Family Law Advice

Scott J. Brook, Esquire

My ex-wife is furious with me, ever since I met the woman (much younger than my ex-wife), who is now my fiancée. When it comes to our two teenage sons, my ex-wife undermines my authority. I am the disciplinarian when they are at my home (we share custody). But my ex-wife seems to be very lax with the kids, letting them do whatever they want in terms of curfews on weekends, when they live with her. She even permits our boys to slack off in terms of their chores, though she still pays them a hefty allowance every week. I think my ex-wife acts like this to spite me, because she isn’t dating and resents the fact that I am happy.

As co-parents, shouldn’t we present a united front to our kids? Is marriage counseling or some other mediation recommended? Should I call my lawyer about this issue? If we do go to mediation, should my fiancée come, too? I feel powerless to talk to my ex-wife rationally, because she seems always so ready to blow up at me. How can I get her to be logical, rather than emotional? I think she is hurting our boys by her absence of discipline. – Frustrated in Parkland

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Joint Parenting would be ideal!  However, the reasons for your divorce may interfere with your desire to present a united front to your sons.  While you cannot control your ex-wife, you can control your response.  Invite her to see the wisdom of the discipline and joint parenting you desire.  If she blows up, don’t be reactive.  Stay focused on your commitment to your sons’ well-being.  Counseling might help.  While her motivation may matter, what is more important to you is a result that supports the well-being of your children.  Don’t get caught up in your differences with your ex.  Find common ground.  Ask what’s important to her.  Ask her how you can also help reinforce some of her desires while the boys are with you.

In regards to calling your lawyer, what would be your goal?  Has she violated a provision of the Marital Settlement Agreement or Final Judgment?  If so, yes, call your attorney.  If you believe she has done this for too long and now you want to pull the weekends from her, yes, call your attorney.  However, at this juncture it does not sound as though she has violated a provision of your agreement nor that you wish to take time away from her.   I think your best bet is NOT to involve a lawyer at this juncture and get together with your wife in a neutral setting without your fiancée to talk about potential resolutions without digging into the past.  Good luck!