Divorce and the Classroom: The Effects of Divorce or Separation on Children and Academics


School has been in full-swing for two months now and the holidays are right around the corner. If you are a parent in the midst of a divorce or separation, or are a teacher in a classroom, there are certain circumstances that may require special attention with a child who is coping with the separation of his or her parents.

While divorce is a difficult time for all parties involved, the child should always remain the focus to ensure he or she has a routine and the love and support needed to help stay on the right track. If a student’s grades have started slipping or behavior has changed in the classroom, one of the first questions asked by teachers is: “is there an issue in the home?” As a parent, it is helpful to make your child’s teacher aware that you and your spouse have separated, and that your child is adjusting to the changes at home.   There is no need to go into great detail about the proceedings or the underlying reasons for the separation.  It is important for all of the adults in your child’s daily life to remain on the same page and work together as a team to help provide the proper support and guidance for your child so he or she may successfully manage the transition.

A few things for both parents and teachers to keep in mind/be on the lookout for when it comes to a child and his or her performance in the classroom:

  • Are homework assignments missing?
  • Have grades changed drastically from previous marking periods?
  • Are there any behavioral issues or emotional changes?
  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns.
  • Does the child separate himself from others at home and/or at school?

Being mindful of these warning signs will help to address the situation in a timely manner before things get too out of hand. Even if a child is doing exceedingly well in school, it is important to check in with the child as it may be a sign that he is immersing himself into too much school work and not enough of anything else, including being with friends.

If you are a newly separated parent, it is crucial to provide your child with love, support and stability.  Helping your child understand and adjust to a schedule that he or she can follow allows for more consistency and reduces anxiety about what to expect. It is critical that you make every effort to communicate with your former spouse and co-parent your child to the best of your ability. Providing consistent rules and discipline for your child will also help with transitioning the child between parents and your respective homes.

Keeping your child the main focus through your separation or divorce is imperative. Communication with your child, your child’s teachers, and your former spouse is an important step in raising a healthy, well-adjusted child through transitions at home, and will likely prove to be beneficial to all parties involved.

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What will Happen to my Children Post Divorce?


divorceIf you are newly divorced or are in the divorce process and children are involved, you have good reason to be concerned about them and the effects divorce may have. One of the most common questions that we receive as family law practitioners is: “What is going to happen to my children?”

The first thing to expect is a wide array of emotions. Depending on the individual child, those emotions could range from anger to sadness, or in some situations, a sense that he or is she is to blame. It is important to make it very clear that the divorce has nothing to do with anything that your child has done and that both parents love him/her very much. Patience is key for you as you navigate your way through helping your child through this family transition.

The following are a few tips to keep in mind as you all adjust to new life after the divorce:

  • Encourage your child to express his/her feelings and emotions. Ask your child what he or she is feeling and encourage conversation. You should reiterate to your child that he or she child may speak freely about their feelings with you.  Engaging in activities/common interests together with your child (i.e. sports, painting, etc.) may help maintain a connection that encourages communication and expression.
  • Your child may surprise you with what he or she has to say and it’s crucial to pay attention and work things out together.
  • Regardless of how acrimonious the divorce may have been, it is imperative that you and your former spouse remain calm and respectful toward one another when your child is present.
  • Maintain routine. Children function best with a daily or weekly routine that brings on a sense of familiarity and comfort.
  • Be aware that it is normal for children to be angry, have mild anxiety or depression after a divorce. You may want to consult your child’s pediatrician and seek a referral for a therapist for your child, and/or reach out to your child’s school adjustment counselor.
  • There are, however, other behaviors to be aware of that may require more attention and additional support. According to Help Guide.org, a non-profit guide to mental health and well-being, red flags include: sleep problems, poor concentration, trouble at school, drug or alcohol abuse, withdrawal from loved ones, and refusal to continue with activities previously important.

Through trial and error, you and your child will find what works best for your every day lives post-divorce. If you find that the coping process is more difficult than expected (for you or your child), seeking guidance from a therapist is a prudent decision from which many parents and children in transition benefit.



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Considering Tax Consequences in the Context of Divorce

divorceIt is important to consider the various tax consequences in the context of divorce in order to enter into the most beneficial support arrangement for divorcing spouses and determine how to prudently divide assets.  A tax analysis can be a useful tool in an effort to support a settlement position and illustrate the overall after-tax impact on the family unit.

With respect to support – be it child support or alimony (spousal support) – there are important tax related considerations that parties and counsel should keep in mind when structuring a support arrangement.  Child support is not taxable income to the recipient parent and it is not deductible for the payor spouse.  In contrast, alimony is included as taxable income to the recipient spouse and is tax deductible for the payor spouse.  Often, given that alimony has a significant tax benefit to the payor spouse, parties may enter an agreement wherein the parties agree to an “unallocated support” order which is treated as alimony for tax purposes, or they may create a support obligation wherein the payor spouse pays some alimony and some child support.  In some circumstances, especially where the payor parent is in a high tax bracket and the recipient parent is in a low tax bracket, a higher alimony payment may be more beneficial for both parties than a straight child support payment; putting more money in the pocket of the recipient and providing a dollar for dollar tax deduction to the payor.

Parties and counsel should discuss the pros and cons of the parties’ income tax filing status during divorce proceedings and prior to the entry of the Judgment on Divorce (i.e. married filing jointly vs. married filing separately or head of household). Filing jointly is typically a more beneficial filing status than married filing separately. In addition, parties and counsel should prospectively consider how/if dependency exemptions, real estate tax and mortgage interest exemptions will be shared.  In some cases such exemptions may not be available to a high earner as such exemptions are phased-out in higher tax brackets or due to Alternative Minimum Tax.  It is important to include specific language in a Separation Agreement regarding tax exemptions and which party is entitled to claim same to prevent confusion down the road.

Finally, in dividing assets at the time of divorce, parties and counsel should bear in mind the difference between liquid assets such as bank accounts, mutual funds, etc. and pre-tax assets including IRAs, 401(k)s and other retirement accounts (excluding Roth IRAs).  By way of example, it would not be an equal division for one party to receive $100,000 in cash from a checking account and the other party receives $100,000 in pre-tax retirement assets.  Although each party is receiving $100,000, the party receiving pre-tax retirement funds is actually receiving less than $100,000 because said funds have not yet been taxed.

Whether or not you seek the opinion of a tax expert, parties and counsel should not overlook the various scenarios in the context of divorce wherein tax consequences should be considered and addressed.

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