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Custodial mother wonders if long-distance noncustodial father can successfully modify custody

Your Question:
My divorce was final last year after a 2 year separation. Upon separation 3 years ago, I moved my children, then 3 and 7 - across the state (@ 350 miles away from their father). Upon the divorce decree, I was awarded sole custody and father was ordered to pay child support.He get visitation.

We are established in the community, church and schools. I have a good paying job and have established my self in the community. THIS IS OUT HOME NOW!!

Ex-husband remarries in June, slacks off on child support. He sends a letter to me stating due to his former business he own being dissolved by the IRS that he needs to lower child support. Also, he has put all of his assets in new spouseís name, and has lowered his salary even more.

Now, he demands that I quit my job, move myself and children to his area so we can have joint custody. He also states that it is in the best interest of the children.

He informed me he has hired an attorney who has NEVER lost a case and is flying in on his private jet to consult with him today about our case. HE says it will cause me embarrassment and cost me a lot of money. He also intents to humiliate me if I don't agree to the joint custody. HE says his attorney says he will make it where he pays the least amount of child support possible.

I am speaking with my attorney on Monday....but after a sleepless night....Can her make me quit my job and move so he can share in the custody of the children? BTW, I am a law abiding, non drinking, good person who attends church weekly. I pay my bills. I own my house. I donít do drugs or have any sleep over with men. I rarely have a baby sitter and rarely "go out" while my children are in town.

The father doesn't call the children for the entire 2 weeks they are at my house; he never attends their plays or soccer games. HE claims if I lived closed he would. IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILDREN is how he says the judge will rule. My children have no friends in his area. This is their home now. HELP!!

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My Answer:

Thanks for writing.

I don't think you have much to worry about.

First of all, it doesn't appear that there has been a change of circumstance, which is generally required before modifying custody.

Second of all, your ex is correct that the court will ultimately rule in the best interest of the children. At this point in their lives, they are secure in school, extracurricular activities, friends, your home, health professionals, religious involvement, and everything else that is important to them.

While it's not in their best interest that 350 miles is between the parents, the time to have fought that was when the move happened. I think your ex blew any chance at making a big deal out of the move-away, since he didn't fight it at the time.

It sounds like your ex is blowing a bunch of hot air, trying to intimidate you. There's no such thing as a lawyer who has never lost a case, and only an idiot (or a multi-millionaire) would hire a lawyer who has such overhead as a personal jet.

You mentioned that your ex has slacked off in terms of child support. I suggest that you have your attorney file a contempt motion in YOUR county's courthouse. Because the kids primarily reside in your location, it's reasonable to have jurisdiction there.

By filing a contempt motion, it does two things:

    It puts your ex on the defensive. Your ex won't be taken seriously by any judge if there is a contempt motion for child support already on calendar. Further, if he tries to file to modify custody AFTER you file your contempt motion, it will look retaliatory.

    Second, it puts jurisdiction in your county. I don't know if you've had any court issues after your move. If not, your ex may try to file his papers to modify custody in HIS area. You'll have to pay for an attorney to appear THERE, and it may involve you hiring two attorneys (i.e., one in your area, and one in his area) to try to either fight the motion to modify custody or to have it moved to your county, where the kids primarily reside. So, if you file something and establish jurisdiction in your county, you'll end up paying less in the end on attorney fees.

Also, he ain't going to get out of paying child support. If he refuses to work, your attorney will simply ask the court to impute his income at his last full-time wage, for the purpose of calculating child support.

That's my two cents. An attorney in your area would best be able to guide you, of course.

Good luck.


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