September 2021 Newsletter

Little girl

You can’t force people to be something they don’t want to be, but you can adapt to how you deal with them. This issue opens with How to Respond If Your Ex Checks Out of His Children’s Lives, followed by What to Do When You Don’t Really Like Your In-Laws and wraps up with 7 Things You Need to Do If You Don’t Want to Get Divorced.  We continue to be here to help you and your family with your legal needs. Please call 505-881-2566 to schedule an appointment. Our receptionist is in the office to take your call Monday through Thursday 8:00 am to 5:30 pm, and Friday 8:00 am to noon.

How to Respond If Your Ex Checks Out Of His Children’s Lives

Posted on by Tricia D. Goostree, Esquire, July 21, 2021

Little girl

No matter the situation, divorce is likely to be hard on children and parents alike. Kids who have been used to having both parents be part of their daily lives may struggle to adjust to dividing their time between two homes.

Changes to living arrangements can cause a great deal of stress for a family, and some single parents can face additional challenges as they figure out how to balance their work and home life, take care of household responsibilities and provide the care and attention their children need.

Unfortunately, things can become even more difficult if one parent checks out altogether and loses interest in their parental responsibilities. Divorced moms have to deal with these types of situations all too often. An ex-husband may put all his energy into a relationship with a new girlfriend or spouse, with little time or attention left over for his kids.

A dad who was fairly uninvolved in child care activities during a couple’s marriage may pull back even further following a separation or divorce. When a father is consistently late picking up kids for his scheduled parenting time or fails to show up altogether, this can place a mom in a difficult position and cause children to experience additional emotional harm.

How to Respond When Your Ex Checks Out

If your ex has chosen to ditch your children or failed to live up to his responsibilities, you will want to understand the steps you can take to protect your children and avoid ongoing problems. By working with a family law attorney, you can create child custody arrangements that will allow you to provide for your children’s ongoing needs. As you determine how to address these matters, you will want to keep the following in mind:

Child Support Obligations Cannot Be Avoided

Regardless of how involved your ex is in your kids’ lives, he will be required to provide financial support to meet their ongoing needs. He cannot avoid these responsibilities by refusing to take part in your children’s lives. At the same time, he cannot reduce the amount he would be required to pay by quitting his job or accepting a reduction in pay.

Child support obligations will be based on the amount a parent should reasonably be able to earn, and a court may consider their education, skills, and past employment history when setting the number of their obligations. If your ex has not made child support payments on time or in full, you can take legal action to require him to pay the full amount owed, along with interest on any late payments.

Do Your Best to Follow the Court’s Orders

Your ex’s inconsistency may regularly put you in an awkward position, especially if you never know if he will show up to pick up your kids when he is supposed to. However, you should still plan to follow your court-ordered parenting time schedule, while setting realistic expectations for your kids and having backup plans in place.

You should not deny your ex access to your kids, even if you believe his behavior is unacceptable.

However, you can document the instances where he has been late to pick up kids or failed to show up altogether, and by bringing these patterns of behavior to the court’s attention, you may be able to have your parenting plan modified to reduce his amount of parenting time or put other restrictions in place.

If you have reason to believe that your children may be at risk of harm, you may be allowed to withhold parenting time from your ex. For example, if your ex is visibly intoxicated by drugs or alcohol when picking up your kids, you may refuse to allow them to leave with him.

In these situations, you will want to make sure you have convincing evidence showing that your children would be at risk of physical or emotional harm during your ex’s parenting time, and you should be prepared to address these concerns in court.

You Cannot Force Your Ex to Be a Parent

Even though it can be heartbreaking for your kids and frustrating for you when your ex does not show up during his scheduled parenting time, you will not be able to force him to commit to his responsibilities.

You can let him know how much he is hurting your children, but ultimately, it is his decision whether he wants to be there and be a good parent. However, if his actions have caused financial problems for you, you may be able to have him repay you.

For instance, if you have to pay for a babysitter to take care of your kids during his scheduled parenting time, or if you lose income because you were unable to work a scheduled shift when he should have been caring for your children, you can ask the court to require him to cover these losses.

Maintain Contact with Your Ex Whenever Possible

Even if your ex has completely disengaged from his parental responsibilities and does not regularly see or speak to your children, you do not want to cut off all contact with him. Making sure you have up-to-date contact information will allow you to get in touch with him in an emergency.

If your kids are interested in reaching out to him and attempting to maintain a relationship, you can make sure they will be able to do so, while also managing their expectations and helping them determine the best approach to take. If disputes over child custody should arise in the future, you will want to show that you made every effort to facilitate a positive relationship and encourage your ex to be a part of your children’s lives.

Be Honest With Your Kids and Focus on Being a Good Parent

As a divorced mom who is your kids’ primary parent, they will most likely turn to you for emotional support as they deal with the disappointment of being unable to have a relationship with their father. They will probably have many questions for you, and you will want to answer them as honestly and age-appropriately as possible.

If you do not know why your ex does not wish to maintain a relationship with them, you can express this to your kids and let them know that you share their disappointment about not having their dad in their lives. You can also offer reassurance that they are not at fault, making sure they understand that their dad’s failures are his own rather than a reflection of them.

As you continue to adjust to your post-divorce life, you can focus on being the best parent possible for your kids. You will want to be a steady, reliable presence in their lives. As they deal with abandonment by one parent, you can make sure they will never have to worry about the same from you. You can show them that no matter what happens, you will be providing them with a loving home, a voice of authority, and a provider of guidance, instruction, and support.

In addition to making sure all of their needs are met, you can speak to them regularly about their feelings and concerns and let them know that you will be there for them, no matter what. By being there for them in both good and bad times, you can offer them the reassurance that they will always have a strong and dependable parental figure in their lives.

With the right attorney on your side, you can make sure the legal issues related to your children are handled properly. An experienced divorce lawyer can provide you with representation during the end of your marriage and in any situations where you need to return to court to modify your parenting plan or address your ex’s failure to meet his court-ordered obligations. By having a strong legal advocate, you can reach a resolution to your case that will protect your children’s best interests and allow your family to move forward successfully.

What to Do When You Don’t Really Like Your In-Laws

By First Things First, October 9, 2019

In laws


In-laws are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. They might blow through boundaries. Your in-laws might meddle in your marriage. You might even be having a hard time living with your in-laws. Possibly, they’re totally toxic. This isn’t about any of those things. Sometimes, your in-laws are just difficult to get along with. But you want to try to have a good relationship with them.

After a few years of marriage (or less), you soon realize saying “yes” to forever with your spouse really did mean saying “yes” to forever with their family, as well as uncomfortable holidays and long weekends filled with awkward situations and tension for as long as you both shall live.

You want to like your in-laws. You’ve tried to like them. But you don’t.


First of all, did you notice I said “get along with” and not “like?”

The truth is, you may never like your in-laws. And that’s totally fine. You don’t have to. It’s just important to keep the drama and the tension to a minimum as much as you can for the sake of your spouse and your children (if you have them). Even though you formed a new family when you were married, your in-laws are the reason you have your spouse and a new family to begin with. If nothing else, try to respect them for giving you your spouse.

Secondly, be as empathetic as possible.

Maybe your mother-in-law is mega passive-aggressive and a little odd, and your father-in-law is just kind of a jerk all the time. TRY (keyword here) to look past their glaring flaws and put yourself in their shoes. For instance, your mother-in-law may be passive-aggressive because she really just wants to spend more time with you but doesn’t know how to say it. Maybe she’s even a little intimidated by you. (Note: If you’re the daughter-in-law, this is NOT uncommon… I mean, you did take her place as the prioritized woman in her son’s life. Forever.)

And, maybe your father-in-law is a little unhappy with himself or unfulfilled in his life. Maybe they’re both a little off because their marriage and relationships aren’t as healthy as they used to be and they have some resentment and anger to work through. Being empathetic doesn’t mean you excuse their behavior. It just means you take a different approach to understand their motives and actions.

Third, tell your spouse about your uneasy feelings, but remember you’re talking about their parents.

Be vulnerable and open with your spouse every chance you get. But, when it comes to talking about their parents, keep in mind that there’s a fine line between stating your feelings and being critical of their family. It’s okay to say, “I felt sad when I heard your dad talk to your mom in that tone of voice.” It’s not okay to say, “Your dad is a total jerkface. I can’t believe your mom has stayed with him this long.”

Be sensitive. The truth is, your spouse more than likely already knows there are some odd bits about their parents. They did live with them during their most formative years.

Fourth, set those boundaries with a smile.

You and your spouse want to start a new tradition around the holidays, but your in-laws insist that you come to visit them. Kindly and firmly say, “No.” If you want your in-laws to call before dropping by, tell them! Maybe you would prefer that your father-in-law not watch certain shows around your children. Let. Him. Know. Setting boundaries keeps things nice and tidy and leaves the guesswork off the table.

ALSO, and this is very important, each spouse should set boundaries with their own family. So, you talk to your family, and your spouse talks to their family. It’s much easier for a parent to have a potentially dicey conversation with their child than with their in-law.

IF your in-laws don’t like one of your boundaries, and they throw a big fit, let them. You do you and what’s best for your family. If they get so mad that they never want to see you or speak to you again, then that boundary worked out more in your favor than you ever imagined it could. But, seriously. You can’t change or control their reaction. If they act immaturely about it, it’s not your fault. That’s their issue.

Fifth, different doesn’t mean wrong.

Everyone’s family has a certain way of doing things. It’s totally natural and normal for your in-laws to do things differently than what you’re used to, but it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. And it also doesn’t mean you’re wrong. It just means you’re different. For example, you grew up having a big feast on Thanksgiving. Your mom made awesome cinnamon rolls and a giant fruit tray, and your dad made the best omelets you’ve ever tasted. But, your in-laws go to McDonald’s and grab Egg McMuffins. It may seem weird to you, and not as fun or exciting, but it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. It’s just their way of doing things. Accept them for who they are and try not to look down on them for not living up to your standards or expectations.

Last but not least, texts go both ways.

Pursue your in-laws. That’s right. You heard me. Be friendly to them. Make an effort. They’re your family, too. Sending a text every now and again to check in won’t hurt you, and you know it’ll make them feel loved (even if you don’t like them). Send them cards on their birthdays. Invite them to big celebrations in your life. Let them learn more about you and your life. Who knows? You may just influence them to be a little more likable.

Marriage is hard and family is complicated. Both take a lot of work, but the reward of deep, meaningful connection is so worth it in the end. While you may never reach a level of relational bliss with your in-laws, these six guidelines should keep the drama to a minimum and maintain peace in your marriage.

7 Things You Need to Do If You Don’t Want to Get Divorced

By Jill Sieracki, posted on


While statistics have shown that the divorce rate in the United States is steadily on the decline, thanks in part to people getting married later, having more education, and living together before saying “I do”, people still do regrettably break up. But as divorce attorney Vikki S. Ziegler has found, putting in some heavy-duty homework before you head down the aisle can help you make sure you never end up on her client list. “People need to plan not just the wedding and the one-day affair but their whole lives,” says Ziegler. “You’ve got to dig deep to determine whether or not you’re marrying the right person, and you’ve got to deal with your past and the things that are holding you back from being the best partner you can possibly be.”

To help you get both emotionally and financially “naked,” as Ziegler put it in The Pre-Marital Planner, a relationship advice workbook that asks some majorly probing questions providing tools to better communicate with your spouse, work as a team, and fight fairly over the course of your marriage. “The tough questions are not where’s the venue and how many people and who’s sitting at what table,” she says. “It’s what’s wrong with your past, why did you break up with people, how could you improve, how can we communicate when we fight—those are the really important things.”

Unconditionally Respect Your Partner

“The minute you cross the line of disrespect, I think we have a major problem,” says Ziegler. You’re not always going to see eye to eye with your spouse, but if you don’t fight fair, then you’re setting a bad precedent for your relationship. Your partner’s feelings are still their feelings; hear your spouse out, try to understand where they are coming from, and explain your perspective without insults or eye rolls. Like Kristen Bell said, “You might as well break up right then because it’s contempt.”

Be Honest About Money

“Everyone has a different attachment to money,” says Ziegler. You’re a saver, they're a spender or vice versa—totally fine, but just get on the same page now about how you two will collaboratively approach your finances, who will set up the family budget, and what will that budget look like, or be prepared to fight about splitting assets in court. Planning the wedding and organizing that budget are a great test run, but marriage is a long haul, so you need to set up a game plan to take you forward, through kids, your first home, and all the (expensive) bumps in the road you haven’t even imagined yet.

You Also Need to Get Honest About Any Debt You Have

Roughly 70 percent of Americans leave school with some kind of loan debts, and most take until their 40s to pay it off, which means odds are these bills will show up when you go to borrow to buy a house or will affect your retirement plans. That’s not something you want to surprise someone with years down the road.

Know Your Deal Breakers

While you should love your partner unconditionally, you should also love yourself enough to not stay in a situation that could potentially be unhealthy. “When you’re dating, keep your eyes wide open, and when you’re married, close one eye,” says Ziegler. “The reason I say that is because people are telling you who they are. You choose to listen; you choose to see the red flags or not.”

Obviously physical abuse is completely unacceptable, but what about if someone yells at you or makes you feel inadequate? What about cheating? Or if your partner ever has a problem with drugs or alcohol? When you're dating, don’t be so blinded by love that you stay in a toxic relationship, hoping you will one day change the other person. However, once you’re married, don’t always be looking for flaws, so much so that you pick your partner apart. “You need to think clearly about what you won’t tolerate,” she says. “Be aware of those deal breakers and be honest.”

Get a Grip on Your Past

Whether you want to admit it or not, you may have had a few “what the heck was I thinking” relationships. Join the club, we’ve all be there. But there’s something to be gained from having dated Mr. Wrong: It helped you recognize Mr. Right. By identifying the good and the bad, you can keep from making the same (hurtful) mistakes again and again, and it’ll keep you from projecting your past issues with Mr. Constantly Stood You Up, on your sweetie who maybe just forgot your dinner plans this one time.

Come to Terms with Your Parents

Unless you’ve been married before, your parents’ marriage is your only firsthand account of what it’s like to be married. And while some people’s parents are the loving couples TV sitcoms are made of, others are a warring divorced duo with custody agreements. Recognize the good things you’ve seen your folks do and replicate those in your own life, and learn from the things that have been a total disaster so you don’t make the same mistakes. Says Ziegler, “Take these lessons from what’s happened in your life up until now and try to figure out how can you improve and apply them to issues that arise when you have something go wrong in your marriage.”

Work on Your Listening Skills

When you’re in the midst of an all-out shout fest, it’s so easy to get caught up in the momentum of “winning” that you don’t even hear what the other person is saying. “Sometimes you need to step back and listen without emotion, and you need to regurgitate what someone just said to you so you can take it in,” advises Ziegler. “When you start talking about other things and trying to hurt someone because your ego feels attacked, that’s when things shut down. People really need to be sensitive to the words that come out of their mouth, and when you do that, you say things from a place of love, not from a place of hurt. That’s when you have a solid marriage.”

If you’re fighting over him not doing his share of the household chores, don’t start piling on a laundry list of nonrelated grievances, like that time he stayed out too late last month, or when he trash-talked your brother. Also, the phrasing of your argument can easily change the tone and help bring you to a resolution. Consider “I hate it when you leave all your filthy dishes in the sink” versus “I love it when I come home to a clean kitchen.” See?

Focus on the Marriage You Want

Issues are going to arise, and there will be good times and not-so-good times in your future. But keeping your eyes on the prize will help you ride the wave like a pro. Come at disagreements from a place of love, not “I hate your guts” (even though you might at that moment). “Talk about why you’re vulnerable and how to improve upon your vulnerability, why you’re actually marrying this person in the first place, what you love about them, and focus on the good,” says Ziegler. Keep working on making yourself the best person you can be, not only for your partner but also for yourself. Take time not just today, but regularly over the course of your marriage to ask yourself, “am I trusting you, am I showing gratitude, am I emitting emotion, am I giving you recognition?” and you’ll help give your marriage longevity.