Handling Child Custody Issues During Summer Holidays

Does the thought of handling child custody or parenting issues during the summer holidays make you nervous?  Well, you aren’t alone.

Summer vacation is usually the most anticipated time of year for kids, but it can be quite a stressful time for parents – especially parents who are separated or divorced.  This is because the regular routine is no longer being followed, childcare needs to be arranged, kids participate in summer activities, and families go travelling. This is another reason why it is helpful to have everything regarding summer schedules outlined in a parenting plan.  However, things may come up that don’t fit perfectly within the plan, so they still need to be worked out between the parents.

Here are 3 key things to keep top of mind when it comes to custody issues during summer vacation:

  1. Always ask yourself “What is the best situation for the children?”

Going back and forth between homes and travelling long distances can really take a toll on kids during a regular week.  Then, when you add in the extra free time and inconvenience that comes along with summer holidays, the stress and anxiety can really intensify.  For example, taking your kids on a one month vacation may sound like a great idea, but how will that affect your children?  They would be away from one parent for a great length of time, not be in familiar surroundings, miss out on summer activities, and be away from their friends.  Is that truly a “vacation”?  Kids need to enjoy their break away from a long school year too.

  1. Consider the relationship with your ex when planning.

Some parents get along fine after a separation or divorce.  This tends to make planning and organizing much easier and less strenuous on everyone involved. Unfortunately, not everyone has this luxury.

If you have a relationship that involves a lot of conflict during the regular school year, planning for the summer can be just as challenging…if not more.  These are the types of situations where a parenting plan is extremely beneficial.

If you don’t have a formal parenting plan worked out, you should still get together with each other, and ideally, with the help of a family mediator.  You will want to determine what will happen over the summer with regard to custody, vacations away, activities (camp, sports), etc.  Most importantly, you need to decide how everything will be communicated to each other – especially any changes that may arise that veer off from your negotiations.

  1. Plan well in advance.

Planning for the summer holidays cannot be done last minute.  This needs to be done as soon as possible, especially since the majority of separated and divorced parents have full-time jobs. Also, requests for vacation need to be made well in advance so parents can coordinate to take time off when the other person will be in town.

You may also need to make childcare arrangements, depending on the ages of the children. Relatives may be planning to visit that you need to schedule around too.  You will also need to pick activities that are feasible in terms of being able to get them there and also pick them up…and ensure they don’t collide too much with any travel plans.  Older children may make summer plans with friends, and they would also need to sit down with a parent to fit those plans into a schedule that works for the whole family.

Planning always makes things go much more smoothly!  It’s always better (and less stressful) to be proactive vs. reactive.  Sure, things will always come up that you can’t plan for, but planning as much as possible will make life much easier.

Consult a family mediator for help in setting up a formal parenting plan, or to negotiate how you will plan out the summer schedules, and everything that comes along with that.  You will have a much more relaxing July and August if you go this route.

For family mediation in New Westminster, Vancouver & area, call Rahul for a FREE 20-minute initial consultation.





5 Essential Pieces for Successful Co-Parenting After Separation & Divorce

Co-parenting has become a much more common term in recent years, compared to the “sole custody” in which the mother has traditionally maintained full responsibility for the children.  Co-parenting has a positive effect on children because it encourages fathers to have an equal (or as equal as possible) role in their children’s lives.  It also makes it easier for working mothers to maintain full-time employment, which is often necessary to pay the bills and support the family.

To succeed in co-parenting, there has to be full co-operation from the onset of the separation or divorce. A parenting agreement should be created to ensure that all parties know what is expected of them, and how decisions will be made ongoing.

The 5 essential pieces to make co-parenting successful are:

1. Live Within Close Proximity
If there is too much distance between the mother’s and father’s residence, it will be very challenging to properly co-parent.  Both parties should be close enough to the children’s school, activities, and friends, so that it doesn’t cause disruption or added stress.

2. Efficient Scheduling
The best schedule will minimize the number of times children have to go back and forth between homes, yet still provide adequate time with each parent.  Due to job demands, one parent may have to take on more than the other parent, but the goal should be to be as equal as possible keeping the best interest of the children in mind. This also allows for each parent to maintain their own social life.  Special occasions and holidays also need to be taken into consideration.

3. Respect for Each Other’s Parenting Styles
It’s rare for people to have the exact same parenting styles, so parents have to respect each other’s decisions, whether they completely agree with them or not.  This could include discipline, food choices, bedtimes, what they can watch on television, etc.  Unless there is a serious risk to the child, parents must resist the urge to criticize the other.  If something is not appropriate, this should be discussed among the parents when the children are not around. Appear as a team.

4. Acceptance of Each Other’s New Love Interests
After a separation or divorce, even if it ended on very bad terms, it can still be hard for one to accept that their former spouse has moved on and started dating or even plan to get remarried.  Parents need to refrain from putting down the new partner in front of the kids to ensure that they don’t feel like they have to pick sides.  It can create unnecessary awkwardness and anxiety, and no one needs to be placed under more stress in an already stressful situation.

5. Solid Conflict Resolution Skills
Parents need to be able to solve issues effectively and calmly.  It is a very good idea to have a mediation clause in the separation agreement, so when a problem arises, they can have someone to help them resolve it and move on.  Being able to constructively manage disputes is often a “make it or break it” in terms of a successful co-parenting arrangement.

Do you need to talk to a mediator to assist with your co-parenting plan ? Call Rahul.  He helps clients in Vancouver, New Westminster, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Richmond, Surrey, and area.

What to Do When a Friend is Divorcing

If you have experienced separation or divorce, you know firsthand how painful and overwhelming it can be.  Even if it was a terrible situation, it doesn’t necessarily make it easier to move forward – you still have to go through the healing process and adjust to life without your spouse.

Do you know how you would handle it if your friend told you that they are getting a divorce?

This is not a time for you to give your two cents, put the other person down, or pick sides.  Nor should it be a time when you put the focus on you and share your story. No two separations or divorces are the same. Also,  remember that a breakup that you may have recently experienced is not equivalent to a divorce where lawyers have to get involved and issues like child custody may need to be addressed.

You should simply support your friend by being a good listener. Understand that they will likely be unable to have full control of their emotions at this time as well – possibly getting angry or very upset at the drop of a hat.  This is a time when you have to be extra sensitive to their feelings.  Don’t take  their reactions personally.

Of course you can give advice if asked – but be sure that it is positive, constructive, and empathetic advice, delivered in a gentle and non-judgmental way. Ensure that they know you will be there for them when they need you, but if they do call on you, make sure that you are truly there for them.  Real friends are there to support each other through these types of difficult life transitions.

It is important to respect one’s privacy. Don’t drill them for answers just to fulfill your curiosity.  If they share something with you, keep it to yourself.  Having their trust betrayed at such a vulnerable time could amplify things immensely.

Staying busy is a great way to help people cope and getting out with friends is a good way to start moving on with life – so be sure to invite them out and include them in your plans.  Even if they say they are not interested in hanging out, keep inviting them – just having an invite from someone can make a person feel better and supported.  It will also make them feel good to know that they have people to spend time with when they are ready to do so.

The bottom line – you should check on your friend often and make sure that they are okay.  Offer help when needed.  When someone is going through a hard time, the smallest gesture of kindness can make a world of difference.


How to Help Kids Cope with the Holidays After Separation or Divorce

Getting through the holidays as a separated or divorced couple is difficult.  What makes this even more difficult is when children are involved. Divorce can be particularly hard on kids because they have to deal with two houses, two schedules, two sides of the family, or perhaps even blended families or new relationships.  People often say that kids are resilient and will be able to bounce back from situations like this quickly.  This is often said so that the parties involved feel better, but in many cases, this cannot be further from the truth. If you and your ex are having a difficult time, it is that much harder for a child.

It is crucial that you and your ex come together to develop a plan to ease the anxiety of the holiday season on your children. Ask yourself “What is truly best for the kids?” Put aside your differences and put forth 100% effort into co-parenting. Your kids will pick up on the attitude that you have towards your ex.  Showing them that you can be amicable will give them the hope that mom and dad can still be friends.

Decisions that You and Your Ex Will Be Faced with Include:

  • How much time will be spent with each parent?
  • Who will spend Christmas Eve / Christmas Day / Boxing Day / New Year’s etc. with the children?
  • Who will be buying which gifts? When will the gifts be given? Will you take your child shopping to buy a gift for your ex, and vice versa?
  • If one parent wants to leave town for the holidays, will the children accompany them?
  • How much time will the child be able to spend with friends over the holidays? (This can be especially important for older children, as time with friends can act as a great stress reliever.)

These are not the types of decisions that should be “played by ear”.  It is also a good idea to not over-do it during the holidays with visiting too many friend and family homes.  Less busy = less stress.  Instead, focus more on strengthening the relationships that you have with your children and make them feel secure.

It’s important to sit down together with your children to discuss the holiday schedule.  Emphasize that it will still be a joyous time – it will just be different.  This way, children don’t have to feel guilty for being happy when they are with one parent and not the other.  Ask them how they feel about what you have decided.  Be welcoming to their feelings, concerns, and suggestions.

Anticipate that they will have a variety of emotions.  It will help a lot if you and your ex maintain a unified front and reassure them of your love for them.  It is okay to express to them that you are sad as well because you understand that divorce is very painful.

In some cases, you and your ex may get along well enough to spend the holidays together. This can really help the kids when there is only one family gathering to attend.  However, should there be the slightest risk of conflict, this should be avoided.  You would also want to be clear that just because mom and dad are spending the holidays together, this does not mean that they are staying together. You want to avoid giving children any sense of false hope.

Find ways to replace the happy times of past holidays with new memories.  Most importantly, kids need to feel that life will go on and everything will be okay. Plus, if this is the first year after a separation or divorce, it will make subsequent years that much easier to cope with if handled well this time around.

Questions about how professionals can help separated or divorced clients get through the holidays in peace? Contact Rahul at Clean Divorce – serving clients in Vancouver, New Westminster, and surrounding areas.

8 Ways to Get Through the Holidays After Separation and Divorce

To many, the holidays are a very stressful time of year.  Add divorce into the equation and it can become a time that some people dread and want to avoid altogether.  After a separation or divorce, the holidays can serve as a constant reminder of happier times and amplify the loneliness and sadness that one may be feeling.

Here are some ways in which you may be able to relieve some of this holiday anxiety:

(1) Plan a Vacation – This may be the perfect time to get away without having painful reminders close by.  It is usually much easier to take time off from work during the holiday season. A vacation can recharge you, enable you to have new experiences, and meet new people.  It may just help you gain a better perspective of your situation once you remove yourself from your everyday surroundings.

(2) Set Goals – Make a list of things you want to accomplish over the holidays while you have more free time.  Keeping busy is a great way to keep your mind off of your troubles, and can also give you a sense of accomplishment when you complete the tasks on your to-do list.  You may have been putting some things off, and this can be the ideal time to take things off your plate and feel less stressed.

(3) Schedule “Me Time” – The importance of self-care cannot be emphasized enough. What are your favorite activities to do for relaxation?  Things like going to the spa, seeing a movie, taking up a new creative hobby, and reading a good book (all without your cell phone on) can help you relax and rejuvenate.

(4) Exercise – Even if you don’t feel like you have the energy to even think about going to the gym or taking a fitness class, it can do wonders for your mental and physical health. It is a great way to boost your confidence too!

(5) Eat Healthy & Avoid Alcohol – Eating healthy is not only great for your body, but it will enable you to get results much quicker from your time at the gym.  During the holidays, it is so easy to over-indulge, which can lead to weight gain and make you feel sluggish. And unless you can limit your drinking to a glass of wine, it’s probably best to avoid it altogether, as this can accentuate depression and create more problems.

(6) Put Things in Perspective – You are not the only person going through a separation or divorce, even though it may feel like that.  Approximately 40% of Canadian marriages end in divorce, so you are definitely not alone.  You still have so much life ahead of you and this pain is temporary. Making a list of everything you have to be grateful for will help get you in a positive mindset. Even though relationships end – remember that new ones begin!

(7) Get Support from Friends and Family – Your friends and family love you and will be understanding if you are not quite yourself during this time. They will also want to support you, but they may not know how best to do so.  Communicate with them as to what you need from them and how they may be able to help you.  You can also seek out support groups of other divorcees who are in the same boat as you and can relate to what you are going through.

(8) Create New Holiday Traditions – This is a great way to create new memories and make a fresh start.  Change is good!

Most importantly, know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Your relationship has ended because it was not working for you anymore or serving your life in a positive way, so it can only get better from here.

It is also a great idea to seek professional help if you feel depressed and overwhelmed.  Therapy can provide you with unbiased support and skills to help you cope during the pain of separation and divorce and help you heal.

Considering divorce or already decided to proceed?  Call Rahul at Clean Divorce today! Serving clients in Vancouver, New Westminster, and area.

10 Reasons to Choose Mediation for Separation or Divorce

A family law mediator acts as a neutral party to help couples transition out of relationships in a healthy and peaceful way, without the stress of going to court. Experienced mediators help both parties see the viewpoint of the other, with the goal to reach an agreement that is best for everyone involved.

There are a number of factors that affect mediation for separation or divorce, including the complexity of the issues, whether children are involved, and the extent to which both spouses are motivated to seek a resolution. Mediators help couples resolve disputes regarding parenting time, child support, spousal support, the division of family property, etc.

In addition to keeping the situation fair and neutral, there are many benefits to hiring a mediator:

(1) Save time and avoid court delays – Compared to other forms of dispute resolution, mediation is very time effective. People are often surprised at how quickly a dispute can be resolved through hiring a skilled mediator. Court proceedings, for example, can potentially take years to conclude because the focus is on each spouse trying to prove their case (in terms of facts, fault, liability) to a judge. Mediation, on the other hand, is solely focused on settlement. Parties communicate directly with or without their lawyers. Plus, a qualified mediator is trained to resolve disputes quickly by keeping the parties focused and on track to expedite closure.

(2) Save money – Mediation is much more cost effective than a lawsuit. Mediation is handled out of court, so it bypasses the long and expensive court process. In mediation, there is only one mediator (one full-time professional) as opposed to two full-time lawyers trying to help the parties resolve their issues. Parties do not need to have full-time lawyers representing them throughout the process unless they want their lawyer(s) present at mediation. If the parties choose to attend mediation without their lawyers (which most people do), the mediator can help the parties resolve all their disputes, and the parties can then get independent legal advice from a lawyer of their choice.

(3) Protect assets – Mediation helps couples decide together what will happen to the family home, money, savings / investments, taxes, debts, etc. vs. having this dictated by a judge.

(4) Keep it confidential – Mediation happens in private. Unlike a public courtroom, no one usually sits in your mediation session except you or your lawyer. Information disclosed during mediation will not be revealed to anyone with very few exceptions. What happens in mediation is generally not admissible in court.

(5) Mediation improves communication and cooperation – As with all relationships, communication is key. With mediation, parties are more likely to openly discuss their views on the underlying dispute(s), which leads to mutually beneficial resolutions.

(6) Preserve relationships – In most cases, courts and litigation tends to bring out the worst in people, with both parties pointing fingers as to who did what. With mediation, there is a common goal of reaching an agreement vs. placing blame.

(7) Better flexibility for meeting times – As compared to litigation in court, both parties can agree on times to meet that won’t interfere with their work and other obligations.

(8) Better flexibility for parenting time – Parenting time can be agreed upon to best accommodate the schedules of both parties vs. having this decided upon in court.

(9) Less stress – When both parties have the goal of working together towards an amicable solution, there is less stress; you are in control over the outcome. Matters are discussed in a non-confrontation setting vs. arguing in a courtroom in an adversarial process. Also, knowing that your separation or divorce will be kept private also alleviates anxiety.

(10) Final say – Both parties have the final say as to what will happen – not a judge.

Should mediation happen to be unsuccessful, there is still an option to go to court.

To speak with a qualified mediator in Vancouver or New Westminster, call Rahul at Clean Divorce. He will be able to answer all of your questions regarding your options, rights, and how you can best protect yourself and your family when it comes to separating or divorce.



5 Tips for Telling Kids You Are Separating or Getting a Divorce

Separation or Divorce is not easy.  What can make it even more difficult is when children are involved.  It is very common for parents to struggle as to how they are going to explain their separation / divorce to their kids.

Here are 5 tips for telling your kids that you are separating / getting a divorce:

(1.) Do not say anything until you are 100% sure you are separating. This may seem obvious, but when people get in the heat of the moment, it is easy to say things prematurely.  It can be very scary and stressful for kids to even hear the word “divorce”, and for those reasons, you don’t want to plant this seed of possibility in their minds.  Once that happens, they will be aware that divorce has crossed your mind and could have ongoing fear that it could be a possibility in the future. When you have decided that you are definitely separating, it is crucial to not say anything to your children until you and your partner have both agreed that you will tell the children.  Avoid putting your partner in the position where they could be caught off guard.

(2.) Maintain a unified front.
Discuss in detail with your partner how you are going to communicate the separation or divorce to your kids, including why you are separating, and what they can expect from the divorce.  It will ease their anxiety if they are getting the same message from both of you.  This does not necessarily mean that you agree on everything, but try your best to stay on the same page. It would also a great idea for both parents to express that the other parent will always be their parent and love them, but that you just don’t get along as a couple.

(3.) Stay away from the blame game.
This can place severe pressure on your kids to feel like they have to take sides.  Just as you wouldn’t want your partner to speak badly of you or tell your kids about your faults that may have lead up to this decision, you shouldn’t do that to them either.  It is very unhealthy for kids to feel like someone is to blame, and this can lead to a breakdown in parent-child relationships that could potentially last a lifetime.  The key is to stay neutral in your language when discussing your partner with your kids.

(4.) Ensure your children know they did not cause this. For their own well-being, kids need to be told directly that they have nothing to do with your decision to divorce.  If you avoid being clear about this, they could carry around the weight of wondering if they are to blame or if they did something wrong to cause this.  Explaining to kids that you grew apart, but that no one is to blame for this would be a good approach to take.  After all, you and your spouse know why you are divorcing.  Your children don’t need to be kept in the loop about every detail.  The less they know, the less they have to worry about.

(5.) Be clear on school and living arrangements
. Questions about school and where they are going to live are guaranteed to come up. The more specific you are about this, the more you can alleviate their stress.  However, it is key to stick to what you tell them and avoid making promises that you are not sure you will be able to keep just to appease them in the short term.

By following these tips, you can help make the painful process of divorce more emotionally comforting for your children.

In Collaborative Divorce, the goal is to reduce the negative effects of your separation or divorce on your children as much as possible. Call Rahul for a FREE 20-minute consultation to discuss why Collaborative Divorce would be a smart choice for your family.

Entering Into a Common-Law Relationship? You Should Seriously Consider a Cohabitation Agreement.

It can be a very exciting time when you decide to move in with your partner. It is important, however, to not let that excitement overshadow the reality of what you are getting yourself into. Moving in with your partner affects your rights regarding your assets, your income, and your children (if you have any or plan to have any). Many people may think that this only happens when you get married, and in actuality, that is not the case. Common-law couples have rights too.

How do you protect yourself?

No one wants to think that things could potentially not work out, but if your relationship were to dissolve, you will be very happy and relieved to know that you are protected. Some may say it is ‘unromantic’, but, it is the wise thing to do!

It’s called a “Cohabitation Agreement”. This legal document can be used for heterosexual or homosexual couples. You can think of this Agreement as a way of being proactive, should any problems arise in the future. It is an opportunity to set parameters individually suited to you and your partner. It will save you both from unnecessary costs and litigation, should you decide to go your separate ways. As the saying goes, “It is much better to be proactive than reactive”.

When are Cohabitation Agreements made?

Ideally, Cohabitation Agreements are made before people move in together, but they can also be made between partners who are already living together. It is in the best interest of both parties to do this as soon as possible.

What are the goals of a Cohabitation Agreement?

  • To ensure that both parties understand what their legal rights and obligations are.
  • To help protect individual assets, income, and children.
  • To have a plan in place should you separate, or in the unfortunate event that your partner should pass away.

What are the top reasons for getting a Cohabitation Agreement?

(1) To Protect Your Property – You can outline what property can be split and how it will be split. If you own the home that you will both be living in, chances are you will not want to give that up should you breakup. You can also protect any other property you bought prior to cohabitating.

(2) To Protect Your Wealth – If you are earning more money and/or are much wealthier than your partner, you would not have to worry about losing everything that you have worked so hard for.

(3) To Protect Your Inheritances

(4) To Agree How Joint Debts Will Be Paid

(5) To Indicate Whether or Not Spousal Support Will Be Paid

(6) To Protect Your Business – If you do not have a Cohabitation Agreement in place, your partner could essentially end up owning part of your business (whether you have other business partners or not). As you can imagine, this could end up being extremely stressful emotionally and financially. Business partners will often have this requirement in place to protect themselves.

(7) To Protect Your Estate Plan – If you pass away, it will ensure that your assets are distributed as you wish. It will prevent your partner from overturning your estate plan.

It is very important that both parties get independent legal advice about what exactly their Cohabitation Agreement means. This will prevent one partner from saying “I didn’t know what I was signing!” should they try to challenge the Agreement.

A Cohabitation Agreement turns into to a Marriage Agreement if the couple marries.

Contact Clean Divorce today for a FREE 20 minute consultation with Rahul about Cohabitation Agreements in BC to answer any questions that you may have. Your future self will thank you for entering your common-law relationship with a feeling of security and peace of mind!




6 Ways Collaborative Divorce Can Save You Money

So you’ve decided to divorce, and aside from just being emotionally overwhelming, you also have to worry about legal and financial complexities. However, if you choose to divorce collaboratively, you can actually get out of your marriage with minimum expenses and save money!

Being able to save money is one of the most compelling reasons as to why Collaborative Divorce continues to gain popularity.

The Financial Benefits of Collaborative Divorce Include:

(1) No Court Costs – Spouses are able to work out their disputes and resolve their issues without having to go to court. Both parties are required to sign an agreement stating their intention to resolve all matters without going to court.

(2) Reductions in Lawyer Fees Associated with Going to Court – In a traditional divorce, you would be billed by your lawyer for the time that they spend attending hearings and other court appearances, which can add up very quickly. Also, if the court became too busy, your case may have to be postponed. Your lawyer would have to refresh and prepare each time before court, which would also add to your bill.

(3) No Need for Specialized Court Documents – With divorce litigation, there is a huge cost associated with preparing specialized formal documents that must conform to certain rules. The formal documents take time.  More lawyer time = more money.

(4) Length of Time to Finalize the DivorceCollaborative Divorce is completed much quicker than traditional divorces. This shorter overall process keeps more money in your pocket.

(5) Save Time Away from Work – Attending court and meeting with lawyers means lots of time away from work. Courts set dates with no regard to individual schedules or obligations, and people often have to use up their vacation days. There is much more flexibility in the Collaborative Divorce process, accommodating schedules of both parties.

(6) Childcare CostsCollaborative Divorce helps you save money on childcare costs because you won’t have to take so much time meeting with lawyers or attending various court dates.  With a more flexible schedule, it would also be easier for you to arrange childcare with friends or relatives.

In summary, any divorce is going to cost you money, but if you and your spouse can agree to resolve your disputes and separate amicably, you will both benefit from a time and financial aspect.  Not to mention, you will be reducing the overall stress that divorce has on spouses and their families, and that is essentially priceless.

Call Clean Divorce today for a FREE 20-minute initial consultation. Rahul is a Collaborative Divorce lawyer in Vancouver and can answer all of your questions about Collaborative Divorce and Mediation, plus equip you with the information you need to make wise decisions for your life, your children, and your finances.




Talk it Out in Honour of BC Family Day!

In honour of BC Family Day 2015, Mediate BC will be hosting events across the province to provide the public with information about how mediation can assist families’ transition through separation and divorce without the need to go to court.

I will personally be hosting a table at the events in Surrey and Vancouver.  Come say hello, have some treats, take some print material, and educate friends and family on the benefits of mediation and how to stay out of courts to resolve your family disputes.

BC Family Day                        Mediate BC

Experienced local family mediators will be in 12 Provincial Courthouses during the weeks of February 9th and 16th for these events. CLICK HERE for the full list of cities and dates.

Please refer below to the dates, times, and locations:

14340 – 57th Avenue
Tuesday, February 10th
Thursday, February 12th
Hours: 9:00am – 4:00pm

Vancouver (Robson Square)
800 Hornby Street
Monday, February 16th
Hours: 9:30am – 12:30pm

Also, on February 17, 2015, Mediate BC will be hosting a panel discussion on this topic at Surrey City Centre Library: Family Mediation: The Better Way to Address Separation & Divorce, where you will be able to get information on various programs and resources for families from SourcesBC, Options Community Services, PCRS and DIVERSEcityCLICK HERE for full details and to register online.

Learn more about mediation and the benefits of mediationContact me with any questions you may have and be on your way to working it out, out of court.