Positively Paula

RemarriageWorks Show on Dec. 5: "The Bitter Realities of Family Court"

Friday, December 02, 2011
Are you in the middle of a custody battle? Or, is your spouse trying to get custody of her or his kids? Do you think there are no father rights? Regardless of whether you are separated, divorced, or remarried, if you are considering or are in the middle of family law court, you won't want to miss my RemarriageWorks.com radio show coming up on Monday, December 5, 8-9 p.m. EST. It will be a rare opportunity to hear about the bitter realities of family court from a judge's perspective.  

My guest will be Justice Harvey Brownstone, a sitting Ontario provincial court family law judge who authored the best-selling book, Tug of War: A Judge's Verdict on Separation, Custody Battles, and the Bitter Realities of Family Court. You'll learn about the common misconceptions about joint custody and learn about the major difference between couples who resolve their disputes privately and those who turn to a judge.

Justice Brownstone will also share his thoughts on whether people should represent themselves in court or hire a family law attorney. And, he'll tell us what factors to consider when choosing a custody lawyer. Most importantly, Justice Brownstone will let us know what a judge really considers when weighing what's best for a child in a custody battle. Justice Brownstone is sure to be just as entertaining as he is enlightening on his new show Family Matters. There will surely be some surprises! Tune in to the Stepmom's Toolbox mini-network on Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. EST!

Divorced and/or Remarried? Mediation Can Help You

Tuesday, September 27, 2011
When I was going through a divorce over a decade ago, I associated the word "mediation" with "giving in." And, in no way was that going to happen! In my view, I had been wronged, and things weren't going to be even. I was in such a different mindset then, and just the thought of my sitting on the living room floor, jousting, and divvying up our joint collection of CDs and "...one stuffed Pikachu for your house, and I get the stuffed Barney for mine" is horrifying. Whether you are divorcing or remarried, tune in to my next RemarriageWorks show (the Stepmom's Toolbox) on 10/3 to learn how professional mediation can help you.

On 10/3 at 8 p.m. EST, on our new RemarriageWorks.com BlogTalkRadio show, our topic will be "Mediation Can Help You in Divorce and Remarriage." Join me as I interview guests Jim Pope, M.S.W., J.D. and Ann L. Warshauer of the non-profit organization, Northern Virginia Mediation Service. As professional mediators, they will address: the ABC's of mediation, not only divorce mediation, but how mediation can help you in your remarriage and stepfamily life.

Are you facing a sticky or downright high conflict situation with an ex? Are you frustrated with shared joint custody problems? Are you absolutely stressed from child support, or lack thereof? Do you need a co-parenting plan? Does your child still want to see her step-grandparents after your ex has divorced again?

Thanks to our show's sponsor, IDEALS of Kentucky, tune in to our show on 10/3 at 8 p.m. EST, and hear the facts about mediation, and how it can help you in your divorce and remarriage. We'll even discuss if and when it doesn't work. I am sure it is a much healthier process to explore than tugging on Barney's arm or even worse. Very sad, but true in so many cases. 

Plan to Have a Fabulous 2011 in Your Stepfamily

Monday, January 10, 2011
In my newly released book, Journal for Stepmoms, there is a section called, "Planning." Planning is critical for stepfamilies that are trying to figure out joint custody schedules, kids' activities, household budgeting, colleges and schools, taxes, estates, wills, retirement, and more! And, as Jacquelyn Fletcher, author of A Career Girl's Guide to Becoming a Stepmom, just reminded me, don't forget to plan fun in your stepfamily!

So, how do you have fun with all of this planning? 

My husband has always been an avid calendar user; in fact, he blocks out time in his calendar for updating his calendar. I, on the other hand, had a pocket calendar in my purse when we met, but it could only fit so much. I remember like yesterday the angst and stress I felt in the early days of our remarriage whenever we had one our calendar planning sessions sitting at the computer.

I knew it was important to have good strategic and day-to-day planning to make our household of seven people, with kids in five different schools run smoothly. But, nonetheless, I would get tense, anxious, frustrated, and overwhelmed. The last thing I wanted to do after such a session was open another discussion about financial planning, taxes, or retirement. I can't even think the word fun in the same sentence.

Recently, Claudette Chenevert, a certified Stepfamily Foundation Coach, shared a simple, but brilliant idea about planning in the new year. She shared that she and her husband have had a tradition in their remarriage for 20 years. During the first week of the new year, they sit around a fire with candles on the table, and synchronize their calendars for the year.

Now that idea definitely helps me get one more step closer to fun! If you have any ideas that help make planning in your stepfamily more fun, please do share!

Perfect Gift Ideas for Stepfamilies

Thursday, December 09, 2010
In my last blog, I talked about how stepmoms would benefit from giving themselves the gift of journaling. In the midst of this holiday season, I'd like to suggest some gift ideas that anyone could give to members of a stepfamily.

And, attention dear parents and stepparents! If you like any of these ideas, please do not be shy about putting these items on your wish list if you are asked. You may never get these goodies unless you ask. In fact, if you are a new member of a stepfamily, you'll probably be doing your relatives a huge favor by helping them get to know what you like. And, since some of these gifts don't cost a dime, all the more reason to let someone know your desires.

In the "no nickel needed" gift category are:
  • alone time for remarried parents. Offer to watch their kids so they can have that rare date night.
  • patience and flexibility regarding convoluted schedules. Many remarrieds face stress as they are dealing with work, school, and joint custody schedules, especially if they have children in different schools. Offer to host a holiday dinner on a date that allows EVERYONE to attend. And, make them feel at ease if Christmas dinner happens to be on Dec. 30th this year.
  • acceptance and sensitivity. Instead of asking a new family member to step out of a family picture because someone wants a picture of "just their" relatives, perhaps take an extra picture with all family members included and frame it as a gift or create a calendar. Remember to get a gift for all of the children---step or not. You don't have to spend much to have everyone feel included and welcomed.
For those who plan to spend some cash, stepfamily members might really like:
  • family tree gifts. Red Envelope has some really unique family tree gifts, such as a keepsake quilt or family tree photo frames.
  • mouse pads, aprons, bags, stationery plus other custom-designed items that display a silhouette of the stepfamily based off of photos that you provide to Simply Silhouettes Stationery & Gifts.
  • consumable gifts as recommended on our Facebook page by an extraordinaire wedding planner Martha Wiles of A Splash of Elegance. Martha recognizes that combined households often have lots of "things." She advises considering a gift card to their favorite eatery and childcare for later in the year.
Enjoy the season and the giving!

Note: The companies and products mentioned in this blog post are not paying advertisers of this website. I simply recommend the items.

Joint Custody with Special Needs Children

Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Imagine this: you have joint custody and your child has special needs. You've just learned after the fact that your ex allowed your child to spend the night at a classmate's house without her medicine or equipment. You've politely asked, gently reminded, e-mailed, called, and screamed over the years to try to get your ex to pay more attention. Or, at least give you a heads up so YOU can take the medicine over to the classmate's house. This is a much bigger deal than forgetting to pack a toothbrush.

I don't know how many stepfamilies have children with special needs, but I do know that there are about 30 million children under the age of 13 living in a stepfamily. And, UPI.com's article, "14 Percent of U.S. Kids with Special Needs," dated March 5, 2008, points out that "10.2 million U.S. children have special healthcare needs." I believe that adds up to quite a few stepfamilies that are struggling with some kind of special needs issues.

Of course, parents with joint custody often have different values and rules. It can be truly frustrating when you strive to put your child to bed by 9 p.m. on a school night and your ex allows your child to stay up until 10:30 p.m. routinely. But, what about when your child is on a special diet and your ex totally ignores the dietary restrictions? There may not be an immediate negative health consequence, but what can you do if you worry about negative consequences that could occur over time?

I'd like to hear your solutions. I haven't seen many resources to assist stepfamilies with special needs children. For starters: Vent to friends who may not truly understand because they aren't in a stepfamily with a special needs child? Mediation? Go to court? You probably feel like you HAVE to do something! Another step is to connect with others who may be facing similar issues. Maxine Groves recently started a Facebook group called, "Stepfamilies with Special Needs Kids." Check it out.

Stepfamily Support Groups: Definitely Worth a Try

Wednesday, August 18, 2010
If you are in a stepfamily, there have probably been at least a few times when you wish you had some extra support outside of your circle of family and friends to help you with challenging stepfamily dynamics. Have you ever considered participating in a stepfamily support group? If not, why?

Contrary to what some people may picture, support groups aren't always comprised of grieving people sitting in a circle crying their eyes out with tissues and a counselor. Support groups are basically "a gathering of people who share a common health concern or interest," according to "Support Groups: Make Connections, Get Help," by The Mayo Clinic staff.

Check out the Mayo Clinic staff's article to better understand the benefits of support groups and how to find one. You can read about questions to ask before joining a group, support group red flags, and how to get the most out of a support group experience.

 If you are averse to stepfamily counseling, I encourage you to check out a support group.  It is a place to share ideas, discuss problems and solutions, and such groups can be great sources of hope and inspiration.

My husband and I attended a stepfamily support group early in our marriage and that experience provided us a lot of hope when we faced some tough times. It was encouraging to listen to people who had been remarried for over 20 years as they reassured us that they, too, faced and more importantly, made it through rough spots such as ours.

If you don't feel like talking in a support group, you don't have to. In a support group I facilitated for families of children with Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes, we often had expert guest speakers who fielded questions and answers. This format could work in stepfamily support groups, too. You could invite a family law attorney to discuss joint custody issues, or a school counselor to talk about how the school and co-parents can better partner to ensure their children thrive in school as well as in two homes.

For stepmothers, stepfathers, and biological parents, I recommend a free national stepfamily (call-in) support group that is hosted by Yaffa Balsam, a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in CA. I think she has a great idea with this group. At the very least, it is a great way to see if a stepfamily support group is for you. I listened in to her group on August 16, 2010, and I thought the discussion was helpful, informative, and inspiring.

No one cried that I know of.  I challenge you to try it at least once. And, if you have been happily remarried for years, perhaps you can share your wisdom and experience with others who may just be starting out.

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