergency or unexpected school closing happens.
  9. Sync up the afterschool and bedtime routines. Both parents should be open to establishing the same routines for after school and at bedtime. Providing your children with joint routines and rules for both houses will minimize the time it takes children to re-acclimate to each parent’s house rules and expectations.
  10. Talk to your children.If your children are old enough, ask them what extracurriculars that they want to do. Find out what routines work best for child to accomplish everything that the child needs to get done. Hold your older child responsible for transporting schoolbooks and supplies between both houses.

The important thing to remember about starting off the school year as divorced parents is that your children still have two parents who love them and want to support their education. If you have joint legal custody, you need to work jointly with the other parent on education decisions. Minimize the number of third parties that are brought into your discussion until it is necessary. Then those third parties should be brought in to either elicit their input or to provide information that the third party needs to perform their role.

If you are experiencing unresolved conflicts with your ex-spouse, do not hesitate to contact our office at (248) 329-0344 for assistance in reaching an agreement that is best for your children.

When I was growing, we did not hear about things that are common today. Some of what was not common for me as a child are peanut allergies, gluten-free diets or celiac disease, or anxiety in children. I am not sure what changed. It could be an increased awareness, genetically modified plants, or several other reasons. But as parents, we can help to reduce the anxiety our children feel and raise our children to be mentally strong individuals. I have found the following seven tips to be helpful in raising children to cope with twists and turns of life.

First, teach your children to handle change and in positive ways. Change is a part of life. Nothing stays static even things that appear to be static. In science, we learn that even the tall tree in our backyard is changing, even if we cannot see the change. The change is often measured when the tree is cut down and its rings of growth are measured. When scientists measure the difference in the rings of growth, they can tell if the tree endured hardships, droughts, fires or had a year of plenty of rain to promote growth. Unlike trees, there is not a clear way to measure how the changes in the world affect our children’s mental health. From a young age, we should be teaching our children how to positively handle the change in their lives.

One way to help children positively deal with change is to teach our children to journal and write down how things are affecting them. Teaching your children to keep a gratitude journal or general journal is another way to prepare them to handle life in positive and healthy ways. By encouraging a gratitude journal, you will teach your child to overcome self-pity and other bad habits and destructive self-talk. It will teach your child to focus on the positives in life rather than dwelling on what is going wrong. Over time, your child will boost their self-confidence and learn pro-active problem-solving.

A third thing to do with your children to promote a strong mental health is to allow the child to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. Teach your child that failure is an option. When I was younger, no one stopped us from building bike ramps or swinging in the tops of neighborhood trees. However, when an injury occurred, we were taught about the consequences of our choices. Discussions focused on what decisions we made and what we should have done different, i.e. don’t swing from the tops of trees like Tarzan. Learning from our mistakes included errors in homework, chores, and play. I remember my brothers fixing the holes that they put in the walls from their roughhousing or fights.

Along with teaching children that it is alright to make a mistake if they learn from it comes teaching your child to take responsibility. Without being able to take responsibility for actions, a child cannot fully learn from their mistakes. Allow your child to explain what they did and thought process, but do not allow excuses for their actions or blaming another for the decision the child made. This was often taught to me by my parents saying, “If Johnny was jumping off the bridge, would you follow him.” While it seems outlandish even today, their point was received. I had to be responsible for my own actions and decisions and not follow my peers.

A fifth tactic is allowing your children to face their fears with minimal interference from you as a parent.  Encourage your child to take small steps in overcoming their fears. Cheer them on when they accomplish a small step toward overcoming the fear. Celebrate their newfound bravery. Recognize the growth in their self-confidence while monitoring for foolish behavior. We often do this when we teach our children to swim. We allow them to float while holding onto their sides and then slowly remove our hands away slight to show the child that they are doing it all on their own. Apply this same technique with any fear your child has whether it is sleeping in the dark, talking to new people, playing outside, or trying a new sport or activity.

A sixth technique is teaching your child to handle loss or losing in sports. When I was a child, every game included a score, a winner and a loser. Now, as I watch my grandchildren play, there is not a scoreboard. Parents are asking if they know the score. Everyone wins and receives a participation trophy. We are forgetting about teaching our children how to lose as a good sport. How to control our emotions when things do not go as we planned. Polarity, or opposites, are healthy. How can your child know happiness if they have never felt sadness? How can your child know the thrill of victory, if they never felt the sting of defeat? How can your child understand how it feels to be first, if they were never last? Teach your child losing a game is not the end of the world or reflection on their abilities. There will always be someone who can do something better, but that does not diminish their value.

A seventh tip is to allow your child to be a child for as long as possible. Often, I hear about children being dragged into adult problems, such as divorce, and asked to weigh in. Your child is only a child once and the wonder of the world as they experience it is so easily tainted by our life experiences. Allow your child to wonder where rainbows end and what is at the end. Allow them to ponder why the stars do not fall from the sky. Refrain from asking which parent they want to live with more or which parent they love best.

If you need further help in finding ways to raise your children to be mentally strong, call our office for links to other blogs or a referral to parenting coach.

There are dangers now in allowing our children to play outside unattended. Neighbors may call the police because your school-aged children are walking alone to the park or the local bakery. It started in Maryland in April 2015. A couple decided to allow their children, ages 10 and 6, to play at the local park unsupervised. The police responded to the call and the parents began a fight with Child Protective Services (“CPS”). The news media dubbed them “free-range” parents. Maryland law at the time prohibited children younger than eight years old from being left unattended in a dwelling or car but did not reference young children playing outdoors. The parents appealed the findings of unsubstantiated neglect by CPS. In June of 2015, CPS cleared the parents and closed the case. In an email responding to requests for comments, DHR spokeswoman Paula Tolson said, “A child playing outside or walking unsupervised does not meet the criteria for a CPS response absent specific information supporting the conclusion that the child has been harmed or is at substantial risk of harm if they continue to be unsupervised.”

The search for parents arrested for allowing their children to play outside unattended, walk the family dog alone, or walk to the neighbor grocery store resulted in more than ten pages of results across the nation. With this trend to accuse parents of neglect for allowing their children to play outside unattended, we are quickly becoming a nation where are children are not free to play as children and grow from their mistakes. But what can you do as parent, who wants their child to be able to play outside without constant supervision?

First, know the laws of your state. In Michigan, child neglect is defined under MCL 722.622(k) as “harm or threatened harm to a child’s health or welfare by a parent, legal guardian, or any other person responsible for the child’s health or welfare.” The law further clarifies that this can occur by either failing though financially able to do so or failing to seek financial or other reasonable means, to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter or medical care. The also says that neglect can occur if the child is placed in an unreasonable risk of harm to the child’s health or welfare when the responsible person failed to intervene to eliminate the risk or has or should have knowledge of the risk. While Michigan does not say that children playing outside unsupervised places them at an unreasonable risk of harm to the child’s health or welfare, a parent must assess the known or reasonable scenarios that can arise from allowing your child to play outside unsupervised. Some obvious risks of harm include crossing streets, darting onto a busy street to chase a ball or other object, known criminal activity in the area, or traffic flow through residential neighborhoods.

Second, determine what is safe for your child to be able to play outside and teach your child from a young age what to do. While it is not advisable to allow a toddler to play outside unattended, consider allowing the child to play in their own yard with brief moments of running into the house while keeping an eye on the child to retrieve a glass of water or a toy. Stress the importance of not darting into streets or blindly walking across the street. Teach your child to never leave with a stranger even if they were told that you sent them. This should include anyone in uniform. Provide your child with a means to communicate easily with you, such as a cell phone. Consider sending an older child with your child to watch them. However, what is a suitable age to supervise another child, babysit should be followed. In Michigan, CPS recommends that a child as young as ten years old can be left home alone and there is no law saying how young a babysitter must be. It is decision that each parent needs to make. Jeanne Hannah, an family law attorney in Traverse City has written, “The State of Michigan Child Protection Handbook discusses ‘Improper Supervision’ and states: ‘According to the Child Protection Law, there is no legal age that a child can be left home alone. It is determined on a case by case basis but as a rule of thumb, a child 10 years old and younger is not responsible enough to be left home alone. A child over the age of 10 and under the age of 12 will be evaluated but the case may not always be assigned for a CPS investigation.’”

Finally, do not allow your children the age of ten to play outside without some type of supervision. For your children over age of 10 and under the age of 12, be cautious about what they can do outside without supervision. For children over the age of 12, encourage them to put down the remote controller to their favorite video game and go outside and play. If your child loves video games, consider starting a neighborhood live action role play group. This allows the children to dress up as their favorite video game character and play the game with other children. Of course, restrict the live action role play to non-violent video games. Start a neighbor football game, basketball, or baseball game. If your child loves to skateboard or do tricks on a bike, consider building an area that allows them to practice.

If you have encouraged your child to go outside and play, then find CPS knocking at your door. First, you do not need to let them in your house without a warrant. Often, they will be accompanied by a police officer, but they either need a warrant or your consent to enter your home. Second, be polite and respectful. Third, inform the worker that you would be happy to schedule an appointment to speak with them with your attorney present. Then immediately call an attorney knowledgeable in the child protective laws to be your voice. If you need an attorney, we can help you find one.

When it comes to getting a divorce, there is difficulty in keeping the matter between the husband, the wife, their respective attorneys and the court. A divorce is a matter of public record. In addition, extended family and friends will soon realize what is happening, especially after one spouse leaves the marital home. However, there is one group of people that need to be shielded from the as much of the divorce process as possible. That group is the children of the divorcing couple, regardless of their age.

Children have no place being in the middle of their parents’ divorce. However, children are often dragged into the divorce by parents or extended family. While a parent cannot control what other people do, there are things a parent can do to avoid dragging the children into the middle of the divorce. The first thing to do is agree to have a “child-centered divorce.” This means that the children are intentionally shielded from the emotions and drama that arise during the divorce process. This involves hiring attorneys whose practices support child-centered divorces and creating a plan together as parents that prioritizes the needs of the children over the parents.

The second step to take is minimize all conversations and arguments that children can potentially overhear. This includes telephone conversations where the children are nearby and not in the same room. As parents, we are not always aware of what children can hear when we are not actively paying attention to them. In fact, children can be quite sneaky in walking into a room their parent is in. I know that my children and grandchildren have surprised me many times by being right there when I thought they were somewhere else. What a child could overhear can have long-lasting effects. I still recall the arguments my parents had when I was a young child and the pain is just as real today as it was when I overheard my mother threaten my father to withhold his parenting time. Although she had sent us to our rooms, she forgot how the sound traveled through the walls. The therapists have said that the conflict children overhear during divorce proceedings can have long-lasting mental health ramifications.

Another important step that parents take is to minimize the negative impact to children is to avoid speaking badly of the other parent or allowing others to verbally bash the other parent. Children identify with both parents and can internalize these comments.  Other steps include to avoid asking the children to take sides, sending paperwork or messages back and forth with the children, asking the children to keep secrets or lie to the other parent, asking the children about what happened at the other parent’s house, or threatening to withhold parenting time because of an argument or non-payment of child support.

When parents take these steps to have a child-centered divorce, they are teaching their child how to resolve conflicts without drama or emotions. This is not to say that there is not emotions or drama, but the individual arises above the emotions and dramas and is able to make hard decisions that benefit and prioritizes the needs of another person. If you are looking for a child-centered divorce attorney, then look no further. It is my mission to change the way parents approach the divorce process in Michigan that creates a positive and loving environment that children can thrive and openly love both parents. Contact us to your first meeting with the team today.

Asking for help as a single parent can be difficult, but it is a sign of inner strength. Only you will know when you need help, what kind of help is needed, and who is the best person to provide that help to you. It is the asking that is hard. This is because of a mindset that we have developed about asking for help or fear of the need for help being relayed back to the other parent, especially when there was a custody battle in the divorce. But there are some places you can try first.

One place to turn for help is friends before family. Often asking friends for help is less complicated and emotional than asking family members. If dad or mom is not exercising their parenting time, ask a close friend to step up and attend events in lieu of the other parent. It will help your children feel connected to their classmates and not worry about not being able to attend special events, such as Daddy-Daughter or Mother-Son dances. I know how important this was to my oldest daughter as a young child when a couple I was friends with took her out to buy the special outfit and shoes, did her hair, the photos and the husband escort her to the Daddy-Daughter dance with a corsage. It made her feel special, and she was able to attend with all her friends from school.

Friends who know car repair are another place to ask for help with basic car maintenance. These friends can even accompany you to the mechanic to ensure that you are not being taken advantage of or merely provide you the ride to and from the mechanic’s shop.

Local people that you know at your child’s day care or classroom. Establish a babysitting co-operative where each member agrees to babysit in exchange for equal time with their children. This is a great way to be able to run errands or go to appointments without your children and scheduling play dates for them. In return, you can give back to other parents, even if they are not single.

Colleagues from work or study groups. Be able to spend time with other adults is critical for your sense of well-being and developing new friendships. When you have young children, a lot of your day being spent around child-centered activities. Be able to go and hang out with other adults will balance out your days between being a parent and being human.

Therapists and other professionals are good resources for when you need expert or specialized help. Therapists can help you process your emotions as you transition from a two-parent household to a one-parent household. They can help you evaluate how you are dealing with different situations as a single parent. A family therapist is also a great place to discuss different parenting techniques, especially when you have multiple children who can often times try to tag-team on their newly divorced parent.

Knowing when to reach out to an attorney to assist in post-judgment matters can save frustration in the future. We have seen clients who have tried to handle post-judgment issues themselves only to be tricked by the ex-spouse or the attorney for the ex-spouse. It is wise to have someone who is not emotionally invested in the outcome be your voice of reason.

If you find yourself needing to know who to reach out to in your local community for help, then call our office to inquire who we have on our Team 100 community referral list. We will introduce you to a professional we know, like, and trust who can help you

Being a parent is hard. After nine months, we have a beautiful child placed into our arms and there is no instructional manual. We may have our spouse besides us encouraging us and give us needed breaks. But when couple divorces becoming a single parent is hard. There are feelings of failure or embarrassment. The divorce process takes the parent through a range of emotions. During the whole process, parents are learning how to parent their children from two different households. This is harder than dividing assets.

Whether you are in the beginning of a divorce, the middle or the end, learning to put yourself first while meeting the needs of children is essential for your emotional well-being. Here are ten simple things you can do every day to put yourself first.

  1. Sit down for 5 minutes in silence. Just sit and be. Daily life as a single parent means that your children will turn to you for everything that they need from lunch money to bedtime stories. Be sure to take at least five minutes a day for self and just enjoy in the quiet.
  2. Take a bath or hot shower before bed. You can tie this activity in with the previous one. Enjoy the time and let “Calgon take you away” from the day’s stressors.
  3. Watch one of your favorite movies or cartoons from when you were a kid. Let your mind drift into nostalgia. Pull out your favorite Disney movie and rediscover it with your children.
  4. Listen to your favorite music and sing along—loudly! Dance to it. This is an activity that can be done with young children and allows them to burn off energy before having to go to bed.
  5. Say no. Don’t overcommit. You only have 168 hours per week. Be sure to save some of the time to take care of your body, mind and emotional well-being. While saying no may be hard, your life will better for doing so.
  6. Set realistic expectations for yourself. Say no to your internal perfectionist. Friends used to comment on how clean my house was when I was single parent. Little did they know that every night I would clean up every room. It took an accident for me to realize that it is alright for the house to be slightly messy when I go to bed at night. The most important thing I needed was sleep and not a clean house.
  7. Exercise regularly. Even if it is just a quick 5-minute power walk. Everyone has time for that! Exercise with your children. Turn off the electronics and technology and go outside and just have fun playing. When my children played sports, we would work on the skill drills outside together as a family.
  8. Make a list of 5 things each day you are thankful for. Gratitude changes your attitude. Seriously dig deep on this one. I heard this recently on a podcast that I listen to. When you have an attitude of gratitude, you can withstand the struggles of life easier.
  9. Laugh out loud. Whether it’s by watching funny videos or reading something, be intentional to make yourself laugh. This goes along with the attitude of gratitude. Divorce can deflate your feelings of self-confidence or self-worth. Give yourself the boost you need by intentionally trying to laugh and be joyful.
  10. Put down your technology. It is one of my worst time wasters that I always regret. Often, I have said it will just be a few minutes, but technology can quickly dominate hours of my day, if I not aware of how much time I am on the computer, the iPad, or the phone. Put the technology down during dinner time and engage with your children. Recently, one of my grandchildren had to remind her Papa that she was right there during dinner. Children are only little once and there will be a time when they do not want to interact with parents.

Last month, we tackled teen dating violence head-on. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. When I was a child and young adult, domestic violence was not something that was talked about. It was still a skeleton in the closet. It was not spoken about and friends were not brought home out of fear that it would happen again. Those who lived daily with domestic violence did so in silence and feeling alone.

However, today that is changing. Now, we are saying “No More” to violence in relationships, whether dating, married or divorced. There is an organization called No More Project that is fighting to end domestic violence and sexual assault. You can visit their website at www.nomore.org and learn more about domestic violence, sexual assault, and how you can help end the violence.

But to end domestic violence, we need to shine a light on it that is so bright that there are no shadows to hide in. One-third of women will experience domestic violence or sexual assault during their lives. As a child growing up in a house with domestic violence, I did not understand that we were not the only family where this happened. I did not understand that other families in my own neighborhood were experiencing this as well. I did not know the impact of the domestic violence I witnessed would have on the choices I would make as an adult. It is just not one third of women who are experiencing this, but their children who witness the violence and aftermath of it.

In addition, 65% of those who come forward say that no one helped them. The biggest key in ending domestic violence is to do something and not simply stand by silently observing. Be a friend who listens and helps create a plan to leave in safety. Be a friend who watches young children, so papers can be filed at the local court for personal protection orders. Educate yourself on different ways you can help. No More Project has a page dedicated to providing tips and scenarios. You can access it at https://nomore.org/learn/bystander-scenarios/.

If you have a friend or family member who is in a violent relationship and they are ready to break free, be their support as they go through the process. Accompany them to hearings, appointments, or offer a safe place to stay. If your friend needs legal help in filing for personal protection orders, call our office to schedule an appointment.

By: Melissa Pearce, Founding Attorney

When it comes to extracurriculars, one disagreement among parents is the number of activities. On occasions, parents present us with a schedule for their children that has them running from early in the morning until bedtime with no time for schoolwork.When this type of schedule is presented to our team, the question arises “How do I limit the number of extracurricular activities that my child is doing?”

When parents are divorced, the answer to this question is not always easy. Extracurricular activities have positive benefits for children. These benefits can include being able to socialize with friends, develop talents, and learn lessons that cannot be taught from inside a classroom.  However, there are risks that can be associated with the participation which could leave along-lasting negative impact.

            Before you file a motion to limit these activities, please consider these tips to reach an agreement outside of the courtroom.

  1. Enroll your children in age appropriate activities. Typically,these kinds of activities have minimum participation ages. Enrolling your child in something above their level can be strenuous on them and can be more harmful than helpful.
  2. A full physical examination will ensure that your children are physically capable of participating in the sport to prevent any injuries.
  3. Volunteer at school events. This can help you and your child make connections with other community members on a more consistent basis.
  4. Monitor your children’s grades to ensure their education is not suffering due to time constraints and pressure. Education should come first for the children.
  5. This will allow your child to have more time to complete school work and be active in family activities.
  6. Ask your children why they want to get involved in certain activities and continue to ask your children if they still want to continue doing those activities, especially as they take on advanced school courses or additional responsibilities.
  7. This will allow time for your children to keep up on their school work and prevent exhaustion from lack of rest.

            When seeking the court’s assistance on deciding the number of extracurricular activities, the argument should focus on what is best for the child rather than an intrusion into parenting time. In Michigan, the courts focus on what is best for the child first and foremost.

Participation in extracurricular activities is good for a child. They should participate as they are able so that they may learn to be more well-rounded for adulthood. There are somethings that we as parents cannot teach that much be experienced. Children gain lessons from participation in these that cannot be learned at home or in the classroom.

If you cannot reach an agreement with the other parent on how many extracurricular activities is reasonable, contact the team at Melissa Pearce & Associates for assistance. We are here to help you redefine your family.