When you finally decide to seek a divorce, remember, whether you’re working with a lawyer or mediator, it’s important to realize that how you work with that individual will greatly impact the financial outcome of your divorce. You have power in the divorce process and that power lies in your ability to control your emotions and your actions. Doing both will greatly increase your effectiveness, will increase your awareness of what will be going on, and will give you greater control of your own financial well-being.
Hiring a lawyer is a process that should take time and due diligence on your part. During the screening and consultation, check out the attorney’s credentials, his/her past experience, how many divorces has he litigated/negotiated, and his/her experience with the specific divorce issues of your situation. This shouldn’t be his/her first rodeo, for if it is, you need to move on and find counsel who has the specific experience to handle your case.
Contrary to hiring an attorney, if you and your spouse can talk and can reasonably communicate, and you don’t want a long drawn out and expensive divorce, consider hiring a divorce mediator instead. A divorce mediator is someone who will drill down into the issues you and your soon to be ex are having challenges working through. They will then find reasonable alternatives that are agreeable to each of you to work through the process as reasonable and unemotionally as possible, while keeping your expense to a minimum.
Regardless of who you decide to hire, working with a lawyer or mediator has many commonalities and yet has some differences that should be understood.
5 Tips to Keep Billable Hours to a Minimum
- When working with your lawyer or mediator, provide all the necessary information when you can. The less time he or she has to spend tracking down records the cheaper it will be for you.
- Figure out the worth of your assets. If you can find out and document the full financial picture of your marital estate you will save your lawyer time—which will save you money.
- Increase your understanding of the divorce process. Knowledge is power and the more you know the more you can help yourself.
- Keep your lawyer or mediator informed with as accurate information as possible. The better the information you give your attorney the more they will understand the situation and be able to develop a winning strategy. When in doubt, go with providing full disclosure. Don’t worry, lawyers are trained to sift through information and evaluate what is useful and what is not. Also, if the information might harm your case, you can prevent your lawyer from being blindsided, giving him or her plenty of time to prepare defensive maneuvers.
- Respond promptly to requests for information. Again, time is money so don’t drag out the process by keeping your lawyer or mediator waiting on you to provide needed information. Lawyers are often under very tight deadlines and the more lead time you give your lawyer to go over the materials the better job they can do in preparing for your case. Another good tip is to stick to answering only the questions your lawyer or mediator asks and doing so completely but concisely. If your counsel needs a “yes” or “no” answer on something or a quick synopsis of a situation don’t include a long, verbose document that gives extra information. If you bog down your counsel with useless information they will have to bill you for the time they waste going through materials that are not relevant to what they need to represent your case.
Working With A Lawyer or Mediator
5 Things Your Mediator or Lawyer Needs to Know
Be prepared with the following information to grease the wheels and get your case moving:
- The reason you are getting a divorce. This includes: Causes of your breakup, the reasons behind your filing for divorce and the major issues of the failing marriage.
- Personal information for yourself, your spouse and your children. This includes: Names, ages, places of birth, home and work addresses and telephone numbers, Social Security numbers, and health information.
- Facts related to your marriage. This includes: When and where you were married, any prenuptial agreement (If so, bring a copy of the agreement with you), previous marriages (If so, provide details of your previous divorce(s)).
- Any issues involving your children. This includes: Custody arrangements, co-parenting agreements, special needs, etc.
- Financial information. This includes: Assets and debts each of you brought into the marriage, your incomes and expenses, employment information, shared property (e.g. home, cars), shared debts (e.g. mortgage, college fund for the kids) and investments (e.g. insurance plans, pension plans).
- Legal documents. This includes: copies of lawsuits, bankruptcy suits, judgments, and garnishments.
- Your divorce goals. Be specific about what you want from the divorce. Think beyond your current emotional state to long-term goals that include how you will co-parent children (if any) and continue to function as a family post-divorce. Think about the relationship you want with your ex and kids in one year, in 5 years and then 10 years into the future.
3 Things to Remember
- When working with a lawyer or mediator, remember, neither is not your psychologist. Do not expect them to be on call 24 hours a day or to listen to you rant about the latest injustice you’ve suffered at the hands of your spouse during an acrimonious divorce. Remember, every time your lawyer takes a phone call or returns an email you are racking a significant bill. Call a friend or get an actual therapist and you will save money and keep your lawyer or mediator focused on what really matters—the facts of the case.
- If your lawyer is giving you advice you disagree with, keep an open mind and consider the guidance carefully. Your lawyer isn’t concerned with your desire for revenge but with getting you the best possible outcome, so take a step back and evaluate whether you’re refusing your lawyer’s advice for purely emotional reasons. Don’t let your settlement suffer because you can’t see past your immediate feelings. You will end up suffering long-term consequences for temporary emotional satisfaction. Also, please remember, a mediator cannot give legal advice. They can only ask to seek a reasonable solution between you and your partner in the conflict.
- You will likely go through periods of frustration or disappointment as your divorce progresses, but don’t take it out on your lawyer or mediator. Some things will be out of his or her control. Remember that your attorney is on your side and it’s best to tackle the rough patches as a team. Your mediator, on the other hand, is on neither side. Staying positive and on good terms is your best bet at getting your lawyer or mediator to work their hardest to resolve your case.
While you are expecting the most from your lawyer—that he or she is skilled, hard-working and dedicated to fighting for your case—your lawyer is hoping you’ll be the ideal client: calm, professional, well prepared and easy to get along with.
When a competent client and a capable consultant team up and work well together, the odds are greatly increased for a good outcome. Hold your attorney or mediator to task in putting in the effort your case requires, but do yourself a favor by being a client that makes their job easier and more effective. The ideal client can control his emotions and focus on the logical facts of the case, is organized and prepared, treats his lawyer as a valuable teammate, and is willing to listen to the information that is presented to him.
Break-ups have a tendency to bring out the worst in people. How could they not? Your life is ripped apart. The person who had been your lover, confidant and closest friend has now become the enemy. Divorce can multiply those feelings times by a hundred. You’re now on the defensive.…
During your breakup, separation, and divorce, you’re in a vulnerable spot, financially, emotionally, and maybe even physically. Unfortunately, in this day and age, your vulnerability only means one thing to many unscrupulous divorce lawyers: an opportunity. In recent times, there has been a whole cottage industry centered around Your Needs As A…
File for an Online Divorce Are eDivorces Really a Thing and Three Ways to Get One The 21st Century is all about saving time and convenience. We can get married in Las Vegas through a drive-through. We shop online for grocery deliveries, pay our bills and bank online, and do many…
Cheating, lying and creating family chaos – yeah, that’s infidelity for ya. Nothing is more challenging to a relationship than infidelity. Child rearing, financial strains and interpersonal struggles pale in comparison to the challenges that infidelity dumps on a relationship. Rebuilding your marriage after an affair has shredded the bonds of marriage is possible but it’s one of the most trying and arduous efforts that a couple can face together. The challenge is faced by the couple together, but the really hard work is on the one who has been ‘cheated on’ as he or she attempts to rebuild trust in their partner after its been completely destroyed by the affair.
But we guys are not alone in this infidelity struggle, because we are no longer alone in creating the family chaos. With the emergence of the internet, social media and dating apps, women are quickly catching up to their male counterparts in creating family chaos. In fact, the Kinsley Institute at Indiana University reported that women are cheating at nearly the same rate as men for the first time in history. In fact, 19.2 % of the women in the study had admitted to cheating during their current relationship compared to 23.2% of the men.
And, although rebuilding your marriage after infidelity is possible, the methods to do so may differ depending on who caused the issue.
Rebuilding Your Marriage When You, the Man, Cheated
1.Come clean. The first step toward repairing the rift is to be honest. It’s likely going to be brutal to step up and admit that you have hurt your wife, but if you want to save your marriage, you need to have the courage to face the truth, no matter the anguish it will unleash on you both.
A study of married couples by UCLA and the University of Washington concluded the one proven road back to marital stability and satisfaction was: admitting the affair. The numbers don’t lie. At the end of the 5-year study, 43% of couples who confessed their unfaithfulness were divorced compared with 80% of the couples who hid their adultery when their spouse later discovered it. Honesty was the key distinction in whether the relationships survived. In fact, when the cheater accepted and acknowledged responsibility for the affair, the marriage could survive and could be rebuilt to sustain the test of time. At the conclusion of the study, couples who survived an affair experienced comparable levels of marital stability and satisfaction as the couples who had not experienced adultery at all.
2. End the affair. It’s just that simple. Maintaining an illicit affair is just damaging beyond belief, mindless, cruel, self serving, disrespectful and selfish. It does nothing in favor of your marital relationship and, if anything, threatens the very existence of your marriage and both of your financial futures. Nothing is more devastating to a woman than to find out that her husband is having an affair. If you’re not suspected of having an affair, STOP. As much as there may be physical attraction and fleeting physical rewards for you personally, it is destroying you and your marriage. The lies, the tardy arrivals, and the missed events will ultimately expose your infidelity and your affair will be discovered if it hasn’t been already. Regardless of how secretive and discrete you think you may be, your infidelity will be found out, and you will destroy your relationship in the process. If there is any hope for rebuilding your marriage, the affair must end. Then and only then can real healing begin.
3. Give her space. If and when you break the news that you’ve been unfaithful your spouse will be devastated and she’ll be blitzed with a storm of raw emotions: shock, rage, betrayal, shame, depression, sadness. Temper your confession with compassion and understanding. As your wife rages and begins to attack you, be kind. Be gentle. Agree with her as much as humanly possible. She’s going through a very difficult time and arguing with her at this point is not in your best interests, not if you have any hope of rebuilding your marriage. Getting through this torrent of emotions will not be easy. Seek therapy and marriage counseling if at all possible. As financially challenging as therapy and counseling may be, consider it a financial investment into your future with your wife. Getting into deeper issues, like why you strayed, is best done when you are in a safe, counseling environment. You likely didn’t cheat one day out of the blue. There were multiple factors that led to it. And you won’t recover from the infidelity overnight either. It’s a very lengthy process and one that will likely take four to five years to regain some relative normality. Take your time. Eventually you will both come to understand what incited you to begin the affair and how each of you had some level of responsibility for its inception. The good news is that your marriage can emerge rock solid and more gratifying once you grapple with and solve those deeper underlying issues.
4. Consult a marriage counselor. Should you and your wife decide to try and work through the affair and the damage it has caused in your relationship, it is highly advisable that you not try to work out your challenges alone. A marriage counselor or mediator would be an expert guide to get the two of you back on the road to reconciliation. There are likely multiple underlying issues that lead to the betrayal and each of you share some level of responsibility for the existence of those issues. Only a qualified counselor, clergyman or mediator may help get you both to the core of those issues and give rational direction on how to resolve them. An affair is most likely a result of unhappiness that exists on both sides of the relationship. Discovering, facing and resolving the root of that discontent will lead to a healthier and more satisfying marriage than you had before the infidelity.
5. Rebuild trust. Trust is a delicate thing. It is a product of prolonged physical and emotional fidelity. And while it would be a huge relief to be able to confess and move on right away, that’s just not in the realm of reality. Once your infidelity has been exposed, whether through your wife’s discovery or by your confession, her trust of you and your actions will be gone. Everything you do, everywhere you go, everyone you see or might see will be questioned, over and over again. Her trust in you and your intentions has been lost, gone, and it won’t return anytime soon. If you’re patient, the seed of trust can grow again. but it’ll take time, patience and endurance on both your parts. Trust can build slowly, over years, by a long series of small commitments and verified successes, each event, each schedule, each meeting, each announcement planned, and each reality checked, challenged and found to be truthful. Through these seemingly endless commitments and successes, its possible to break through the hard, cold distrust of your actions and rebuild trust in your actions.
6. Forgive. While forgiveness may happen, forgetting won’t. But it doesn’t have to: only forgiving matters. Again, this won’t happen overnight, and you can’t impose any kind of definitive deadline on it. But with continued commitment to your marriage and your relationship it is possible to restore trust and intimacy in your marriage. By facing the issues that led to your urge to stray together, your wife may see that while flawed (as we all are), you are worthy of forgiveness. If she refuses to forgive, you have run up against a wall to healing and moving forward. Try and convince her to give therapy a shot as professional help may be needed to get over the barricade and back on track to reconciliation.
An affair doesn’t have to be the last chapter in your marriage. Your adultery can be a wake-up call that your marriage is in serious trouble and on a dangerous path to destruction. If you’re upfront and honest, willing to face the consequences and put in the work in rebuilding your marriage and fix the problems, your honesty about your extramarital affair may prove to be a turning point toward a more satisfying relationship and a brighter future for both you and your spouse.
Rebuilding Your Marriage When She Cheated
1. The Discovery. Well now, since you’re not the one that has to come clean it’s likely that she has already come clean or that her secret was ‘discovered’. If she’s already come clean, then start concentrating your efforts on the other items below.
If on the other hand you are the one that discovered her infidelity, challenges abound for you. Challenges with trust are overwhelming you. You can’t sleep. You can’t think. You want to know where she is every moment of the day. Has she stopped the affair? How do you know? Do you trust her answer if and when she gives you one? The idea of spying on her surfaces and you want to take action. Read her emails? Check her phone logs and text messages? These are all invasions of privacy and are ILLEGAL. DO NOT DO ANY OF THIS. Focus, focus, focus on what you can control. You can only control your own actions. You cannot control hers.
2. Give Her Space Whether she has admitted the affair or she’s been discovered, she’ll need space. Space to collect her thoughts. Space to change course, if that’s still needed. And, space to help bridge the divide of trust that’s been broken. That trust can only be built up slowly over time.
If it’s suspected she’s still involved in the affair, there is nothing you can do about it personally. But you can focus on your actions and IGNORE her actions. To not ignore her actions will only cause you more heartache and dismay. You’ll focus on her whereabouts and what’s she’s likely doing, or at least what you suspect she’s doing. These are only harmful thoughts and will only lead to destroying those parts of your relationship that’re not already destroyed.
Instead, you need to focus on everything else. Focus on your work, on your kids, on their activities, on your hobbies and on your friends. But, ignore your wife and her actions until she decides to end the affair. For help in this and many other divorce related issues, buy and read Michelle Weiner-Davis’ book Divorce Busting. It’s a wealth of time proven tips and assistance for controlling yourself, your emotions, and your actions so as to not chase your wife away with the constant accusations, guilt, anger, fear, rage and frustration that you’re going through.
3. End the Affair. Ok, so you have no control over her ending the affair. But you can talk with your spouse and encourage her to end it. If she refuses, suggest joint marriage counseling. She may or may not be willing to spill her guts to you or to a stranger but you’ve got to try. If she agrees to the counseling and you can afford it, GO. It will do you both a lot of good and it’s is the best chance you have of salvaging your marriage.
4. Consulting a Marriage Counselor. Ok, so assuming she has agreed to go and try to reclaim some of what ‘s been lost in your marriage. There, once each of you has had a chance to yopen up about yourselves to the counselor, you’ll be able to open up about your marriage. What was going right, what was going wrong, what was going sideways in your relationship that may have led to the affair. This is where you dig deep to unveil the secrets and feelings of what has not been expressed, or if it was expressed, what was not acknowledged by one of you or both of you. The challenges in your relationship that led to the infidelity have got to be addressed for there to be any real healing.
Remember, she may have been the one that strayed, but each of you share some of the burden for the affair in some way. Maybe she was telling you all along but you weren’t really listening to her ‘issues’. Maybe you just turned a deaf ear to her rants and bitching. Therein may lie some of the issue.
Maybe she clammed up and said nothing to you, living in desperate silence, not giving in to what was bothering her, and not being honest about her loneliness, her struggles, her issues, and her not feeling loved by you.
This is exactly why a trained professional is so vital to the unveiling of the truth. We as individuals are unwilling or unable to be that brutally honest with ourselves, and certainly not that brutally honest with our spouse without the gentle and non-judgmental encouragement of the counselor. The counselor can help ‘peel the onion’, one layer at a time to get to the root of the despair, and find a way to seek healing from each of you.
5. Rebuild trust. This is a tough one. She cheated on you. And you’re mad as hell. You have every right to be. But, that won’t bring her back and that won’t help rebuild your marriage. Rebuilding trust will take time, lots of time, and there is no guarantee that it’ll be successful. But with guts and determination, on both your parts, you can slowly plant the seeds of trust and water them regularly.
The seeds of trust are just that – seeds. Each event that is planned, each time she is on her own and you have to trust her to arrive on time, each successful event allows the seed to start to take root and grow. One by one, event by event, the seed starts to take root and the trust begins to emerge out of each successful event.
Truth be known, this process will likely take three to five years to have any lasting affect on you and on her. It just takes time, and it is a slow rebuilding process that cannot be rushed.
6. Forgive. We both know that the infidelity is something that will never be forgotten, never. It’ll always be in the back on your mind and you’ll always be mindful of the possibility that it could happen again.
You’ll have to put in a lot of hard work to make your marriage work in a way that it never did before. But, by doing the ‘hard time’, working at rebuilding your marriage after an affair, and with the rebuilding of trust, you have the chance to forgive. And, you have the chance to be more thoughtful, more aware, more sensitive to your partners needs and wants.
And, it is that sensitivity that may be the key to rebuilding a lasting relationship that could endure any challenge and could last a lifetime. With sensitivity, you’ll be better prepared to sense your partners wants and needs, and it’s that sensitivity that can help to make you a more caring and loving partner, maybe the kind of partner she’s wanted all along.
And that is worth fighting for.
Trust is an essential key in any relationship. I've helped couples restore broken trust after an affair, financial dishonesty, physical and emotional abuse as well as constant lying over small things. I've also worked with individuals to trust again after previous childhood trauma or relationship pain from their ex-partners and…
Are you looking for divorce advice for men? What? You don’t want a divorce? Then it’s good I got your attention before you did anything stupid, like taking the leap into infidelity. If you’re reading this, you’re likely tempted to cheat on your spouse. Maybe just an anonymous hook-up in…
Alimony has its place in divorce, but far too often it is like a punishment for men. Alimony has traditionally been used as a way to get them to stay in a marriage they possibly did not want anymore.
We all know that feeling and looking our best requires doing things to promote our mental and physical health. The good news is that not everything that’s good for you is agonizing. Here are ten health tips you can start today that don’t involve turning your lifestyle upside down, spending a ton of cash or exposing yourself to excruciating torment.
While every guy needs to implement these healthy habits, it’s even more essential for divorced men to prioritize their health, because they are at higher risk for a slew of illnesses like cancer and heart attacks. And that’s not all: according to the Huffington Post, divorced and single men have higher rates of mortality and are more prone to substance abuse and depression than married men.
10 Easy Health Tips To Start Now
Laugh a lot.
Laughter really is great medicine; it eases stress and depression, promotes social bonding, and lowers blood pressure. Want to get your giggle on? Take a date or your posse out to a comedy show. For those days when putting on pants is too much effort, find a comedy special on Netflix. Reruns of Saturday Night Live, Arrested Development or websites like funnyordie.com also have good “laugh until you cry” sketches and shows.
Just breathe, deeply.
Taking time to take a breather can be one of the most simple but effective ways to relax and slow your heart rate. Breath through your nose until your lungs are full. They’ll fill with nitric oxide, a chemical found in the back of your nose that opens up blood vessels. The dose of oxygen will make you feel happier and more alert. This is also a handy way to calm yourself down when feeling anxious or nervous, like before an important meeting, presentation or first date.
Sleep on it.
Seven hours of sleep a night not only helps you live longer, but also lowers your stress, sharpens your memory, and reduces cravings for junk foods.
Keep it colorful.
Eat nine handfuls of colorful fruits and vegetables each day. The different colors represent different good for you things your body needs to function at its finest. These foods are often more powerful than the drugs sold in pharmacies, and without the scary side effects.
Get up, go out, and get going.
Sweat for just an hour a week and you’ll enjoy a range of benefits: reduced risk of heart attack, better mood, more energy, and lower blood pressure. Men who exercise enough to burn 200 calories a day also significantly lower their chances of impotence. Yeah, these health tips help your sex life, too! That’s because impotence often has the same cause as heart attacks: blocked arteries. So engage in a little activity that doesn’t involve tossing the couch cushions aside and fervently searching for the remote. Your, uh, little buddy downstairs will thank you.
Form tight social networks.
And I don’t mean that dude you went to grade school with on Facebook. Have a couple friends or family members you can talk to when things are on your mind and you can call on when you feel overwhelmed and need help. This is one of those health tips that can get you out of the house for beer and wings with a buddy. If you face life’s stresses alone, you will make yourself older. Not a people person? Get a dog or cat or bird or gerbil. Spending time with a pet is more effective at reducing stress than spending time with friends, girlfriends, or alcohol.
Get rid of the gut.
Visceral fat (the stuff that settles in your abdomen) lets toxins seep into your vital organs, which is why round-bellied men die sooner than flat-bellies. Grab a tape measure and put it around your body at the level of your belly button. That number should be less than half your height.
Moderation and food choices are key in trimming belly fat and keeping it off, so eat six small meals a day instead of three big ones—you’ll stave off hunger and avoid overeating. Keep the beer to 1 or 2 instead of 3 or 4 and eat some protein, veggies and healthy fats with those processed carbs. Bonus, you’ll reduce your risk for heart attack and diabetes.
Nuts are among the best sources of healthful fats and protein around. Best part is there’s no cooking or clean up. Unless you chew with your mouth open, which is a whole other problem.
Eat in more.
If you cook at home, you not only save money but also gain control over what goes into your meals. A tremendous amount of calories hide in sauces, dressing and soups at restaurants. Food is cooked in fatty oils, butter and sugar. Portions are usually double what your calorie intake should be.If you do eat out, take half home for lunch the next day. It’s cheaper and better for you.
Have regular colonoscopy and prostate serum antigen testing.
Both of these tests are crucial in spotting two common and potentially lethal diseases — colon and prostate cancer — that are still curable if detected early enough. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of a prolonged and painful death. As William Shakespeare might have said: check yourself, before you wreck yourself.
Every man deserves a happy and satisfying life, even after divorce. Start implementing these tips today for a healthier life – and have fun!
Fathers Rights advocates understand that a man who is incarcerated does not bear the weight of his punishment alone. His family—especially those most dependent and vulnerable, his children—also suffer. Kids of imprisoned fathers face well documented adverse effects. Having a dad in jail or prison puts his kids at higher risk to experience poverty, suffer from addiction, or end up behind bars themselves. These children often live with trauma, shame, social stigmatization, guilt, and financial hardship. As if the picture is not bleak enough, incarceration leads to generational institutionalization. Growing up fatherless is the number one predictor of criminal behavior in a child’s future. In fact, most dads in prison are fatherless. It’s a tragic cycle.
This is not just a family problem. With 1.5 million kids in this country separated from their fathers as a result of state or federal incarceration, it is a societal issue. Add inmates imprisoned in jails, and the number jumps to 1 out of 28 U.S. children. And the problem is growing. The number of children with a father in prison has skyrocketed by 79% since 1991. To help these children, we all have a stake in helping these fathers. In fact, dads who have a relationship with their kids are less likely to re-offend. That’s a huge benefit to these children, who are our country’s future, and to society as a whole, since two-thirds of prisoners end up committing crimes which land them back in prison within three years of their release.
Barriers to Parenthood in Prison
As an incarcerated father, you face unique parenting challenges. It can be difficult to see your children if you are imprisoned. There may be no one willing to bring your children to visit you. If you lack the means to pay support, it can affect your kids and your custody rights once you get out, and simple communication via phone and mail can be unaffordable while inside. Private phone companies are making a killing exploiting those who have the least money to pay, holding their relationships with their loved-ones hostage for up to $24.95 for a fifteen minute, in-state phone conversation.
Free, in-person visits are the newest area targeted by private companies for profit. There is a trend to replace in-person connection with video visitation technology that charges up to $1.50 a minute for low quality, offsite video conferencing.
Distance presents another hurdle for fathers behind bars. Proximity to family members is not always taken into account in determining where a prisoner will be sent to serve his time. Fathers rights take a back seat to considerations of overcrowding and other issues. As the distance loved ones must traverse to visit incarcerated family members increases, the likelihood of getting a visit, and the number of visits, decreases.
What are Fathers Rights in Prison?
From the inside, it can be difficult to find information on fathers’ rights or to access legal resources. The feeling of powerlessness and the struggle to stay in touch add to the strain of prison life for dads that are serving time. It may not be easy, but it is vital to stay in touch with your children, for their benefit as well as for yours. Children who have a relationship with their father have a better shot at a brighter future, and inmates who maintain healthy relationships with their loved ones are less likely to return to prison.
Tips for Protecting Fathers Rights While Incarcerated
1. Maintain Visitation
If your children are unable to visit because of financial hardship, distance, or other reasons, then keep in touch by phone. Lack of interest can be used as grounds to terminate a fathers’ rights and clear the path for adoption by your ex’s new husband, by your child’s caregivers, or the foster parents.
The onus is on you, as a father, to research and know the laws of your state. Seek legal counsel if necessary. Time is one resource that is abundant in prison; invest it wisely into nurturing meaningful contact with your kids and educating yourself on how your state’s laws function.
2. Document your Progress
Make a record of the positive steps you have taken while in prison to be a good father and to prepare yourself for success once you get out. Upon your release, you will have to prove to the judge that you can safely care for your kids. These records will show your efforts to visit and contact your children, as well as classes and certifications you have earned from rehabilitation programs. Be detailed; write down the time and date of everything you do for your child. A documented list of your interactions with your kids and others involved in their care will go a long way in convincing a judge you are serious about being a good parent.
How to make a record:
- Use a notebook or piece of paper to keep track of all visits and calls with your child and anyone connected to your case. Be sure to write down the date and time. Add any additional notes you feel were important to remember about the call or meeting.
- Include calls and visits from your child, your child’s caregiver, your lawyer and the social worker.
- Write down dates of letters or pictures you send your child and keep a copy.
- Attend programs and meetings offered by your institution. Keep a record of these and any copies of certificates of completion. Some detention facilities offer classes on parenting, be sure to attend these if offered. Do not only take classes or participate in programs that are mandatory; take the initiative by taking advantage of resources that are voluntary.
- Ask the teachers and counselors of any programs you complete if they can write a letter about your performance.
Tips to stay actively involved in your child’s life:
- Ask about their education. Ask to see report cards, inquire about their favorite classes and any challenges they may be having.
- Be supportive and understanding of their daily achievements and struggles.
- Stay focused on your kids and their needs. Try not to add to their burden by placing your problems or issues on them. Keep visits positive, so your children leave with a good feeling.
- Be patient and let the relationship grow slowly and steadily. Trying to force things will likely have the opposite effect of making your child more closed off and resistant. Nurturing a relationship takes time.
3. Stay on Top of Child Support
Father’s rights, when incarcerated with a Child Support Order, vary by state, but whichever jurisdiction your judgment falls under, you must be informed to avoid the risk of leaving prison with a mountain of debt. On average, an incarcerated parent with a Child Support Order can potentially leave prison with nearly $20,000 in child support debt, having entered detention with around half that amount owed.
Laws regarding Child Support and incarceration:
Whether incarcerated or not, a material and substantial change in circumstances is required to modify child support orders in most states. Two situations that may be treated as a material and substantial change in circumstances are incarceration and unemployment. State policies regarding modification of child support during incarceration vary and depend on a number of factors.
A significant reduction in income due to a job loss or job change is generally considered a material and substantial change for modifying child support if the job loss or reduction in earnings was involuntary (usually meaning you were fired or laid off). If a parent tries to avoid child support payments by voluntarily losing their job (such as quitting work or refusing to work), it is not considered a material and substantial change of circumstances and would not qualify for modifying child support.
Currently, there is a federal rule in place that makes it illegal for state child support programs to treat incarceration as voluntary unemployment, which means you can request a modification of your child support to take into account that you are no longer able to work in the same capacity you did on the outside.
Be aware: most states require you to be proactive in making that request. You must familiarize yourself with the process to file a modification and to do so within the mandated time limit. In a couple of states, the responsibility is not on the incarcerated father to file, but these are the rare exceptions. Recent California law requires the Child Support Order to be automatically suspended in the cases of incarceration or involuntarily institutionalized. Vermont and Wisconsin allow the child support agency to file a motion to modify the Child Support Orders on behalf of those fathers that are incarcerated. The key is to seek legal counsel or do your research, so you are informed. The burden of filing falls on the father.
The consequences of falling behind on child support are not merely added debt. Non-payment can be used against you in custody judgments and can result in revocation of privileges once you are released, such as an industry licenses, business licenses or your driver’s license.
To find out the laws that apply to your case, check the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement State-by-State-How to Change a Child Support Order page and the Modification Laws and Policies for Incarcerated Noncustodial Parents facts sheet.
4. Access Free Resources
Here are a few online resources for information, support and more.
The Prison Fellowship offers resources that tackle everything from how to avoid “visiting room sabotage” to offering interactive activities for visiting day.
The National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated is “the oldest and largest organization in the U.S. focused on children and families of the incarcerated and programs that serve them.”
For fathers of young children, Sesame Street offers a wonderful Incarceration Toolkit that uses the characters in the show to introduce the idea of a father’s incarceration to young kids in an entertaining way that they can understand.
When fathers rights are used to promote a healthy, ongoing relationship with their children, we all profit as a society. Benefits include a reduction in recidivism for incarcerated dads, a more promising future for their children, a decrease in taxpayer-funded detention facilities, and healthier communities for us all. All that is needed to break the cycle of the damaging effects of fatherlessness is for fathers to assert their legal rights to pursue positive father-child involvement.
(c) Can Stock Photo / fuzzbones
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