If you have children and are getting divorced, you will negotiate a parenting time schedule, typically called a custody agreement. This dictates the amount of time that each child will spend with each parent. It can include overnights, holidays, and special arrangements like pick-ups and birthdays. If you are divorcing with younger children, your schedule will more than likely need to be adjusted in the future to accommodate different schedules. If you have already been divorced for a few years, you may be concerned that your custody agreement is no longer working. After all, your schedule, as well as the activity schedules of your children, have probably changed over time.
First, as you move through your year, you may find that certain dates in the schedule need to be adjusted. For instance, you may need to attend a work event or a wedding on a weekend when you are scheduled to have your children. If your ex is agreeable, a simple email, phone call or text can handle these one-time changes. Sometimes, in contentious post-divorce relationships, parents feel they need to get an attorney involved in every single change. This can ensure that there is a formal agreement to the change, but is usually not necessary.
For more substantial changes to your custody agreement, you will want to make sure that the new plan is fair and, most importantly, includes a consultation and/or review with an attorney. For instance, if you are taking on more nights with your children, you may be entitled to additional child support. With more permanent changes, you should file with the court. A handshake (or email) agreement is not enforceable all the time.
If you have a more serious circumstance to consider, it is essential that you have legal guidance through the process. If your ex does not show up for scheduled time and your children are continually disappointed, homework is not completed when the children are in your ex’s care, your ex suffers from alcoholism or drug abuse or is incarcerated, then the circumstances may be extreme and legal guidance is imperative.
Lastly, you may want to change your custody agreement but your ex may be opposed to doing so. You may be changing jobs or moving or you may realize that your child’s new schedule needs to be accommodated in a different way. If you and your ex do not get along, then you might need lawyers, or even the court, to handle the change. If both parties do not agree…this will need to be negotiated. You must be able to demonstrate that it is in the best interest of the child to amend the parenting time agreement.
Regardless of the changes you need to make, your parenting time schedule can usually be adjusted. It is critical to find a lawyer who is experienced in Bucks and/or Montgomery County who can walk you through child custody issues and any other changes that should be considered.