Tonya Graser Smith is a family law attorney whose firm is GraserSmith, PLLC. Smith, a lawyer since 2007, is committed to helping her clients through one of life’s toughest chapters. She’s also a wife and mother of two small children, so Smith thinks a lot about parenting; it’s a tough job no matter what. We caught up with Smith recently, and here’s what she had to say.

What’s your advice on co-parenting when a couple is going through a contentious divorce?

“If you think about it, all parents have to co-parent. I’m always thinking about how I can help my kids. Helping them means putting their needs above my own. It also means communicating with their dad—my husband—about the little things like Charlie being the line leader at school and the big things like the values we want to instill in them.”

How do parents know if their children are struggling and need professional help in the wake of divorce?

“There are signs to watch out for, and it’s all about changes in mood and behaviors. For young children, it might be that they were fully potty-trained but now they’re having accidents. For kids in school—elementary through high school—perhaps their grades have dropped or they’re not paying attention in class.”

The theme of this issue is “Family & Pets.” Is pet custody a frequent issue?

“Actually, pet custody comes up a lot, but more often when couples don’t have kids. Still, it does come up with families trying to settle on where the family dog stays. As far as the law is considered, pets are different than children; they’re property. But everyone knows pets are family. Where I’ve seen it handled the best is when the family works out a custody schedule and the pets follow the children.”