provided by Patricia Lalonde and Gerry Bock
Long after the ink dries on the legal papers, and you have all moved on with your adult lives, what will the children do with the memories (good and not so great), that inevitably come out of conflict with the two most important people in their lives?
How will the children close the mental loops on the fear that has been thrust into their lives without adequate preparation? How will the children deal with the economic changes that will affect their lives and act as thieves in the night, stealing away their hopes and dreams for the future?
What you choose to do now, will affect the children forever, so please choose carefully. Their tender and vulnerable lives are in your capable hands.
This One Thing . . .
All competent experts agree upon is what your children will be feeling during the separation and divorce process. Whether your children admit to it or not (many will try to be strong and well behaved in order to try and protect relationships), the dominant emotion all children experience during the process is intense fear. These little people were conceived with love in the hearts of their parents and were not prepared from birth for the tensions and conflict that come with challenged parental conflicts.
What are Children Afraid of?
Children faced with parental conflict and separation are living in fear of . . .
Loss of relationship with one or both parents;
Loss of predictability and control over their futures;
Changes in routine;
Changes in the place they will be living;
Changes in the school they will be attending;
Changes in the friends they will (or will not) be able to maintain contact with;
Changes in the family dynamics, including loyalty conflicts (no matter what they tell either of their parents);
Changes in the economic outlook, including a potential loss of vacations, sports extras, their college fund, (all of which could be swallowed up in legal fees).
The children are afraid of all this and more . . .
What are Caring Parents to Do?
The Financial and Parenting Plan documents are the two most important aspects of any family separation, regardless of whether the parents intend to get divorced or not. How well these documents are prepared and adhered to will have the greatest long term effects on the children and the family, leading to peace and balance or conflict and chaos.
What is a Good Financial Agreement?
It starts with one clear document listing all the financial instruments. This document is best created by one neutral financial professional (NFP) working closely with the couple. Each person provides all your financial documents and meets with the financial professional to discuss your current situation, and your ideal desired outcome. Throughout the process, you are likely to have questions, and the neutral financial professional will be pleased to provide answers to your questions while you work towards solutions for the best outcome possible.
Many people have 3-way meetings with the NFP’s. In these meetings, both partners meet with the NFP to discuss their finances. This is an opportunity to hear and be heard, to clarify misunderstandings around rules and regulations, and to get onto the same page for creating a solid agreement.
In the process of gathering and clarifying the financial information, the financial professional teaches the couple about the rules and regulations that apply, filling in any gaps in knowledge. Understanding tax rules that apply when money changes hands or assets are sold, knowing what kind of pensions are held and the options and restrictions attached to them, knowing what the home or businesses are worth and understanding “guideline income” for support calculations are some of the issues you need to clarify before you can negotiate a solid financial agreement.
A solid, clear financial document creates a level playing field for decision making. You and your team are all working with the same information and that dramatically reduces the chances for confusion and conflict.
A solid Financial Agreement provides the family with Safety and Security.
What Makes a Good Parenting Plan?
An effective parenting plan is a document that outlines how parents will raise their child after separation or divorce. There are many differences in what constitutes a good parenting plan and which strategies are less effective and harder to deal with after the fact.
Clear parenting plans do not have to use legal terms or be difficult to understand. A thoughtful, well considered plan will become a living document that can be tested, then revised as the needs of the family and the children become more clear and adjustments are made.
Parenting plans typically focus on describing and preparing for parenting arrangements such as:
• How important decisions affecting the wellbeing of the children and the family members are made; • What information is communicated and how it is shared between the parents;
• What activities each parent will participate in, and when each parent will be the “parent on duty” with the child; • How parenting concerns, conflicts, and issues will be addressed and resolved.
A well-considered parenting plan will reflect the needs and interests of the child and reduce conflict between parents by having clear guidelines and reasonable expectations.
Research has demonstrated that children adjust and cope more successfully with their parents’ separation or divorce when parents have the skills and are able to co-operate with each other.
Effective parenting plans consider the ages and developmental needs of the children involved and outline strategies specific to these needs and developmental goals.
A professional parenting plan checklist will identify issues to consider when developing the plan for your family.
You Know Your Child Best . . .
We believe that parents know their child best and will have the greatest positive outcome on the process, if provided the opportunity to be involved. There may be some issues in the checklist that do not apply to your situation and there may be others not listed that are unique to your situation.
We are Trained for You and for Your Children
We can all work together for the children because children and adults need Peace, Family Stability and Predictability.
Peace includes parents who have resolved their issues and will create two homes for the children.
Family Stability includes quality time with both parents, their extended families and close friends.
Predictability includes an understanding of where the children fit in each of your homes and your new adult lives.
When you are challenged to find safety, calm and a more reasonable approach to your need for a good plan, please pause — then ask yourself if you would be willing to allow us to assist you.
With a well thought out, professionally prepared plan for the care of the children, and appropriate protections of family finances in place, you can avoid entirely many of the typical complications separating families face. Your current wellbeing and the future of your family will depend upon this step.
We can meet with you at your place, or at one of our offices in New Westminster, Surrey or Vancouver.
Patricia Lalonde, CFP, QM, NFP Mediator,
Neutral Financial Professional
Gerry Bock, MA, RCC
Mediator, Collaborative Coach (Child Specialist), Co Parenting Coach, and Parent Coordinator