My ex wife has just filed for a mediation hearing to change our parenting plan. I have been the custodial parent for two of our three children now since they were born and are now in their teens. We both have remarried but I think My ex is trying to take custody of our 14 year old daughter due to the fact that I am not working right now. My wife works and I am looking for new employment.
My ex did this to me once before when I allowed my sone to live with her due to his want to attend a hight school near her home. At the time I was making good money and she was able to get the courts to reverse her Child support payments so that now I have to pay her for the one child and she has paid nothing for the two with me. With my current unemployed status and a drastic change in my income should I go to this mediation hearing and let her know there is no way I will split our family again or should I just hire an attorney and go straight to court and ask for Child support for the two kids?
Elder Law Attorney
First, I have to say that this sounds like a very stressful time for you. A change in employment is stressful enough without having to worry about change in family. At times like this, it sometimes help to focus on what you can do. In Washington, child support can be modified when there is a change in the economic status of one of the parents. It is unlikely that a parenting plan will be modified just because of the economic change of the cusodial parent ABSENT a showing that the economic change substantially and negatively impacts the well being of the child(ren). Without knowing all of the details of your situation, it sounds like there are grounds to petition the court to modify the child support schedule to your advantage. The Court, of course, will modify if there has been a change in your ex-spouse economic change to her advantage. Assuming that there are not other factors that impact the parenting plan, formerly known as "custody", the Court will be reluctant to modify the parenting plan just because you are unemployed. Candidly, in this economic condition, many people are or will become unemployed. I'd definitely speak with your family law attorney and would be surprised if he or she didn't recommend noting in for a hearing that asks the court to order your ex to pay you more child support.
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Estate Planning Attorney
Yes it is confusing. Been there. Your question addresses two seperate issues. The courts do not like tying child custody to child support. Having one does not imply the other. If the hearing is about custody then I would attend the hearing and address that issue. If you want child support for the two children in your custody then you need to initiate that in its own proceeding. The court will frown upon you if you jump straight to the court to demand child support as a way to stop her from proceeding with a mediation hearing on custody.
I recommend you attend the hearing. Come prepared to address the issues on the table, I would also go to that hearing ready to introduce the support payments. Although that hearing officer will probably not rule on that at least get it on the record if it is appropriate and set a hearing for that issue according to the modification rules in your plan.
Your change of income is a good reason to request support form her and not as strong a reason for a change in custody. Her: "He can't support the kids because he has no job". Court: "That means he can spend time with the kids which you can't do because you are working." Her: "But I am remarried, my new guy spends time with them when I can't". Court: "So you can afford to financially support your husband to be with your kids?" Her: "Yes." Court: "In that case you can afford to support your children's father spending time with your children. Next case."
I have seen that! Usually the other way around on the parents as far as M / F roles but the sex of the parent invovled is not supposed to make a difference (slight "ahem" from the gallery... I know). I encourage you to follow the rules for modification of both support and primary custody as outlined in your agreement rather than jumping to a court.
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