Building a Case for More Parenting Time
Building a Case for More Parenting Time
While a child custody modification proceeding may seem daunting, there are steps you can take now to build a case for more parenting time with your children. Of course, if you have joint custody, you may not need to modify the custody orders, which are more difficult to change. If all you need to modify is parenting time, you need to be able to show the judge why the court should make such a change. It takes time to build a case, so be methodical, document everything, and above all continue to be a great parent.
It is seemingly universal that parents, especially the parent that has less time than the other parent (stereotypically the father) want to have more parenting time with their children than what the court has awarded them or than they previously agreed to. This guide will give you some tips on how to act and things to do to help you build a case for more parenting time. Of course, it is always best if both parents can agree to modifications of parenting time but, if an agreement is not going to happen, try the following:
1. Keep a journal or calendar. If you suspect that ex-spouse or the other parent is attempting to turn the children against you through manipulation, negative discussions that involve the children, refusal of parenting time or other actions, document every instance that you observe or experience. Keep a journal of these events or write them down on a calendar, so that you can easily recall them later. Do NOT keep this record in a public forum, like FaceBook, Twitter, Myspace, Pinterest or other public website. At the point where you retain an attorney to help prove your case, your list will help the attorney in providing the court with compelling evidence.
2. Take a step back from the other parent’s negativity and be patient. Do not engage the other parent in conversations or emails that are negative because he or she may be attempting to make you react emotionally. Instead, merely keep the emails to document the bad behavior.
3. Do NOT say negative things around your children about the other parent or their significant other if there is one. Even if bad things are said about you, document what you hear from the other parent or what your children indicate that has been said. Be the bigger parent, even when it hurts. Dispel the negativity that is being spread about you by saying something like “Obviously your (mother/father) has some negative opinions of me and that’s too bad. It would be nice if you didn’t have to hear those things. You know who I am and you know that I love you. I’m sorry you’re getting caught in the middle. Let’s go do something fun and get our minds off this." Remember, actions speak louder than words. If the other parent is saying negative things about you in an attempt to gain favor with the children, the best response is to be the best parent you can and build a positive, loving relationship with your children.
4. Be respectful to your children's mother. Do not discuss family issues with her in front of the children. Call or email her later to discuss. Having discussions about parent issues in front of the children may expose them to conflict that they don’t need to be a part of.
5. Be involved and co-parent. One thing that a family law judge is going to be interested in is a your involvement with the children. If telephone and e-mail privileges are allowed between you and your children, are you calling, texting or emailing the kids while they are with their mother? Do you present a "united front" with the other parent when conflicts arise between the children and the other parent, or on issues where co-parenting is strongly needed? If the kids tell you about issues that they are having with the other parent, merely listen and tell the kids that you can’t really fix the other parent. If they have a problem with someone, whether it is someone at school or the other parent, the best course of action is for the child to address their concerns directly with the person they are having problems with. You may want to send an email to the other parent, though, letting them know what the kids have reported so that they are not blind-sided if the child approaches them with the issue. This will empower your child and give them conflict resolution skills that will better prepare them for adulthood.
6. Always exercise your visitation or parenting time. Be reliable and offer to pick up and drop off the children to show your ongoing interest and desire to spend time with your children. Quality time is found in ordinary activities, such as stopping for ice cream before dropping the kids off, going to the library or park, or helping your child with their homework or reading them bedtime stories shows the kids that you value your time with them. Money will never win a child’s heart, but time spent doing enjoyable activities together will.
Once you feel you have a case, your next step is to hire a divorce attorney that you feel will best convince the court to modify parenting time.