Tag Archives: Child Care

How to Trim a Tree Safely

Yesterday we posted some info from the US Fire Administration and Safe Kids USA on fire safety around the holidays.  Today we’re looking at what they have to say about trimming the Christmas tree:

If you decorate a tree, Safe Kids USA and the USFA recommend these precautions:

  • Never leave a lighted Christmas tree or other decorative lighting display unattended.
  • Inspect lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections, and broken sockets.
  • Do not overload extension cords or outlets and do not run an electrical cord under a rug.
  • Natural Christmas trees always involve some risk of fire. To minimize this risk, get a fresh tree and keep it watered at all times.
  • Do not put a live tree within three feet of a fireplace, space heater, radiator, or heat vent.
  • Do not burn Christmas tree branches, treated wood, or wrapping paper in a home fireplace.

Decorate with children in mind:

  • Do not put ornaments that have small parts or metal hooks, or look like food or candy, on the lower branches where small children can reach them.
  • Trim protruding branches at or below a child’s eye level
  • Keep lights out of reach.

Safe Kids USA offers these tips to prevent poisoning (take note of the berries for pets as well as kids!)

  • Keep alcohol (including baking extracts) out of reach
  • Do not leave alcoholic drinks unattended.
  • Color additives used in fireplace fires are a toxic product and should be stored out of reach.
  • Artificial snow can be harmful if inhaled, so use it in a well-vented space.
  • Mistletoe berries, Holly Berry and Jerusalem Cherry can be poisonous. If they are used in decorating, make sure children and pets cannot reach it.
  • In a poison emergency, call the national Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222.

What Happens to Child Support When an Ex is Laid Off?

There are hundreds of thousands of newly-unemployed people in the U.S. We asked family law attorneys in several states for their advice, both for the ex who pays and the ex who receives child support.

Many of the attorneys recommended that the unemployed person contact the attorney involved in establishing child support immediately. (Note: The information WHN gathered is not to be used in lieu of legal advice. This information is not meant to replace legal advice, and it may not represent the laws in your state. This is only written to give you ideas about questions to ask your attorney and things you might expect to encounter during the process. Contact a trusted legal professional for any legal needs you may have.)

Take Action

  • WHN TIP: MOVE FAST. Child support issues may not move quickly through the courts – HOWEVER – you must take action quickly. Experts say that in Minnesota alone child support modification requests rose from 10,000 in 2007 to over 14,000 in 2008. Although courts are obligated to make support systems fair for all parties, the judges in Minneapolis’ Hennepin County are now faced with 1,000 cases per judge each year. This overload is one more sign of how the new economy affects our citizens.

From the office of Fred Adams (fred@fsalaw.net) in Dallas, TX comes an explanation about the urgency of taking action. “If the payor loses his job, file a motion to modify the child support immediately so that arrearages do not begin or continue to accrue,” he says. “Once an arrearage has accrued, the courts in Texas have no ability to reduce that amount.” Bottom line? “Be proactive,” he continues. “Child support can always be raised once he regains employment status.”

“If you are the recipient of child support and your ex loses their job, consider agreeing to a reduction on a temporary basis (after the court grants a Temporary Order) so that it will be easier to restore the child support to its original level once your ex becomes employed again,” Mr Adams advises. “Remember that informal agreements are not binding on the court. The agreement needs to be included in an Order entered with the court.”

There may be options available on a free or sliding-scale basis if fees will create a burden. “If a person becomes unemployed and can’t pay support, they should contact the court where the child support order was filed and see if these programs exist,” Sherrie Bennett (sbennett@gfj.com) of Seattle, WA recommends. “If there are free or sliding-scale self-help programs, often volunteers can walk an individual through the process and help fill out the forms to request a modification in child support.”

She also advises checking with the local bar association for the possibility of free assistance. “The most important thing for a person who cannot afford child support is to get into court right away rather than letting back support stack up. It is very difficult to dig out of a backlog later,” Ms. Bennett says.

If you are the recipient of child support and your ex becomes unemployed, there are steps to take. “Pursue the claim in Family court and make your ex prove they are unemployed and can’t find other work,” explains Douglas M. Colbert (DMC1NYLAWYER@AOL.COM) of New York city. “The burden of proof is your ex’s responsibility.”

In the meantime, Mr. Colbert recommends filing for welfare or any other government benefits you and your child(ren) are eligible for.

If you are in the same city as your ex, there are creative ways the unemployed spouse can help ease the stress of the financial situation until a new job is found. “You can use your time to help your ex with the child(ren)’s expenses while you look for work,” Carol Bailey (CBailey@integrativefamilylaw.com) in Seattle says. “Take on more child care responsibilities such as replacing a day care provider, driving the child(ren) to and from school and after-school activities. You can also volunteer for school, athletic and recreational activities so the other parent can work.”

Ms. Bailey also suggests trying to barter for goods and attempting to earn money doing things you’ve never been paid for before. Exchange skills for money, store credit or goods. Consider providing carpentry, painting, car washing, cleaning, editing, babysitting, elder care, bookkeeping, shopping, gardening and other services in exchange for necessities.

Of course, the most amicable way to deal with a situation such as job loss is to discuss it with your ex first.

Keith Allen (attny36@yahoo.com) in Rancho Cucamonga, CA, says, “Find out if your ex is willing to work with you to make an agreement either to suspend or modify support while you are unemployed. This reduces possible animosity, legal fees and/or lost wages. Modification levels are defined by state guidelines and you can find a ‘dissomaster’ child support calculator online. The guidelines are based upon either unemployment benefits or, if no benefits exist, whatever amounts the two parents can agree to.”

With that information in hand, the parents can draft a stipulation themselves, go to the Family court self-help clinic at the courthouse or pay a paralegal or attorney to draft the stipulation. To be finalized, the stipulation must be submitted to the court for signature, according to Mr. Allen.

He goes on to explain that, if the recipient parent believes that their ex is intentionally not working or not seeking re-employment, they can apply for County support which is based upon the recipient’s income level. The County will most likely seek reimbursement from the ex for any monies paid according to their actual income or ability to earn. The County will likely request and obtain a “seek work” order against the ex-spouse. The out of work parent should retain proof of all job applications to show the judge the efforts they are making to become re-employed.

If both parents lose their jobs, it is still mandatory to file any revised agreements with the court.

Remember to act immediately when there is a “change in circumstances” such as a job loss by either or both parents. Avoiding the issue will make resolution much more difficult.

If something occurs that affects your ability to pay or the amount you need to receive from your ex, speak with the attorney who assisted you with the original child support Order. If that isn’t possible, search for an attorney in your area at www.martindale.com. This site lists law firms including individual attorneys, their specialties and qualifications. Many offer free initial consultations.

Another resource is located at www.abanet.org, the American Bar Association site.

  • WHN TIP: According to some national news reports, analysts predict that job losses will continue throughout 2009. Plan now in the event this happens to you or your ex. The children’s health and well-being are of utmost importance and changes in child support could pose a host of challenges for everyone involved.
  • WHN TIP: Whether you are employed or not, there is a great website for people who are interested in joining a group where the members share your interests. Not only will you have a chance to network and make new friends, you can get some valuable input from people who might share some of your experiences. The website registration is easy and free. You will be amazed by the number of groups meeting to play cards, learn meditation, lose weight, exercise and the list goes on and on. Try it out at www.meetup.com. Simply enter your zip code and your area(s) of interest for a sample of what is available. You can narrow it down by the number of miles you are willing to travel as well. The only cost would occur if the group you choose charges a fee. (During registration, click on the website’s policy statement to learn more.)

For information or to share your experiences, email me: Leann (at) WhatHappensNow.com.

Baby – It’s Cloth Diapers

I used cloth diapers 30 years ago and yes, I even flushed one down the toilet.

Cloth Diapers Rule!
Cloth Diapers Rule - Not Plastic Ones!

Today – it’s all different – no more pins, plastic pants or complicated folding.


Today’s cloth diapers are cute, convenient, and cost effective.There are lots of perks to using cloth diapers.

Here are just a few…

  • Less expensive – cloth vs. disposable can save you between $1,400-$3,600.
  • Reduces diaper rash
  • Disposables generate 60 times more waste
  • Soft and breathable vs. itchy, hot & sticky

And if those reasons aren’t enough…

  • Children potty train 6-12 months earlier!!!

Here are some great resources for more information on cloth diapering –

This is a great way to start “going green” and save a bundle at the same time.

Linda Bauchwitz and Sarah Chambers are a mother/daughter team and owners of Before & After Baby Planning LLC, a concierge and consulting service that helps new and expectant parents prepare for their new arrival.  They can be reached at 763-494-3201 or www.planning4baby.com.

Save Money, Have a Baby (Part 5 of 5)

Thanks for joining us for our final post in our series on saving money while planning for your baby.

I Can Be Inexpensive!

Clothing, Diapers and Dollars

Onesies, booties & sleepers – how can something so little cost so much? There must be ways to save. Here are a few ideas we have come up with:

If you plan to have multiple baby showers, here is a great tip to pass on to the hosts

  • Designate an age for each shower: 0-3 mo., 3-6 mo., 6-9 mo., etc. – this way you won’t end up with 50 newborn outfits.  (Especially important because babies double their birth weight by 5 mo. and triple by 1 year.)
  • 5,300 – This is how many diapers you’ll change until your child is potty trained.  That’s a lot of diapers – and dollars!  A good solution is cloth diapers – cost effective, eco-friendly AND you can save by purchasing used.
  • Be cautious when washing and drying infant clothes and diapers. That soft, baby skin is very sensitive and prone to reactions. Drier sheets and fabric softeners are one of the major culprits – we suggest skipping them entirely.
  • If you find yourself getting too many items in the same size, hold off on washing the majority until you are truly sure you will use it. That way you can return those items, unwashed with tags on, if needed.
  • Let’s say you acted on that pre-labor spurt of energy, got overly ambitious and washed all of the baby stuff you had. All we can say is…thank goodness for consignment shops. If you can’t return it, sell it.

As you have learned, there are some very simple ways to save while baby shopping. The next time you attempt to attack those baby aisles you can think outside the box. Take these tips and run with them. Be proud of your newly acquired skills of penny pinching, reusing, and repurposing.

- Sarah and Linda

Linda Bauchwitz and Sarah Chambers are a mother/daughter team and owners of Before & After Baby Planning LLC, a concierge and consulting service that helps new and expectant parents prepare for their new arrival.  They can be reached at 763-494-3201 and on the web at:  www.planning4baby.com.