Equal Custody After Divorce Not Always Best for Children

Constructive Family Law Puts Parents Rights and Needs Behind Child’s Interest

After divorce, sharing custody of children can often be a contentious proposition, but according to family law attorney Mark Baer, it does not have to be, and it should not be, for the sake of the children involved.

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Mark Baer, Esq., Family Law Mediator

Baer, who practices in Pasadena and Los Angeles areas, rejects the title of “divorce lawyer” in favor of “family law mediator,” as he subscribes to a progressive movement in his field which focuses on resolving the conflicts between parents without the specter of litigation.

“The litigation model that attorneys are taught is adversarial by nature.  It often exacerbates the situation and makes trust issues worse.  I deal in constructive ways to deal with conflict,” said Baer.  “First you need to build trust between the parties by tackling the easiest stuff first, then you move on once you have the ability to make agreements.”

Together, for the Kids

Honing his skills as at conflict resolution as court-assigned mediator in Van Nuys, Baer learned that often attorneys were content to collect their hourly rate as they drove clients further apart from resolution, even separating them during mediation sessions.  Baer by contrast insists on parents sitting down together in mediation so they can talk out issues and see the bigger picture of what is best for the innocent victims of the conflict, the children.

Termed constructive family law, or integrative family law, Baer’s method always focuses on the wellbeing of the children as the priority.  Baer’s resolutions, while certainly not illegal, may not always be supported by law.  In his view, the resolution reached in a court according to law might not be appropriate for a particular family dynamic.  For example, an equal-time ruling may be what the law ordered, but it might not be in the best interest of the child.

“A fifty-fifty custody arrangement may not always be the best arrangement.  A child may have not bonded with a parent, and after divorce they are forced to spend 50 percent of their time with that parent,” said Baer.

Likewise, just because the law says that a parent has the freedom of speech to bash a child’s other parent, as a recent case held out, the respectful, responsible way to act as a parent is to not make derogatory remarks about a former spouse to a child.  In this situation, the trash talk not only puts a child in the middle of his or her parent’s conflict, it usually backfires, as a child resents the parent who disparages the other parent whom the child also loves.

What’s Mine is Ours

To help parents come together in making the best custody decisions for their children, Baer says seemingly small things like terminology can make a difference.  When a parent says, “our child” instead of “my child,” and avoids talking in terms of their “rights” to a child, tensions can melt away, as both parents realize the child is part of both of them and that the child’s rights are of highest importance.

Similarly, Baer urges parents to view the needs of the child before the rights of the parent or the needs of the parent, so that a child does not become a trophy or property that parents fight over, ignoring what is best for the child.

Couples Retreat

Baer’s conflict resolution methods often involves using mental health professionals who guide the parents in finding ways to best relate to each other and their children.  While Baer does not necessarily prescribe therapy for couples, he encourages them to use therapists as coaches to help fix or improve their relationship, which is not always attended to in the divorce proceedings.

“Therapists can teach exercises and coach parents on how to deal with their feelings appropriately.  Often fear– whether real, perceived or exaggerated — gets in the way.  Divorce has many emotions around it — of loss, grief, fear and stress.  While feelings are raw, it is not a time to make important decisions,” said Baer. “Research shows us that second to death, divorce is one of life’s most stressful situations.  Studies show that IQ test performance drops by as much as 30 percent in these situations.  Your navigational system is off.  You need to get your cognitive reasoning skills back online.”

Sorry is the Hardest Part

Though the marriage has ended, Baer advices couples to heal their relationship, often by taking personal responsibility for their part in the failure of the marriage.

Often an apology and forgiveness goes a long way in mending a relationship and begins the process of healing, for the good of the children.  This holds true especially in situations where there has been an affair in the marriage, and the injured party tries to punish the guilty parent by withholding custody.

“An affair is between adults.  It should not be used to prevent a parent from having a relationship with a child,” says Baer.

While an affair is, “irrelevant to law,” says Baer, “Once there is an apology, there can be forgiveness, and the emotional posturing is gone.”

Baer laments that the current legal system is “terribly flawed,” but he is heartened that more divorcing couples are seeking constructive family law as a way to deal with the aftermath of a failed marriage and taking the matter of custody into their own hands for the best outcome for the children, instead of leaving it up to litigation and the courts.

“You know your kids, yourself and your spouse.  Is it up to you or your attorney to decide what’s best?

The BubbleBum Inflatable Booster Makes Commuting with Kids A Breeze

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Easy Rider

Parents of young children traveling by plane often have the dilemma of the pick-up.  Either chance a taxi ride with no child booster for the car seat — as in most states this is allowable by law for short hauls in hired vehicles, or trouble a relative or friend to arrange for a booster for when they pick you up.  You can now spare yourself the worry, thanks to the arrival of BubbleBum.

The BubbleBum inflatable booster seat is an affordable ($39.99), convenient  alternative to carting around a booster on a plane, and avoiding airline bag fees to check luggage.  It tucks compactly into its own stretch carry bag, and can be blow up and ready to use in seconds.  It is lightweight (1 lb.), yet when inflated it is sturdy and comfortable.  Designed for children aged 4-11 and weighting 40 to 100 pounds, it is a handy extra seat for kiddie carpools, and because of its narrow footprint, it can fit three-across in a back seat along with other boosters.

The BubbleBum meets all US motor vehicle safety standards as requtred by NHTSA (FMVSS213), so you can feel confident in using it as a daily booster as well as a booster-in-a-pinch.  As a testament to parent satisfaction the BubbleBum has been awarded a seal by Mom’s Best, including the 2012 Top Choice of the Year Award in Kids Travel by Creative Child Magazine, PTPA (Parent Tested Parent Approved) Media Awards and the JPMA Awards.  BubbleBum has been awarded the IIHS (Insurance Institute of Highway Safety) “Best Bet” in their booster seat evaluation report two years in a row, where they’ve branded BubbleBum as one of the best for safety. 

The BubbleBum is available at http://wwww.bubblebum.us, select Target stores and BabiesRus.com

Spring is in the Air, and Snow is on the Mountain at Big Bear Lake

Temps at Big Bear Lake are rising to the 60s and 70s, but all that means for spring skiers and snowboarders is shedding heavy coats for T-shirts and, of course, lower prices for just about everything on the mountain.

Bear Mountain Resort and Snow Summit Mountain Resort heralded in the spring season March 10 with a drop in full-day lift tickets from $72 to $59 for adults and $62 to $49 for 13 and up. Kids under six are always free with a paying adult. Besides discounted prices, which extend to lodging and local retailers, the benefits of spring skiing abound, including shorter lines for chair lifts and rentals, wide open slopes and easy parking at the resorts.

Spring snow was bountiful on the slopes, and perfect for making snowballs

Spring snow was bountiful on the slopes, and perfect for making snowballs

Home-Sweet-Cottage

On our recent three-day spring getaway, our family stayed at Blue Horizons Lodge, an adorable complex of cottages tucked away off the main boulevard about 200 yards from the lake and within minutes of the ski resorts. The website photos did not do the place justice, as we were pleasantly surprised to find our rustic little cottage-away-from-home very tidy, decorated with cute lake-themed accents and updated furnishings and equipped with everything we needed for our stay. The wood-burning fireplace kept us cozy, and my son was thrilled with the XBox 360 and the library of DVDs for our evening entertainment.

Blue Horizons Lodge is just a few miles to the resorts in our KIA Soul, the official vehicle of Big Bear Mountain Resorts

Blue Horizons Lodge is just a few miles to the resorts in our KIA Soul, the official vehicle of Big Bear Mountain Resorts

The Blue Horizons Lodge at Big Bear features cozy cottages with fireplaces, kitchens, and even Xbox 360

The Blue Horizons Lodge at Big Bear features cozy cottages with fireplaces, kitchens, and even Xbox 360

The property also had a pool (closed for winter), BBQ area with picnic tables, volleyball pit, horse shoe course and a vintage seesaw and train handcar that my son loved pumping around its circular track. The inn keeper, Sharon, a grandmother of 14, was a wealth of information about where families can go to eat and have fun around town, and she clued us in to several deals and discounts at Big Bear businesses.

Our woodsy two-bedroom cottage at Blue Horizons Lodge was decorated with cute lake-themed décor

Our woodsy two-bedroom cottage at Blue Horizons Lodge was decorated with cute lake-themed décor

Our woodsy two-bedroom cottage at Blue Horizons Lodge was decorated with cute lake-themed décor

Our woodsy two-bedroom cottage at Blue Horizons Lodge was decorated with cute lake-themed décor

Bear Necessities

We opted to arrive late in the afternoon mid-week so that we could relax, explore local attractions and shop. While Big Bear has given in to chains like Starbucks, Carl’s Jr. and even Big 5 Sports, the town still has an array of quaint shops, many clustered in the Village at Big Bear. Thankfully, the Village is unlike the generic shopping villages that have popped up at so many mountain resorts.

The Village at Big Bear features an array of quaint shops and restaurants, unlike the generic shopping villages that have popped up at so many mountain resorts.

The Village at Big Bear features an array of quaint shops and restaurants, unlike the generic shopping villages that have popped up at so many mountain resorts.

We walked the few blocks of boutiques and eateries that comprise the Village, stopping in a few novelty shops, like the Brown Bear Gift Shop and Bear Essentials, the latter where my son, a fan of Brave, got a child’s bow and rubber-tipped arrow set, with a whittled bear for a handle. The bear-themed toy was one of about a hundred bear encounters we had in Big Bear, as the town is bear crazy, with bear décor and businesses with “bear” in the name at every turn. Ironically, the grizzlies for which the town is named no longer live there, but the ubiquitous carved bears crawling into windows and bear statues standing on their hind quarters in front of stores show no sign of endangerment.

Spring is in the Air, and Snow is on the Mountain

Bear Mountain Resort and its sister resort Snow Summit Mountain Resort are the most popular ski resorts in the area, though there is a smaller, independent resort, Snow Valley, about 30 minutes away.

Empty lines greeted us at the Bear Mountain ticket booths

Empty lines greeted us at the Bear Mountain ticket booths

Snow Summit Mountain Resort has the reputation as the more family friendly of the two main resorts, owing in part to its Family Fun Park, featuring small jumps, bumps and rollers for kids and learners, and loud speakers reminding guests to maintain slow speeds and ski with care.

The Family Fun Park at Snow Summit offers slower skiing and small jumps for kids and kids of all ages

The Family Fun Park at Snow Summit offers slower skiing and small jumps for kids and kids of all ages

Snowboarders tend to favor Bear Mountain, especially because of its halfpipe and superpipe features. Despite the signs on the chair lift poles declaring, “With courtesy skiers and snowboarders can enjoy the slopes together,” the reality is that many skiers would rather not share the mountain with the reckless riders who barrel down trails too close to them and their children, and many snowboarders resent the slow moving two-plankers and kids, or “bowling pins,” that get in the way of the jumps and jibs they love boost over and catch air.

Spring ski season offers many advantages, like no waiting for rentals at the resorts

Spring ski season offers many advantages, like no waiting for rentals at the resorts

Overall we had a pleasant ski experience at both resorts, though when my son wandered toward the side of one of the jumps at Bear Mountain, a Shaun White look-alike bombed by us yelling, “Get that kid outta here!” Then he stopped to apologize for his tone and explained he was just concerned for my son’s safety.

At both resorts, we found spring skiing had some terrific advantages — extremely short lines for chair lifts and equipment rentals and less crowded runs compared to winter, though the snow was slower and mushy by early afternoon from the sun, and the resorts opened at 9 am instead of 8 am, and the mountains closed at 4 pm, with no night skiing.

Tires Unchained

Another advantage to visiting Big Bear in spring is clear roads, no chains required. We drove up in a KIA Soul, which got great mileage and handled capably on the curvy mountain roads, which comprise about 35-45 minutes of the 110-mile, three-hour drive from LA. The fold-down seat in back allowed us to store two sets of skis and a snowboard plus all of our luggage for the trip, and despite driving in the mountains, we had SIRIUS Satellite Radio reception the entire trip and could monitor the commute on SIRIUS Traffic. As a bonus, KIA is the official vehicle of Big Bear Mountain resorts, so we were offered rock star parking by the attendants.

The “beach” lodge at the bottom of the slopes at Snow Summit offers outdoor dining in spring

The “beach” lodge at the bottom of the slopes at Snow Summit offers outdoor dining in spring

While Big Bear is best known for its snow sports, there are a number of great rear-round and summer activities and attractions on the mountain, such as the Big Bear Fishing Adventures, Alpine Zipline Tours, Big Bear Off-Road Adventures, the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain, and the Wolf Mountain Sanctuary, home to Istas Pejuta, one of the wolves filmed for Twilight Saga: New Moon movie. So even after the snow melts, there will still be plenty of (wooden) big bears on their haunches, standing all around Big Bear, to welcome you.

No waiting for spring skiing.  Ski rental technician John at Big Bear tunes up high performance equipment for a guest.

No waiting for spring skiing. Ski rental technician John at Big Bear tunes up high performance equipment for a guest.


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