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DepressedDaddy posted 4/16/2014 13:51 PM

I have been getting a lot of valuable advice and support on SI in the last week. My WW and I decided to divorce one week ago today and it has been a roller coaster since. I'm struggling, but I'm surviving.

We are going to try and do mediation, because we have been able to work amicably so far. I have some questions about parenting agreements. We are going to be doing 50/50 legal/physical custody. We are both very active parents in our DD's life. She is a toddler and we are not planning on hiding anything regarding us, but of course give it to her when it is more age appropriate.

1. For those that have young children, anything to look out for when trying to put together a good custody plan?

2. I know once we divorce, we will be under different filing restrictions for taxes. What is best regarding arranging a good parenting agreement to benefit us/me during tax season?

3. What experiences do you have with introducing future partners to your child, and how did it work? Because she is going to be with the OM, I have to work into the agreement the limits to which I am okay with him being around my DD. He's got children of his own as well.

4. I'm not ready for this right now, but I have seen it a ton of times in the past with friends and family. We have discussed having one day every week or every other week that we do something together, which would include me, my DD and my STBXWW. That might be meeting up at the park and playing together, going out to eat, going to the museum, etc. Essentially, we want to still experience her together, but show her that a divorced couple can still be civil, loving towards their child and move forward from adversity.

What do y'all think?

Gemini71 posted 4/16/2014 14:18 PM

I only have comments for 2 and 4.

2. Some states will allow Unallocated Support, which means it is all tax deductible. Otherwise Child Support is not deductible, only Spousal Maintenance is deductible. And conversely, the parent receiving the support has to claim it as income. I'm using this as an 'incentive' for my STBXH to pay Spousal Maintenance (I'm a SAHM). Note that you cannot tie the amount or length of support to the child's age, otherwise it's assumed to be Child Support and not deductible from income.

Probably the best way to split the exemption and child credits is to alternate odd/even tax years for claiming your daughter. Have it written into the decree, otherwise you'll have to go by IRS rules which goes by number of overnights first, then percentage of support paid.

4. Having weekly 'family outings' sounds like a bad idea. Too much potential for hurt and conflict. I understand what you're trying to do. My SIL has never seen her parents in the same room together, which is very unhealthy. It's probably best to find a healthy 'Middle Ground.'

As your daughter ages and starts school and other activities, there will be plenty of opportunities to model 'Polite Divorced Parents' for her. There will be dance and music recitals, curriculum nights at school, science fairs, and sports competitions to attend in common. You wouldn't always have to go together, but be civil and polite to each other while in attendance. If you get to a point that you do want to attend together, great! But forcing it would just be awkward and uncomfortable.

That's my 2 cents.

devistatedmom posted 4/16/2014 16:15 PM

My children weren't young when we D, but the best advice I can give you is make sure you think about their teen years and college years when you write it up. Don't take it to chance that she will do the right thing when they are teens. Make sure you put something in about car insurance for the kids (will you both chip in for it?), college expenses, sports/arts/music expenses, school trips, etc.

Think it all through, and make sure you have it all spelled out all the way through. It will serve you in the future.

I got lucky. The mediator brought up that it wasn't a good idea for the kids to meet new partners until you were partners for at least 6 months, AND not for a year after the LS. He agreed with her. So, it was in there, and he actually (more or less) followed it. (Tried to skype with her with the kids so they could see her cat, but I shut that down). Although he had the 6 months covered, he couldn't introduce them for a year after our LS. He broke up with her 1 week before the 1 year was up. My kids never met her.

People will tell you you can put this in, but it's hard to enforce. There is really no consequences if they do it. The courts aren't going to penalize them. It can help if you take them back to court if they break OTHER things, so you can show multiple parts of the MSA have been breached, but what can you do after she's introduced them? Not much.

Personally, I would put it in anyway, and hope she follows it. If you don't have anything in there at all, you have no leg to stand on to complain when she intro's them next week. KWIM? Just know that other than yell, there isn't much you can do if she does.

Caretaker1 posted 4/16/2014 16:35 PM

All great advice.

Child will need a car when she gets to be that age....who's going to pay for that? College or trade school after high school costs? Clothes? Right of first refusal.

Morality sleepovers unless engaged to be married...hard to enforce but tie it into a punitive money case such as if discovered he or she doesn't get alimony or spousal support for that month yes I'm laughing but nothing ventured nothing gained.

Who carries the health insurance for your child? What happens if it is lost? Who pays for Cobra? Who pays co pays and out of pocket deductibles?

Make sure you take your ex off your social security and change all beneficiary info to your daughter

Life insurance?

5454real posted 4/16/2014 16:36 PM

Just to #4. DON'T do this to your child!!!!! How confusing. Mom and Dad together acting decently to one another yet not married anymore? Why couldn't this be done within the confines of the marriage?(Just stating what will be going through your child's mind)

Nope, bad idea. Act civilly toward each other at common events(school, marriages and sports), otherwise, N/C. Get on with your own life.


dbellanon posted 4/16/2014 17:31 PM

Your situation sounds similar to mine. DD is 4 years old (was 3 when we separated). XWW and I also share 50/50 legal custody.

The custody plan that works best will depend on a variety of factors. Your geographical proximity to one another will be a big factor (I've experienced all sorts of headaches related to this). Take an honest look at both of your schedules, and be sure that you can actually realistically do 50/50. XWW and I are 50/50 on paper, but in reality, I'm with my daughter closer to 70% of the time. If this doesn't change, I'm going to try to push for a modification of our custody arrangement so that I can actually have primary custody, because while I do enjoy having more time with my daughter, I do not enjoy lacking any of the legal privileges associated with being the primary parent. If you think something like that might happen (let's say your spouse travels a lot, for instance. That is something that might create an imbalance), try to get that sorted out now so it saves you another trip to the courthouse later on.

Another big headache that I wish I had avoided relates to school districts. Again, this depends on how close you and your STBX live to one another, but I've had no end of stress related to this issue with my ex who lives 40 minutes away. If I had been able to have my address designated as her primary address for schooling, I would have saved myself a lot of anxiety.

I'm only a year in, but these are some of the things that I already wish I had done differently. There are other long-range things you might want to think about as well, such as how college expenses will be handled. It seems crazy to plan something like that in advance, but a general rule is that you want to have as many things in writing as you possibly can. If your XWW tries to convince you that you can just wing it and that such-and-such doesn't need to be so meticulously spelled-out, don't listen. You might be cooperating decently now, but if things go to shit later on, you'll want to make sure your rights are clearly spelled-out.

With regard to taxes, we alternate years claiming DD as a dependent. That seems pretty common. Our 2013 return was actually a joint return since our divorce wasn't final until January. XWW agreed to let me handle the taxes for this last joint year. It made things a little less complicated. But that only really works if you're getting divorced at the end of the year.

When it comes to the OM... Gosh. I am so sorry that you have to deal with that. Absolutely nothing made my skin crawl more than the idea of XWW's AP being around my daughter, and thankfully they broke up, but with that possibility in mind, I was able to sneak something into the agreement that was meant to protect DD in the case of that eventuality. Basically it said that, with the exception of close relatives, anyone who was going to be left alone with DD had to be approved by the other parent. Ostensibly this was aimed at babysitters. So, for instance, any time I hire a new babysitter to watch DD, I have to inform XWW and get her approval. But theoretically, this could have applied to the OM as well. Now whether this would have been enforceable or whether it would have stood up to any kind of challenge in court if the two of them decided to get married or anything like that, I don't know, but it gave me a certain measure of comfort knowing that clause was in the agreement. I have no idea if this will work for you.

I'll say a prayer to whatever vengeful gods take care of people like us that your STBX and the OM won't be together for long.

As for joint outings... I have no doubt that DD would enjoy it, but in my estimation it's a bad idea. I think Gemini71 already expressed very well why this is. And even if you can handle it emotionally (I don't think I could), I don't think it's sustainable, and you'd only be postponing the heartbreak when your daughter finally does see you split up in a more complete way.

I do miss experiencing my daughter with someone that I love, but I don't love XWW anymore. And I do grieve that my daughter has lost the chance to experience things with the three of us as a family, but we are not a family anymore. XWW made sure of that. She now has two families. This is the new normal for her, unfortunately.

In spite of this loss, the time that I have with my daughter is precious beyond measure, and our bond has grown stronger since the divorce. Yes, your daughter will probably miss having her mommy and daddy together, and knowing that will be hard to endure, but she will also appreciate all the new time when she can have you all to herself. She doesn't have to share you with anyone anymore. When you are with her, she has your undivided attention. It might spoil her a bit, but she'll appreciate it.

I hope some of this helps. Hang strong.

sparklezombie posted 4/19/2014 18:47 PM

STBXWH and I have 50/50 custody of our 20 month old. We separated when she was about 15 months. Parent A has her M/T/W, PArent B has her Th/Fri, Parent A has her Sat/Sun. Then switch for the next week. It's a variation of the 2/2/3 schedule. When she's older we'll probably do week on, week off.

As for the tax situation, if you are the higher earner, then ask to claim child on your tax return. IRS has a reg that states that the higher income earner gets the deduction. You do NOT have to alternate years.

Here is the link.

I am actually the higher income earner in our marriage and so under our separation agreement, I'm claiming our daughter as long as I stay the higher income earner. I think that's important because I do have her 50% of the time and I have basically no other tax deductions. So as long as you want and get 50% custody, if you earn more, you can claim your child as your dependent.

In my agreement, we stated that there are to be no overnight guests of the opposite sex with whom we have a romantic relationship while daughter is in our home. Not a problem for me, given my beliefs, because I won't be intimate with someone I'm not married to (call me old fashioned but that's where my religious beliefs have lead me). So that helps keep STBXH from having women over while he has our daughter. And it also says that we have to give the other notice before introducing to another significant other.

I'm a lawyer and so I really spelled out our custody stuff in depth. If you need more info, PM me. Not that it can't be changed later, but it's really best to try to get it the way you want from the get go.

Ashland13 posted 4/19/2014 20:12 PM

For a time I tried to do this with X, especially what you write about with spending time together during the adjustment periods to come. I have a puberty aged child and infant to share with X and it is a real challenge. When the baby was born he was around and it was really hard to be in his presence.

Best of luck with mediation. Thus far, X has done nothing with the agreements stemming from the meetings unless it is all the way through court, but hopefully your stbxww will cooperate more.

One thing regarding the parenting plan I did is outline a "plan" for supplies for kids and submit it to lawyers, even if they claim the judge would not care. In this I talked about him supplying their stuff for "his weekends" and I would for my time and if it were a short visit he could take from my supplies. With a baby it got complicated so I had to spell it out.

Things like diet came up as well, as my daughter has dietary needs, so I also spelled out a diet plan. And in the agreement for medicine I asked that I not have to help pay if he screws up her digestion and makes expenses. Again sounding cold but meant for him to be responsible.

Re. introducing SO's with kids, I don't know. I've asked only be told about my children's time there and not the adults because I don't want to hear about OW at all. It helps for me but if my kids need anything I have to keep the door open there. I would have liked to at least be divorced but X forced the issue. His morals are not like mine. So it seems like that would be like an individual basis depending on the poeple.

I know what you mean about wanting to experience your child together-one of the hard things I have is my kid's milestones to experience all alone, esp. a baby, but it's getting better.

My older child knows the truth as well and in the agreement I had to write a blurb that I be given the right to speak truth to each kid as things come along. I don't mince words nor do I make it worse.

The taxes I'm not sure as I was stay at home mother for a long time. I know he had a cow when I tried not to let him claim me during divorce process. So I traded some stuff I needed. We each took a kid to claim for later though.

One thing that was hard for me at first is to realize that for my older child, he is still her KISA and so I work really hard not to bad mouth him in front of her. Though I can be rid of him now, she still will have him in her life for ages to come. So I try to think of that whenever she brings him up.

I wish you luck during the process and am sorry that it happened.

DepressedDaddy posted 4/19/2014 21:46 PM

All real good info!

Thanks for your help. I definitely am needing it.

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