June not only marks the advent of the summer season but contains a week specifically designated as Men’s Health Awareness Week. In recognition of Men’s Health Awareness Week, June 15-21, 2020, this blog discusses important health considerations for divorced fathers and the potential impact health has on the legal aspects of your divorce.
Physical Health Issues
Holidays are characterized by festive feasts for many people no matter if they fall in the winter or summer. While Thanksgiving and Christmas are notorious holidays that often involve high-calorie meals, calories consumed at summer barbeques and vacation meals can also quickly skyrocket. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately twenty percent of adult men and 18.4 percent of children in the United States qualify as obese, which is correlated with increased risks for heart disease and diabetes. As a result, heart disease and diabetes are major considerations for divorced fathers throughout the year.
Serious health conditions can be disruptive for families involving divorced parents. For example, Texas courts are required to consider several factors when determining issues of child conservatorship—also known as child custody in other jurisdictions. Among those factors are a child’s health needs and the parental abilities of the parties.
Thus, a court might consider an extreme failure to maintain a parent’s health as a factor to establish or modify an order for child conservatorship that is contrary to your interests as a father. For instance, untreated diabetes could hinder a parent’s ability to care for a child, while poor dietary choices could be reflected in the child’s care as well.
If you are a divorced father who is also responsible for paying child support, health conditions stemming from your child’s obesity and poor nutrition can lead to greater health costs and potentially higher insurance premiums for which you may be financially responsible. So, maintaining your own good health and helping to maintain that of your children can be beneficial in multiple ways.
However, you do not have to sacrifice having traditional or seasonal meals altogether. As long as you regularly stick to a health-conscious and nutritious diet for most of the year, the occasional feast shouldn’t endanger you or your children’s health. Also, you can find healthier alternatives to certain traditional foods. For example, fruit can be a good substitute for chips or even dessert.
Mental Health Issues
Although holidays are supposed to bring joy and time for relaxation, any holiday season can be a significant source of stress for many people, particularly for divorced parents. The American Institute of Stress lists divorce as the second most stressful experience that one can go through.
Furthermore, loneliness during any holiday season can contribute to depression. According to a National Health Interview Survey for 2010-2013, nine percent of men reported having daily feelings of depression or anxiety. Holiday periods can exacerbate symptoms of depression for some people. In a survey from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64% of respondents reported feeling affected by holiday depression, with 24% of respondents indicating that it affects them a lot. If you are used to spending summers and holidays with your spouse and children, the first season you spend without your family can bring on the holiday blues.
Texas Family Code § 153.314 governs a parent’s right to spend time with their children for certain holidays, including Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, on an alternating basis.
For Summers, one parent will often spend 30 or 42 days with the children, which can leave the other parent feeling out of the usual routine. Some recently divorced fathers may find themselves out of their element when it comes to assuming responsibility for organizing and maintaining holiday events and traditions. Furthermore, the financial repercussions of a recent divorce can exacerbate the impact of shopping or travel on your bank account, contributing to even more stress, especially when the expenditures turn into a competition with your ex to buy your children’s favor.
Fathers can manage their mental health by avoiding stress and depression triggers. During the years where you can spend time with your children, consider getting help from friends and family for organizing events and meals.
You can also minimize the stress of buying gifts or vacations by saving up in advance and taking advantage of seasonal promotions and discounts. Remember that it is important to spend quality time with your children and make new memories; those don’t always have to involve the most expensive trips.
During the periods where you do not spend much time with your children, reach out to friends and family to stymie the effects of the holiday blues. Speaking to a therapist or other mental health professional can also go a long way in maintaining your mental health during transitional periods while new routines are being established.
Consult an Experienced Attorney from Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers
Do you have more questions about your rights as a divorced father, mother, or other parental figure? You can count on our legal team at Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers to deliver comprehensive legal advice on matters concerning Texas family law, including child conservatorship and parental rights.