Last month we discussed FAMs (Family Access Motions) and the situations that lead to choosing that action. Today, we’ll review Motions to Modify. A Motion to Modify may be necessary when the custody arrangement or child support award no longer works for the lifestyle of the parties and children.
In the case of the child, custody or visitation may need to be revised as the child ages:
- Infant to toddler
- Toddler to school age
- Younger school age to teens
Schedules will also require renegotiation around schools, sports, and vacation times.
The birth parents often have lifestyle or professional changes that will require modifications to the visitation decree:
- Parents move out of state
- One parent is called into active duty
- A parent may be an OTR (over the road) truck driver
- A parent is a HOTSHOT firefighter and may be in the field for six months of the year
Visitation does not always work out to a 50/50 share time. While that is ideal, it is often not realistic. As demonstrated in just a few cases above, anything is possible—and quite often must be arranged. The first thing to remember is to ensure the child has quality time with both parents. Sometimes this may mean seasonal blocks of time—as with the fireman. The father may not get to visit his child until the fire season is over—which could last up to 6 months. As a result, the ideal situation for this family may be a 6-month share time between parents.
When such a change or situation arises, avoid unnecessary stress by considering schedules and working together. The best starting point is to contact the other parent. It’s always easier and cheaper to work together on revising the schedule rather than to butt heads. Discuss the issues and alternatives. Many times you may need to exchange blocks of time to come to an agreement. Consider the military man or woman who is shipped overseas for a tour of duty. He or she may not get to spend their quality time with the child until their return, which could be 18 months or more. Once the military parent returns, he or she will wish to regain the parent/child bond through custody or visitation. Remember, the primary goal is to maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents.
If you find you are unable to come to an agreement together, contacting a family law attorney will be the next best option. Your attorney will discuss options and plans with you or finalize the agreement you both have reached on your own.
And while your child is with you, plan something fun together. Turn off your television and computers and play cards or dig out your game of Monopoly. Take this time to talk with your child. Put the same energy into time together as you do to working out visitation schedules.