[Y]esterday we talked about Can a Teen Change Custody of Who She Wants to Live With?. From that post, we concluded that without serious harmful and life changing reasons, she probably can not. Today I want to share a few stories of dads who did in fact gain custody after their final and how they did it without initial court assistance.
Custody Can Change, but not for the Reasons You Think
When I tell parents that in cases where both parents are pretty good and equal, I rarely see judges changing custody solely because the kids want them too. Parents are then disappointed and frequently tell me stories that they heard it happen to so-and-so. Or their attorney said it would change just because Johnny is of age, or Sally is old enough to decide, etc. It does in fact happen. However a closer look of the facts, usually reveals the changes being made are “outside” the courtroom or presented as a reached agreement between the two parties.
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Three Elements that Help Custody Change
Excluding extreme circumstances, in my observation, post final primary custody changes more frequently when these three elements have occurred:
1) A good period of time of peace has past, usually many years. The longer amount of time the better.
2) The parents are over the divorce and have moved on with their own social lives. Divorce and custody is an all consuming, overwhelming, and costly distraction that pretty much takes over your life during the process. People’s feelings are totally different the further they move away from the initial experience.
3) The parents have arrived to a state of tolerance with each other. And at least one of them is tired of the court system and fighting.
Stories of How to Gain Custody After the Divorce
Last year a non-custodian dad visited with me and told me he wanted his daughter to live with him. I asked him “Why?” He told me his 16 year old daughter stated that mom was seriously on drugs and the daughter practically lives at home by herself. I asked him if he could prove the drugs beyond a shadow of a doubt. He told me it would be hard, from which I told him the court would probably not make a change of custody on his daughter’s testimony alone. Furthermore, to start a new contested custody case in the courts would be expense and probably take longer than two years.
However, I told him to calmly confront his Ex and have his daughter request of mom to live with dad.
The daughter confronted the Ex about the drug habit and expressed to her mom that she truly didn’t want to live in this environment. She explained that dad had offered to take her in. The dad carefully discussed with his Ex that he was considering filing for custody based on her drug use. The Ex remembered how costly it was to fight in court, and didn’t want to fight anymore. They had been divorced for more than 10 years. So reluctantly she signed paperwork for a custody change.
The second story is one told by my attorney. He tells of a client that wanted custody of his then teenage boys. Upon reviewing the case, my attorney advised that the judge would not likely change his visitation arrangement with his kids.
However, he told the client to rent a house very close to his Ex. Then fill the refrigerator with after school snacks, leave the back door unlocked, install a basketball hoop, subscribe to cable and see what happens. The father, after dropping his kids off the following week, found a house for rent a street away from his Ex. Long story short, within six months both parents drafted a new custody agreement as the boys were constantly spending more time at dad’s house.
You can gain custody after the divorce, but probably not for the reasons you think.
What other methods have you seen work to gain custody after the divorce or final paperwork? What has worked for you or a friend?
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