Children's mother wants to change custody arrangement
May 13, 2021 4:03 AM   Subscribe

I'm going through a divorce, and the children have been with me for the last year from 2:30 PM until 7:00 AM Monday through Friday and every other weekend. This was the arrangement agreed upon at the mediation, since it accommodated both our schedules. Now, the mother has changed her hour and works only weekends. She has decided she wants the children Monday through Friday, relegating my role to the weekends.

I am not okay with this proposal. I won't go into details. I only want to know what my next step needs to be. We have what was supposed to be a final phone meeting with a magistrate on May 17, and she intends to bring her proposal then. In the meantime, should I submit documents to the court as evidence of our conversations and my counterproposal for equally shared custody? Is there something else I should do?
posted by jwhite1979 to Law & Government (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would reach out to your lawyer I think that's the only reasonable next step. Presumably she can't make this change unilaterally so you will get your day/chance in court to provide evidence and counterproposal.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 4:37 AM on May 13 [9 favorites]

I'd also stay calm in the presence of your children for the next 5 days. Don't say anything negative about mom. Wait for your opportunity in court. Without the details, it's the next logical step.

My dad always used to get me to breathe and slow down when there was a sharp change in my life direction. It's okay to feel stunned. Just breathe and recognize that unless mom is a threat to the kids, you can be a non-reactive adult about this and still get your way.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 4:39 AM on May 13 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: A lawyer would be the smart move, but neither she nor I have one. Nor could we begin to afford one.
posted by jwhite1979 at 4:39 AM on May 13

Response by poster: And no, indeed, I will not allow my children to be affected by my feelings currently, and I have never spoken poorly about their mother. Despite my feelings, I have worked very hard to nurture their relationship.
posted by jwhite1979 at 4:42 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]

Did your mediated agreement spell out how you would handle future changes, disagreements, or actions counter to the agreement? A good one would have--especially with kids of elementary school age where things change--and that would clarify your next step. If the mediated agreement hasn't yet been ratified, then I think the reasonable and economic step would be to go back to mediation together.
posted by cocoagirl at 4:47 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I just looked through the mediation paperwork and saw nothing about how to handle future changes. Re-entering mediation seems a logical next step. Would I submit a written request to the court explaining the circumstances?
posted by jwhite1979 at 4:54 AM on May 13

This isn't a facetious question, but what would the court do with your written request and explanation? I think having that information ready for when you're asked to provide it (or given your opportunity to contest your wife's proposal) is the least reactive option. The change isn't going to be made without your say.

What is the end-point? You want the conditions of visitation to stay the same. There's probably less for you to do than you think.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 5:14 AM on May 13

Response by poster: I just called the court clerk. She said in this situation, it is advisable to submit a letter as early as possible so the magistrate can decide whether to reopen mediation or continue as scheduled.
posted by jwhite1979 at 5:19 AM on May 13 [4 favorites]

What about working out alternate weeks? You have the kids weekdays one week, then weekend the next. A friend has the kids Sunday afternoon-Thu morning with Thu-morning-Sunday afternoon as a split so both parents get a mix.

I worked my custody schedule out on a spreadsheet so we got roughly equal awake hours. My ex ended up scaling back his hours anyway, but having some weekend access - I was originally like you weekdays, no weekends - actually turned out better because I got to be fun weekend parent as well, not just routine weekday parent.

Work schedules change and if you can accommodate them, then you should get the same accommodation when your work schedules change.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 4:21 PM on May 13

In my experience (OR), family courts value stability for children above all else, i.e. if it's working now, you need to have a good reason to change it.

In theory, this view should take into account major life changes, kids growing older, etc. But overall it still puts the onus on the parent who wants to change something like a parenting schedule, vs the one who wants to keep things the way they are, for better or worse.

In that sense you're in a strong position. Your ex is proposing a drastic change to the parenting schedule--almost a full reversal, in fact. She needs to present a strong rationale for that, if you disagree.

Aside from that encouragement, without knowing more details, the only advice I can give is to document absolutely everything. Including emailed follow-ups to conversations ("Just to sum up our talk on [date]...")

That, and think very, very hard about whether or not you really can't afford a lawyer. This sounds like it has the potential to become a significant disagreement about something that could have a major effect on your kids. Hope for the best, plan for the worst, sadly. Good luck.
posted by gottabefunky at 2:10 PM on May 14

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