There was a time when Moms got preference from the courts when it came to divorce and children. Today’s courts try to look at the welfare of the child and what is best – that usually means keeping both parents involved in the child’s life. However, when a parent asks for a change in visitation, it’s a serious matter. If you’re a father who wants a change, here are 5 tips to help you.
1. Begin at the Beginning. Start with the easiest option. See if your ex will agree to a change that makes it much, much easier. Ask! If you’re just looking for more time with the kids, start small. It’s easier to ask for an extra evening to take the children to dinner than to ask for an entire weekend. Additional midweek visits when school is on vacation is another request that sounds reasonable. Give your ex time to adjust and then see if you can change one of those extra dinner nights into an overnight.
2. Have you Corrected a Problem that Limited your Time with your Children? If you had a medical, mental or physical condition that limited your visitation schedule and you’ve overcome the problem, you will most likely need the help of a lawyer. Be sure to document that change in your status with medical reports, information on attending meetings and support groups or other verifiable information. Then, see an experienced family law attorney to help you make your case.
3. Someone Moved. If your ex is moving the child away, the court is going to look at the child’s best interest taking into account things like how long the child has lived in the area, their friends, their school and their activities. The court will also consider if the parent who has custody of the children is fit for primary custody. If you are the person who is moving and the primary custodian, the court is going to look at the reasons why you are moving. A better job? To care for an elderly family member? Be prepared to fully explain the reason for your move and that the child will benefit from it. Again, if you can work it out with your ex in advance, you will be on a stronger foundation. Also, know the terms of your divorce. Is there a limitation on how far a custodial parent can move?
4. The other Parent isn’t Living Up to the Agreement. Maybe they are dropping the child off with you so they can do other things. Or, they could make the child unavailable when it is time for you to be with the child according to the agreement. Document! Keep a log that have the dates and exactly what happened. For example, the other parent asked you to continue to keep the child because they had a social engagement or you went to pick the child up and the child was somewhere else. Again, think about contacting your divorce lawyer or a family law attorney to help you as you seek the change.
5. Have the Right Intentions. If you seek a change in your visitation schedule or custody arrangements, do it for the children. Don’t seek a change to create more overnight time or custodial time because you want to lower your child support payments. Your first priority should be the children. Financial matters are another issue. If you are having trouble making ends meet, consult with an attorney and see what options you might have.
Divorce is hard. Seeing less of the children you love is very hard. Make sure that you take an active role in their lives. Coach a team. Go to school conferences. Be on time whenever it is your turn to pick the child or children up and spend time with them. Know their friends. Share their interests. All of these things will help make the divorce easier for the child and for you. They will also help you if you need to seek a change in visitation. Child visitation and custody is complicated. If you are asking for a change, get the advice of an experienced family law attorney before you take action. Having a lawyer at your side will help you reach a successful conclusion to your visitation concerns.