What makes someone a “stepparent”?

This week I received the following question, and I thought you might like to know the answer, too…

The question was, “What makes someone a “stepparent”? Is it only through marriage, or can it be someone who “volunteered” for that position?”

My answer was:

A stepparent is someone in a committed relationship – legally married or not – with a parent. Stepparents – legally married or not – have no legal standing for their partner’s children. In other words, if you are a stepparent (as I have been for 24 years) you cannot, without your partner’s written permission, pick up your stepchild from school, sign for medical care for them, get their grades, or most other legal actions.

As a stepparent, you are legally just a stranger helping with someone else’s child. That’s the legal stance. It’s also a good starting point for the personal relationship with your Sweetheart’s children. I teach couples to focus on their “marriage” relationship. Let the biological parent take responsibility for their kids. That’s how the law looks at it and if the stepparent looks at it that way, too, all will be easier.

Yes, a stepparent should help out their partner whenever they can – with errands, shopping, housekeeping, etc. But only when asked, in relation to the children. If a stepparent goes into a relationship thinking they can “fix” the parent-child situation, they will find themselves receiving resentment from both the parent and the child, AND the child’s other parent, AND the child’s grandparents, on BOTH sides. Stepparents have the opportunity to be a blessing to their partner and his/her kids, but you have no rights to make decisions for these children of another couple.

My favorite motto is

“Not my circus, not my monkeys.”

When/if the kids start driving you crazy, react as you would with kids in the mall – either let their parent know they’re causing trouble, or step away from the children! And if you let their parent know how they’re acting out, do it gently with love.

Remember, your most important job in the relationship is to support and comfort your Darling. Most likely, you married for love, not to Fix their family. You are not their teacher or their trainer. If they ask your advice, give it softly and with care. These are not your children. Someday, if you play your cards right, you may hear your stepchildren refer to you as “Dad” or “Mom.”
And that, my friend, is a joy you can’t imagine!

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Lessons in Failure

I WANNA DIVORCE SO I CAN BE HAPPY!!!!

In the Old Testament book of Malachi, God says that He hates divorce. Today’s society will say, “it’s none of your business, God, it’s my life and I’ll do with it what I wish; it doesn’t affect anyone except me.”

I just found out that a close friend-couple with a sweet little toddler is getting divorced. Why?

Because she ISN’T HAPPY!!!

Oh, good grief! Cry me a freakin’ river. Her child is already acting out because he’s so upset. Her and her husband (the victim in this little self-indulgent play) family will be torn up AGAIN. Her son will always be disturbed (a.k.a. Damaged) because of this. She will go on to a second marriage (a stepfamily) which will have a 70% chance of divorce, then probably on to a third with a 75% chance of ANOTHER divorce.

Just so she can be HAPPY! What utter foolishness.

What a stupid way to try to make yourself happy – at the expense of your child, your spouse (you know, the guy you swore – YOU SWORE – to be faithful to Til DEATH DO YOU PART [i.e. all the rest of your life]) your family, and YOURSELF and whatever guys you talk into marrying you next time and time again.

————————————–

Friends, Watch your acquaintances who choose to do this – to throw everything away so they can be HAPPY. Watch them over the years as they whine and bitch about how unfair life is as they fail over and over to find nirvana.

Watch them and learn.
Because they are our lessons of failure.

STEPcoach Bob

StepDad Asks: How do I make my Stepkids like me?

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Short answer – you can’t. That is, you cannot make them feel comfortable with your being in their mom’s life. That is up to them (and somewhat to how their mom leads them). The best thing you can do is be polite with them while being appropriately close to their mom. (“Appropriately” means close and passionate when alone; courtly and pleasant when the kids are around.)

You are not – and this is often the hard part for guys, it was for me – taking on any part of raising her children. That is her and their dad’s job. Not yours. Not at all.

You should treat them as you would the children of one of your church (or club) friends: friendly, casually, but politley. Do anything the mom asks you to for them – pick them up, drop them off, offer input If She Asks.

Consider their behavior as that of a neighbor’s kids’. Would you try to correct or instruct the kids who live three doors down from you? Probably not. If you see them acting up, you’d tell their parent – and then, probably only if it involved your stuff. It they were being unruly and you felt you HAD to say somthing, tell their parent (your girlfriend), but don’t try to correct them yourself.

NOTE: your relationship with them as a part of their lives will not begin in any tangible way until you and Mom are married. This makes a huge difference to children who have watched Mom and Dad divorce. Boyfriends are just “Mom’s passing fancy.” Stepdads (= the guy married to mom and therefore a permanent part of the family) are different in childrens’ minds. They are at once the opposition, the outsider, the invader, the unknown equation, the interesting oddity, and someone in between Mom and them. Winning them means EARNING their trust. THEY hold the keys to that lock. Eventually, a stepdad (or stepmom) will become less irksome, more acceptible, and even entertaining.

Nationally, it takes from 4 to 7 years for a stepfamily to gel and start functioning as a family – sometimes longer, rarely less time. Prepare to be the third wheel with the kids for that long and your expectations won’t make you crazy. Focus your time, energy, and mind on creating a strong relationship with your wife. When the kids have grown, moved away, and have families of their own, it will just be you two. Build your marriage relationship solidly.

(NOTE 2: If you are a Christian, pray and trust completely. If you are not a Christian … well, your best hope is to get in the Family ASAP. Stepfamilies have between a 66% and 75% divorce rate. That’s three out of four chance you’ll divorce again. With God’s guidance and help, those odds improve greatly.)

Blessings,

Stepcoach Bob Collins

You CAN NOT do it! … but …

Mom, worn out and about to cry.
Are you so worn out trying to do it on your own that you are failing?

I was thinking of you this morning as I headed out into the day. I turned on the radio this morning, praying, as I often do, that God would give me a word for the day. This is what I heard:

Are you a practical atheist

Not a theological atheist, who says I don’t believe God exists. But a practical atheist who makes plans, saves for emergencies, prepares for possibilities, and basically trusts in yourself to take care of self and family? 

A practical atheist is still an atheist. “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)

If you are in a Christian marriage/partnership, you both prayed and agreed that this family would follow God’s will. That the primary reason for your uniting was, in addition to loving each other and your children, to give glory to God, and to witness to more people of God’s existence, His love, and His salvation.

But what are others witnessing in you? With so many stressed stepmoms and stepdads, everything I see about how you are dealing with this – your own kids and stepkids’ attitudes, spouse/partnership relationship, ex-spouses, bills, schedules, etc, etc, etc – blares out, “I am afraid that may fail! I must do more and better! He/they are going to beat me, so I have to try harder to make this work!” This is what your words, your actions, and your demeanor say to the world watching you.

My dear, dear brother or sister, Please listen to God. Sit down. Breathe. “Be still and know that He is God.” (Psalms 46:10)You have to be still in order to let Him show that He is God, otherwise, your action, fervor, and your good hard works take the limelight from Him.

This stepparenting business is much, MUCH easier than you are making it. Over two decades of being a stepparent and working with thousands of stepfamilies has proven this to me, time and time again.

You are not capable in yourself. But as God’s child, you are privileged to observe how your Father blesses you and your family as He does it.

“Be still and know that He is God.”

What should my stepchild call me?

… I get letters … well, actually I get emails, often in response to this blog or my Facebook pages or referrals to my websites. And they are almost always about disasters hitting the dazed home of a fledgling stepfamily.

Generally, they are about some sort of breakdown in communication – My ex-spouse is causing trouble, or my kids hate my new spouse, or my new spouse can’t stand my kids, or they’re all driving me crazy – things like that.

And I don’t mean to belittle these issues because I’ve been there myself, 24 years ago when I married a sweet lady who came with a 14-year-old attachment in the form of an angry at the whole world girl. After going through a suicide attempt, physical and verbal attacks, and a threat to kill her mother, we survived, won her over, and moved on to teach others. So I get it. These Disasters really are serious, life changing events.

One question that pops up pretty regularly is the question I got this week: “what should a stepchild call their stepparent“. That is all they asked, no explanation, no idea of who was calling whom what. So I tried to cover the whole topic. And since my answer was deep and wide, I thought I might as well share it with you, my dear readers. My answer was …

What a stepchild calls his (or her) biological parent’s partner (legally wed or not) is up to 1) the child, 2) the stepparent, and 3) the biological parent. This order of control is important because no one can make a child think of the stepparent as “Dad” or “Mom” – that is entirely subject to the child’s own mindset. As long as the child is respectful, the title they use is usually more of an issue for them/you than for the child. If she chooses to call her stepparent by their first name, that is probably fine – as long as it is done respectfully.

It is the responsibility of the biological parent to teach their child to respect their partner. It is not the responsibility, or right, of the stepparent to school their partner’s child on manners or etiquette any more than it would be for them to make rules for the stranger’s kid at the mall. If your stepkid is bad mouthing you, do the same as you would at the mall – take it to the parent to deal with. (“Not my circus; not my monkeys,” so to speak.)

However, most of the time this question is asked, it is because the stepchild has started calling a stepparent Dad or Mom. And the biological parent is upset about what it might mean.

I understand why many biological parents are uncomfortable about hearing a relative newcomer to the family referred to as Dad or Mom. After all, that guy or gal is not, never has been, and never will be your child’s blood parent. (Adopted children and parents change everything. That’s a-whole-nother topic.) And grandparents seem to get more upset than even biological parents when they hear the D word or the M world used for “that other person.”

But, to a child who has been through divorce, labels become a bit fluid. When my own teenage stepdaughter, after four years of resistance and blow ups, one day casually said, “OK, thanks Dad,” she was telling me and her mom that she had finally accepted that I was there to stay, and that she respected me for playing the supporting role of dad-stand-in for her when she needed it.

My stepdaughter was not suffering from head trauma or a psychological break so that she was suddenly unsure who her blood/biological parent is. If I had stood next to her biological dad and ask her to pick out which one is which, she will still know who is whom. She hadn’t forgotten her father.

She is bestowing an honorary title on this adult who has proven him/herself to the child. She is outwardly saying what she has been inwardly thinking for awhile. It doesn’t mean she loves them more than you, or that she is replacing you, or that they are her “favorite.” It just means she is giving them that privilege.

Look at it this way, isn’t it great that your child has one more person in her life with whom she feels close to? That she has one more adult looking out for her? And, if your child feels this close to his or her stepparent, maybe it’s time you got to know them better, too.

As they say, “Keep your friends close and that jerk who has moved in on your family closer.”

God bless y’all,

Let me know if I can help.

Stepcoach Bob Collins

What’s Ahead for Your Family in 2018

You made it through another year! Yeah!

Well, you’ve made it through another year. Congratulations. No, really. Lots of other stepfamilies didn’t make it. (Remember, ±70% divorce rate for us?) So celebrate your success. And when you get through hoopin’ it up, here are some ideas for the next year that may make your next pre-New Year times even more celebratory.

Maybe 2017 was the first in your new family or maybe it was one of a series, but I’ll just bet there were some memorable moments in the last 12 months. High times, low times, disasters (of various sizes) and perhaps even some victories.

1) Don’t overlook the victories

Celebrate your victories

Sometimes they will tend to get lost in dealing with the disasters, but those victories are the building blocks for the rest of you lives together. You need the victories for when the disasters are smothering you. You need to be able to look back at some happy times, some surprising laughs, some peaceful Family times together.

So make a scrap book. A real one or one online. Actually “print” some of those photos from your phone and make a collage. (Gasp! What a thought!) memorialize your Happy Times. I promise, you’ll be glad you did.

2) Give out awards

Which of your new tribe laughed the most? Who improved more over last year? Who overcame some major challenge? Who won an award at school (or work)? Which of you created some family-centered artwork?

These can be huge victories, or quiet accomplishments. Just be sure not to be sarcastic with your awards (unless that’s your whole new family’s thing!). And try to include either everyone or just one or two really notable victories. And make real awards. You can print out certificates of accomplishment, or make heavy duty cardboard medals and paint them gold. The point is, let your family members know you notice their efforts. Encourage them to try.

3) Make big plans together

Your family, too, can experience wild times at the beach

…you know, like a family. Take some time now to gather ideas about where everyone would like to go for a family vacation. It can be just a weekend outing nearby, or you can visit all the greatest cathedrals of Europe … maybe not. But you can discuss what you want to do, edited by what you can realistically do. Make a list, let proponents sell the idea, and discuss feasibility (i.e. teach the kids how to budget money and time). Then make another list of your top three favorites and choose.

4) Make little plans together

Let everyone (within reason, and with the bio-parent’s approval) put in their two-cents worth on Summer vacation weeks, birthday parties, maybe even special times for visitation. Be sure to include school events and sporting events.

The point of all this is to create and develop a sense of FAMILY so your kids and stepkids, and parents and stepparents can all take part in the growth of this new home. Give everyone a say in how this adventure goes.

All too often,

One big happy family

Children feel left out of the planning stages. They were blindsided by the divorce, and now a new adult has moved in, with their own traditions, ways, family members, and issues; and the kids can feel like they are just furniture or the family pets. They get told what will happen, when and where it will happen, and what they are expected to feel about all the changes.

By including them in the plans for next year – the big ones and little ones both – they can feel like they have some value in the new enterprise.

And you can have an even better victory celebration next year.

Holiday Survival Strategies

Holiday survival guide for divorced parents

[SOURCE: http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/21/living/holiday-survival-divorced-darents/index.html – from 2011]

<NOTE: The following is an article I ran across while researching my divorcing parents’ guidebook. The advice is sound, and the need is ripe. If your children have been through a divorce, especially if it’s been this year, you need to be prepared for the shock and pain they will experience in their first big holiday with a broken family. Please don’t underestimate the impact this will have on your kids. Thanksgiving and Christmas are hyped so strongly that the divorced child is left behind on the frantic rush to The Perfect Christmas Morning. And for “our” kids, that Perfect picture doesn’t exist. Start now to prepare to guide them through the parties, the gift giving, the visitation, and the separation of the next few weeks. STEPcoach Bob Collins]


The holidays can be rough on divorced parents and their children David Murphy hasn’t started shopping for his two boys yet, and he knows he had better get started. The div orced father of two boys, ages 11 and 14, has custody for a full week around Christmas Day this year and needs to get a tree and start buying presents.

Every other year, Murphy (who didn’t want his real name used to protect his children’s privacy) doesn’t have Christmas custody. So, he tries to do something completely different. Divorced for four years, he has traveled with his mother to visit England, where she was born. He has joined his father and stepmother on a trip to Carmel, California.

He hasn’t crashed his ex-wife’s Christmas Day plans, even though she lives only three miles away from his home in suburban Virginia.

“We try not to mess with the schedule when we don’t have to because it’s easier on both parties,” said Murphy. “As each party has moved on, it happened to work that way. We try not to interfere with each other.”

With the U.S. Census Bureau counting nearly 4 million divorced parents in this country, many parents are facing the challenges of negotiating holiday custody schedules, battles over presents, new significant others and simply the pain of being apart.

Whether you have the children for Christmas or not this year, going through a separation or divorce means giving up the dream of a perfect Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanzaa. With the fantasy of the perfect nuclear family obviously over, it can be lonely even with the kids — but much worse without them. Facing the first holiday since the split, how do people ever survive this holiday season? And eventually even thrive?

Many like Murphy — who credits his ex-wife with keeping the focus on their sons’ well-being during the divorce — have found a new way of parenting beyond divorce. Here are some things that work:

Keep it focused on the kids

You may not expect to have a happy holiday but wouldn’t you like your kids to have a reasonably nice time? Even if you’re right, do you want them remembering you put them in the middle of your battles? And no child wants to feel pressure to choose you over the other parent, whom she loves as much as she loves you.

<No matter how you feel about your ex, or whether your feelings are justified or not, one fact remains: your children still love both of you. Kids love their parents. It is in their blood – literally! The sooner you accept this fact the better for you. Parents who try to alienate their children from the other bio-parent aways lose. Always.>

Parents learn about the payoff later, when their grown children make their own choices about where they spend their holidays. In her book “We’re Still Family,” about adult children of divorce, psychologist Constance Ahrons learned that some adult children refused to visit either parent if the bickering continued. “The children were happiest where parents at least communicated,” said Ahrons, also the author of “The Good Divorce.” “They didn’t want to get caught in the middle, and they wanted to be with both parents.”

Sort out details in advance

Nail down the specifics about who gets which days around the winter holidays, including pickup times and locations. Sometimes the details are in your custody agreement, sometimes not. Put it all on e-mail or in writing and stick to the deal — at least until it becomes routine. If you’re a more casual, less detail-oriented parent, know that you’ll score points with your more time-obsessed ex if you’re on time at drop-off and pick-up. If you’re the detail-oriented parent, plan for your always-late ex to be late as usual and you’ll be less stressed. Do not fight about time or anything else with the children present.

<The worst thing a divorced parent can do is to argue with (seen as Bullying to the kids) your child’s other parent. They don’t care at all who is right or wrong about whatever you’re fighting over. They love you both and need both their halves to function smoothly together.>

“Put aside the warfare that so often accompanies divorce,” said Steven Grissom, president of DivorceCare, a Christian-based divorce ministry with chapters around the world. “If that carries into a special time in the eyes of child, it makes the holiday experience excruciating.”

Don’t out-Santa each other

If you can speak civilly with your ex, talk about a general budget for presents, the number of presents and what Santa is getting your children. Santa knows which address to deliver the bike or the castle or the Wii, so don’t screw up his planning by having one at each house (unless you both want one at each house). Don’t outdo each other. Remember the spirit of the holidays and avoid trying to buy the children off with fabulous presents. And don’t buy that violent video game for the specific purpose of angering your ex. The same goes for grandparents and new significant others. If they’re interfering in your co-parenting plan, remind them they are not helping your child. At the same time, accept that parents may have different standards about what are acceptable gifts. If you are opposed to electronic games, you may need to accept they will exist at your ex’s house.

Keep some traditions, within reason

Children love routine and ritual, so keep a few family traditions if you can. If you baked dozens of different types of cookies for everyone in your life, reduce the number and type of cookies during your annual baking party but keep your daughter’s favorite snickerdoodles. If your family liked to take a trip into the woods in your ex’s truck to cut down a tree, you may have to explain that your smaller car can’t haul such a tree. “To the extent you can, talk with your children ahead of time and find out what is really important to them,” Grissom said. “If that won’t be possible, maybe you can create a new tradition.”

<Instead of crushing your children’s cherished traditions and memories, recruit them to come up with new traditions. Maybe including some of the old, but (as you’ll tell them) this is their big chance to build exactly the kind of new family and home they want to live in. Encourage them to make plans, then follow through with them.>

Don’t push too much togetherness

While some ex-spouses can sing carols around the Christmas tree or light the Hanukkah candles together with the kids and both sets of grandparents, that’s not the reality for everyone. Some do not want to spend time with people who left them or whom they chose to leave. Some people fight every time they see each other. Do not force more togetherness than either of you can handle, and don’t feel guilty about it. (That said, if you haven’t broken up yet, wait until January. Don’t be the Divorcing Grinch Who Stole Christmas.)

Don’t lobby for your sweetheart

Bringing a new significant other to the family festivities can really throw the holidays off-balance for the family, Ahrons said. “One parent will say, ‘Are you really going to bring her to this table?’ or ‘You can come without her.’ Avoid if it’s going to cause trouble, even if the new girlfriend is serious.” Remember, it’s about your kids, not you.

<And all this was not their idea. They are struggling to survive with the new set-up their parents created. Make it as good for them ask possible. At least for a few days per year.>

The exception to the rule

If your ex is currently a danger to himself or herself — and/or others — the safety of your children is more important than cooperating during the holidays. In fact, you’re probably trying to break the pattern of your ex ruining holiday celebrations. Elizabeth Jones, who didn’t want her real name used to protect her child, isn’t letting her ex spend the holidays with their daughter for the first time in years. He only recently contacted Jones a couple of weeks ago after disappearing for months. Whenever he sobers up, she first lets him have supervised phone calls for a few weeks, eventually visits with her and their daughter at a neutral location such as a park, followed by visits at her California home. “If my kid weren’t so thrilled every time she got to see him, I would be handling this differently,” said Jones, who has sole custody. “It’s a lot of emotional work for me to put aside my own feelings.”

He’s a jerk

If you’re a saint and your ex is a sinner and won’t take any of your thoughtful recommendations to heart, consider this notion: Safety aside, it’s better for your child for you to let your ex “win” sometimes, even if you’re right. Christmas can sometimes fall on December 27 or even January 6 (the Feast of the Three Kings). Hanukkah is eight nights of fun, so you don’t need to control all eight nights. That doesn’t mean you’re a doormat. It means you’re a good parent.

Your adult child will know you tried to make her life better by trying to compromise with your difficult ex (and yes, children know who was difficult).

<But, don’t point it out to your kids. That will make you look like you are bad-mouthing their other parent, whom they love just as much as you. Let them figure it out themselves. Your kids are very observant. They KNOW who is playing nice and who is not.>

“How you react to your ex-spouse is how you are teaching your child to handle conflict, stress and anger,” said Alan Kazdin, a Yale University psychology professor and director of Yale’s Parenting Center. “Giving up a Christmas here or there means you’ll have your child long-term. You want your child to have an ally in you later in life. It’s not only more rewarding; it’s more worthwhile long term.”

A Stepdaughter’s Side

I have been a stepdad for over 23 years, to a girl (young woman now) who is still very much defined by her dad’s coldness toward her. Try as I might over the years to be a Daddy for her, I am still just the guy who married her mom last. But I am grateful for the opportunities to play the part, from taking my grandson to doctor or dentist to helping her with “dad-like” tasks. I wish I could heal her heart, but only a bio-daddy can really do that.

The story borrowed here below is the other side of that story. The writer is a young lady who misses her stepdad after his divorce from her mom. I hope it opens some windows for you, as it did for me.

What is family? The question seems simple enough, so why has it shaken me to my core? My parents divorced when I was four years old. I don’t remember the divorce, or much of it. I remember splitting school vacations between my parent’s houses. I remember being a teenager, and joking about getting two Christmas […]

via Growing Pains — Casey Girard

TMI or Just the Facts, Ma’am

By Bob Collins

How much information do your children need in order to do what you require from them? Over load or insufficient data?

I have several devices, tablet, phone, laptop, etc, etc, as I’m sure you probably do, too. And I have several power supplies which I have collected over time with the devices. The power supplies are different amperages, stated in different ways, which drives my poor writer’s brain nuts.

This morning I was trying to choose between one power supply that said “output: 8.5 Amps” and another that said, “output: 500 mAmps.” >sigh< unable to find my old college math books, I consulted my next favorite source, Google.

Three hours later, after learning about basic quantum electronic theory and the origin of lightning-based home-schooled electromechanics, I stumbled upon a simple converter that told me, with the click of a simulated button, which one was more gooderer. 

We now have WAY too much information available for the efficient delivery of answers to befuddled, overworked humanoids. 

WHAT INFO DO KIDS NEED FROM PARENTS?

In our oversaturated, overstimulated, overinformationalized society, I am seeing so many cases of mis-communication between parents and their kids. We moan about a lack of respect from our children, when – I suspect – the problem is really a lack of connection. 

Parents have lately become victims of “Explain-itis” when it comes to giving directions to their children. The directive to stop hitting a playmate slowly melts into a long, dry lecture on the reasons for mutual respect, societal order, individuals’ personal rights versus self-esteem, and all the other catch words spewed out by everyone from the media to Facebook to educational flyers.

By the time a well-meaning parent has explained the psycho-social theory behind playground fairness and mutual concern for the planet, the poor child has forgotten what the lecture started over. And he has lost a little more respect for Mom’s or Dad’s intellectual usefulness.

A simple, “Tommy! Stop hitting that boy! Now, apologize to him; shake his hand; and get in the car, we’re going home,” is an excellent delivery of the necessary information and steps to be taken for Tommy to end the inappropriate action, reconcile with the other child, and begin his next action.

Our children’s minds are not developed, until their mid-twenties, to incorporate and process complex multiple streams of information. The most effective way to instruct them is with simple directives, delivered in a straightforward order, so that they can process one step at a time.

Long detailed explanations about why some actions must be taken, are best left for later, perhaps at bedtime when the excitement of the moment has passed. 

If you spend too much time carefully enlightening your child about the engineering facts of the internal combustion engine and the momentum-to-surface texture friction ratio required to halt a moving automobile – you may end up finishing the explanation in an ambulance on the way to a hospital.

Just like I was distracted and confused by all the in-depth discussions about amperages, your kids don’t necessarily need to understand the “Why” and the background, as much as they need to know What you want them to do first, second, and third.

Remember that kids don’t like “TMI”! 

[by Bob Collins, Copyright 2017]

A Letter for the Family Courts

[THIS is a letter I am sending to all divorce attorneys and family court judges in Sebastian and Crawford County. PLEASE NOTE the 2nd through 4th paragraphs. This is Very Important Stuff!]

…. “One point of confusion seems to come up occasionally: who exactly is Required by law to attend the parenting classes. Arkansas Code states:

A.C.A. § 9-12-322 (2017) Divorcing parents to attend parenting class.
(a) When the parties to a divorce action have minor children residing with one (1) or both parents, the court, prior to or after entering a decree of divorce, may require the parties to:

  (1) Complete at least two (2) hours of classes concerning parenting issues faced by divorced parents; or

  (2) Submit to mediation in regard to addressing parenting, custody, and visitation issues.

“So, each parent, regardless of *custody orders, *who filed for divorce, or *who intends to be primary caregiver of the children, is required to attend either the class or private mediation. Parents who attend these classes understand it is beneficial for both of the parents and all the children for both parents and any other adult family members to attend the classes. 
“Our class plan still emphasizes parents not arguing in front of the children; cooperating regarding child support payments, shared responsibilities, and household rules that affect the children; teaching children to respect both parents; and helping children cope with the divorce.

“As of this Summer, we will have been teaching our Parenting Together class for divorcing parents for 13 years! That’s a lot of classes (over 230) and nearly 2,300 parents who have been shown how to guide their children through divorce.

Thank you for your part in directing these hurting, confused parents to our class where they can receive direction and a plan for their futures with their children. Your recommendations have helped greatly.

“I have included some brochures you may photocopy and hand out to your clients or interested parties. As always, you are welcome and encouraged to visit my classes at any time at no charge. Please let me know in advance, so I can have handouts and information packets for you.”

Sincerely, 

Bob Collins

Certified Domestic Mediator

Build a happy stepfamily

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