Should Your Child Have A Say In Custody Alterations?
When you and your ex divorced, the custody and visitation arrangement may have been one of the most difficult things to decide on. So much is riding on this emotional issue, and undoubtedly great care went into the original parenting plan. The problem, however, is that a plan made when the child was age 5 may not be as appropriate for a 13 year old. Read on to find out more about changing your parenting plan to accommodate a growing child.
Nothing is Final
When you and your ex got divorced, you two are divorced for all time (unless you remarry, of course). The same cannot be said for the provisions of your divorce that concern minor children. The family courts recognize that placing the best interest of the child first can often mean an adjustment in the parenting plan. Therefore, no provision dealing with a minor child is never closed; it remains open until the child achieves the age of majority.
Why Make a Change?
If you have been dealing with your present parenting plan for some time, you may already know that the plan is not yours' to change at will. The plan is in the form of a court order, and sending the child off to live with the non-custodial parent just because you want to is actually perpetrating contempt of court, a criminal offense. Fortunately, it's not necessary to be charged with a crime if you want to alter your agreement. A family law attorney can file a request for a change in the plan, and the judge will evaluate the situation based on the best interest of the child.
Your Child is Older
As a child grows, they change and so must the parenting plan. Older children have more school, sports and social obligations, and visitation may need to be adjusted to work better. For example, instead of the non-custodial parent getting visitation on a weeknight, it may work better for the visitation to take place on non-school days. This is also a time when shared or 50/50 custody may be stretched to the limits; it can be mean a organizational nightmare to accommodate a child's schedule and live in two homes 50% of the time when the child get busier.
Points to Consider
The judge will want to know that the change is for the advantage of the child, and so the following questions are worth considering.
1. Is the change necessary for better scheduling or is the child attempting to gain more time with the more permissive parent? Be sure the motivation for the change is clear. Too much time without parental guidance is not the goal of a custody or visitation alteration.
2. If you are dealing with joint custody, is there any reason to believe that the child will do better with the other parent? There was probably a good reason one parent has primary physical custody and the other has visitation, so the fitness of both parents may be reexamined.
3. Do you both agree on the potential alteration? This is a big issue, since any disagreement could turn a hearing into a battle.
If your parenting plan needs a change, speak to your family law attorney right away.