School Bullies and Your Options

No one wants to see their child get bullied at school, but what should a parent do if they feel like they can’t protect their child? Sending your kid off to school knowing there is a bully waiting for their arrival can be difficult, but knowing what to do to handle the situation can be even harder.

Here are some steps you can take, and some things you should avoid, to ensure that your child remains safe:

Do Not Approach the Bully’s Parents

It may seem a logical first step, but talking to the bully’s parents rarely ends well. Parents do not like to hear that their child is a bully anymore than they like to hear that their child is being bullied, so confronting someone with the notion that their child is a bad apple never ends well.

If the bully’s parents are abusive, informing them of their child’s bad behavior could be a trigger for more abuse for the child or the parents may even attack you.

Get All the Info

Before you do anything, be sure you know all the facts. Ask your child to inform you about what the bully is doing, if they are bullying anyone else, and where the bullying takes place. When you know all the information, a discussion with a professional will be easier.

Get the School Involved

The best help you can receive if your child is being bullied is from the school board. Talk with your child’s teachers and the school principal about what is happening to your child and what can be done to stop it from happening again.

Be sure to get a written document outlining what will be done to address the bullying situation. While you may trust that the school principal will do their best to get the bullying to stop, having it in written form allows you to hold them to it if they do not perform.

Take Legal Action

In some cases, legal action is necessary to get your child’s bullying to stop. If your child is being threatened, law enforcement should become involved as quickly as possible. Furthermore, if the school system is not performing to their agreed upon duties or is otherwise not addressing the bullying situation, you can file a Notice of Harassment. Contact a lawyer to discuss all of your legal options and find the best, fastest solution to your child’s bullying problem.

It is important to know how to recognize bullying and what you can do to stop it. Do not allow your child to live in fear, and do not feel like you have no recourse for action. There are legal means to stand up against bullying if the institutions you look to for support cannot handle it.

Relationship Tips For Moms and Stepmoms

Blended families are common these days, which means biological mothers and stepmothers are co-parenting children. It can be a difficult course to navigate when dealing with an ex-wife or the new partner of an ex-husband, but the following tips can help both types of moms find a happy medium.

Communication

Communication is important in any relationship, but especially when children are involved. All information regarding the children should be passed on in a timely fashion to avoid frustration and escalation of serious issues.

Consideration

Calendars should be shared to avoid conflicts with events, appointments or travel. Under no circumstances should anything be scheduled with the intention of being inconvenient.

Respect

Both mothers should respect one another, especially when the children are present. This includes being aware of personal boundaries and not bringing up the past. If there is a personality conflict, keep it private. Children see and hear everything, and they will emulate adult behavior.

Maturity

As a stepmom, trying to buy the affection of a partner’s children may seem like an easy way to their hearts, but this often backfires. Children can see through the act, which may imply the stepmom is trying to be a replacement parent. The best approach is to not treat parenting as a competition. There is enough love for everyone.

Recognition

Encourage children to recognize the importance of the stepmother in their lives by celebrating her birthday and giving her a card and gift on Mother’s Day. Having a blended holiday celebration may help kids feels less awkward about acknowledgment.

Inclusion

During birthdays or other important milestone events in a child’s life, including the biological mother and stepmother at the celebration is a wonderful way to be inclusive and encourage positive relations. It also helps children avoid feeling conflicted during family parties and other get-togethers.

Acceptance

It can be difficult to deal with the fact that an ex-partner has chosen a new wife or will always be dealing with an ex-wife. The family dynamic changes are permanent but do not have to be negative. Accepting the other woman and the situation will facilitate civility and respect even if there cannot be a true friendship.

Being a mom is hard, and being a stepmom adds an extra layer of challenge. Following the above tips can help resolve strain and allow both parties to foster a respectful and healthy relationship.

What to Know About Unmarried Couples and Property

Unmarried couples might believe that splitting up is easier for them than it is for married couples. After all, there are no lawyers, judges or divorce courts necessary for a clean break. In a perfect split, the parties are in agreement on who gets what, the details are sorted, and the individuals go their own separate ways. If the parties are not in agreement, however, they might end up precisely where most married couples do – in court.

Here is what you should know about unmarried couples and property distribution:

Divorce Law Does Not Apply

You do not qualify for divorce court if you are not married — unless you live in a common law marriage state or a state that recognizes domestic partnership. In those states, there is still a chance that you might not qualify for divorce court.

The State of Tennessee does not recognize common law marriage, but Tennessee will recognize another state’s common law marriage. If the couple lived together long enough as common law man and wife in another state that did recognize common law and they moved to Tennessee, then it is recognized.

Sole And Separate Property

Unless you have opened joint banking or investment accounts, own a home that is titled in both of your names or otherwise title property jointly, the general rule is that each of you owns your own sole and separate property. A one-half ownership interest is presumed on jointly titled property, but that presumption might be overcome by a strong showing that one of the parties made a disproportionate contribution.

What About Children?

The family law division of your court system would address any issues of child custody, support and visitation. In Tennessee, the Juvenile Courts generally have jurisdiction over child custody, support and visitation in un-married couples. All other disputes would be addressed by a separate action or petition in the General Sessions Courts usually (depending on the amount of damages and type of property in dispute); therefore, instead of one court case that would dispose of all the issues, un-married couples potentially face multiple court cases to obtain relief, often increasing the time and expense of recovery.

Cohabitation Property Agreements

Much like a prenuptial agreement, courts will recognize a cohabitation property agreement between two individuals who are living together. The agreement would set out how various assets are owned, managed, and divided upon any future separation of the parties.

The agreement should have a dispute resolution provision on what process would be employed in case of a disagreement on division of property. Liability for debts must also be laid out, and if one partner wants the other to inherit, that should expressed through a will or living trust.

Note of importance: If you own a home together, pay particular attention to a buyout or sale provision.

A cohabitation property agreement will clear many issues in the event of the separation of two parties who are unmarried and living together. Those who cohabitate are best served by consultations with family law attorneys.

If you have further questions about being an unmarried couple and sharing assets, be sure to consult a professional for which steps you should next consider.

What Does “Conscious Uncoupling” Mean During Divorce?

In 2014, actress Gwyneth Paltrow announced that she and her husband of ten years were in the process of “conscious uncoupling” of their marriage. Few at the time understood what was meant by the phrase, causing some to search for an answer. An article in the Wall Street Journal determined a New Zealand therapist first used the phrase in 2006 in a research paper. Three years later, Katherine Woodward Thomas, a US marriage therapist, used the phrase when discussing the value of a cooperative separation.

The Meaning of Conscious Uncoupling

There is no precise definition of the term, but (according to Thomas) it implies the goal of ending the relationship in a positive, cooperative and respectful manner. Rather than concentrating on the negative, when consciously uncoupling, the parties strive to complete the relationship with mutual respect and accentuate the positive aspects of the past.

The Legal Effect of Conscious Uncoupling in Divorce

In short, if parties choose to consciously uncouple, it has no legal effect on the marriage. It will not terminate the marriage, divide property, allocate liabilities, or provide for the care and custody of minor children. To terminate the marriage, parties must still undergo a divorce proceeding. Parties can also, in most states, enter into a legal separation, where a court will divide property, award custody of minor children, order child support and determine who is responsible for marital debts.

The Practical Effect of Conscious Uncoupling in Divorce

It is in this area where the parties will benefit the most from the concept of conscious uncoupling. It is universally accepted that divorce can be an extremely traumatic event in the lives of the couples, and this can be especially true of parties with minor children. In addition, prolonged and acrimonious divorce proceedings can add an enormous cost to the proceedings and prevent the parties from turning a corner in their lives.

Techniques or exercises to strive for cooperation between the parties will lessen costs, and mitigate the emotional impact of the proceedings. Courts are extremely receptive to divorce agreements, mediation, arbitration and informal settlement of disputes. The area of alternative dispute resolution is one of the growing areas of law in the past 20 years or so.

In some ways, the concept of conscious uncoupling isn’t new. For many years, the phrases “amicable divorce” and “uncontested divorce” have been present in most states. But if new method of looking at a similar goal is successful, the parties benefit, the court system benefits, and society as a whole benefits.

Do You Really Need A Lawyer to Settle Your Divorce?

Divorce, like marriage, is a legally binding contract between two consenting parties. When that party is over, a new contract is required to replace the old one. When you said, “I do,” what you were entering into, other than a state of nuptial bliss, was a tangled web of more than 1,100 federally recognized rights and responsibilities. Depending on where you once called home, other dis-assembly may be required. Are you really prepared to navigate the maze of legalities needed to say, “I do not?”

“Do-it-yourself” divorces, even without children or property, come with almost as many risks as marriage itself. Ask a few attorneys who have been through a divorce if they represented themselves. You’re unlikely to find one. Should the need ever arise to defend your own legal legwork; ignorance of the law or that money-back guarantee from “Forms-R-Us” won’t do much to help your case. Depending on the divorce agreement, jurisdiction, and the laws governing the dispute, you might very well get to do the whole thing over again.

Circumstances have a way of changing. Divorce does that to people. Today’s amicable agreement can easily unravel tomorrow. Failure to disclose financial assets, variations in income and the changing needs of children can land you back in court. Unless the proper waivers were executed and filed, the agreement you thought you made may not be worth the price you paid or the money you thought you would have saved.

Arguing over original intent should be left to Constitutional theorists, most of whom are attorneys. It simply doesn’t matter what you intended if the agreement was not valid. Judges, like everyone else, are bound by laws. When a matter comes before any court, jurisdiction and the validity of the claim are reliant upon the contract and its supporting documents. Being thrown out on a technicality may be no big deal in a basketball game, but it can cost tens of thousands if you find yourself back in court on less than firm legal footing.

Most of us wouldn’t think of ordering a do-it-yourself kit to build a happy, livable home. We would hire someone who knows what they are doing. Getting a divorce is akin to dismantling that once-loving house piece by piece. If you want it done right, use an expert, not a one-size-fits-all wrecking ball. Starting over is not easy, but re-living the past is not either.