When getting divorced, many parents need to go through the court system to come up with a child custody arrangement that is in the best interest of the child and also fair to both parents. There are times when one parent or the other is unhappy with the current arrangement. In this case, there are some steps you can take to try to get the court to change the orders. Read on to find out what you can do if you have an issue with your current child custody or visitation schedule.
When You’d Like to Change the Schedule
If you and your ex have joint custody or if you have visitation and you would like to change the days that you have your child, the easiest solution might be to simply talk to your child’s other parent about it. In many cases, even a less-than-amicable divorce can lead to successful co-parenting with open communication between the parents. So if you need to switch your weekend or if your work schedule has changed and you’d like to try to see your child on Tuesday night instead of Wednesday night, try talking to your former spouse to see if they will agree. If you both agree, put it in writing.
If you need to change the schedule and your ex will not agree with you, you might need to go back to court. A call to your lawyer or legal resource group can result in a letter to your ex that might get them to change their mind. Or you might need to go to mediation or, in some cases, to talk to a judge about it.
When You Have Concerns About Your Child’s Safety
You might find yourself in a situation where you are concerned that your ex is not caring properly for your child. You might suspect or become aware of child abuse, child neglect, a drug problem on the part of your child’s other parent, or some other situation that could be putting your child’s well-being in danger.
First, it is important to keep your child safe. If you are aware of abuse or your ex comes to pick up your child while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you should call the police. Do not try to withhold the child on your own unless there is a clear danger, as this could put you in contempt of court. A police report will show the court that you were attempting to keep your child safe by refusing to allow him or her to go with their other parent.
Document all proof or evidence that you have that could indicate a safety concern. Bring this information to your guardian ad litem (GAL) or your legal representative to learn how you can petition the court to change the custody agreement on a temporary, emergency basis while they investigate whether your child is actually in danger.
When You Were Denied Custody or Visitation
You might have been denied custody or visitation. There are some reasons why this could have occurred:
- A history of child abuse. If you have been accused of abusing your child, it is likely that you will not get custody of him or her. If there was a false accusation, a legal professional from National Family Solutions might be able to help. If you did actually abuse your child, you might need to take anger management classes or attend therapy sessions in order to regain your rights to see and care for your child.
- A history of domestic violence. Similarly, if you were violent toward your child’s other parent or someone else in the household, you might not be able to be unsupervised with your child. Again, going through a case plan that includes therapy could help.
- Untreated mental illness or a substance addiction. Severe mental health issues and active addictions can make it impossible for you to care for your child. Going through mental health treatment and/or rehabilitation for your addiction could cause the judge to reconsider and to allow you contact with your child.
- A history of neglect or abandonment. If you have neglected or abandoned your child, you might not get custody or visitation. The goal is to keep your child safe. In this case, parenting classes might allow you to regain rights to your child.
There might be other reasons why you were denied custody or visitation. For example, if you were or are incarcerated, this is one possible reason. In some cases, you will be able to overcome whatever difficulties led to the judge giving sole custody to your child’s other parent. If your parental rights have been terminated, it is unlikely that this decision will be reversed.
In some cases, you might be granted supervised visitation. This means that you will see your child while another responsible adult supervises. It is important to go to all of your visitations, if possible, even if you don’t like being supervised. It will allow you to create and maintain a bond with your child and it might be a stepping-stone toward unsupervised visitation in the future.
When Your Ex Is Not Sticking to the Agreement
If your ex is not sticking to the child custody arrangement, you might need to petition the court. He or she can be held in contempt of court in some cases. The first step, however, is to send a letter. This can inform your ex that he or she is breaking the custody agreement and might be held in contempt. From there, you might need to pursue mediation or go to the judge to have the agreement enforced.
It is also possible that your ex is breaking the agreement because he or she needs to have the custody arrangement modified. For example, your ex might be picking up your child late because their work schedule has changed. In this case, you can modify the agreement on your own if the two of you agree. It is helpful to try to talk to your child’s other parent before involving the court whenever possible.
Contact National Family Solutions if you are having trouble with your child custody arrangement. We help parents just like you every day. Call today.