In our last few posts, we've explored how putting an effective child custody plan in place requires careful consideration of multiple factors. To get the best results for you and your kids, it's generally important to be creative yet consistent and open to compromise.
We discussed how to approach this at some length in our March 30 post.
In today's post, let's tackle a topic that underlies all others: money. What kind of conversations should you be having with your ex and with your kids about money issues?
Money matters and your ex
Where your ex is concerned, a great deal depends on whether you two were married or not.
If you and the other parent weren't married, there is still the question of financial support for the child. But the property division and spousal support issues that arise in a divorce will not be in play.
Those issues are certainly present in a divorce. And there may be other elements as well, such as the presence of a prenuptial agreement.
Will you take a financial hit?
Either way - married or not - there is plenty to talk about regarding money. After all, the financial picture for both of you will likely become more challenging in the near future as you cope with the cost of paying for a second household on the same level of income that used to pay for only one.
This could of course change over time. One or both former partners could find a new partner and possibly remarry. For the present, however, it's best to be realistic about the financial hit you may be about to take.
Your ex may or may not willing to be clear and candid with you as you face up to this. Indeed, your ex may try outspend you (even when he or she cannot afford to) to curry favor with the kids.
Either way, it helps to get guidance from a skilled family law attorney.
Talking with your kids
Talking with your kids about money after you and the other parent split up is very important. How you go about it, however, depends greatly on how old the kids are.
To be sure, regardless of age, you don't want to seem too negative about the family's new, more constricted financial circumstances. Stay positive and do what you can to help the kids maintain a sense of security.
But if your kids are over the age of 10, they are old enough to realize that it isn't business as usual after parents divorce or separate. You may have to explain to them that certain activities - dance lessons, traveling sports or other fairly pricey pursuits - have to be dialed back for awhile.
This can be tricky when the other parent seems to be overspending on the kids, perhaps trying too hard to be liked. Don't be daunted by this, even as you may need to address it.
Teenagers are tough
With teenagers, naturally the ante is raised. Affording a car, or even adding your kid to your insurance, gets a lot tougher when money is tight.
Again, this is something to talk about honestly with your kid. It's better to be transparent about financial challenges than to try to ignore them or run yourself into problems with credit-card debt.
Meanwhile, an experienced lawyer can act on your behalf to help you navigate the legal issues involved in your particular situation.