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Father's informal arrangement with mother to modify the parenting plan abruptly ends. Does father have a chance to get more time than the original court orders?

Your Question:
My husband and I have been married for 6 years. He has two elementary aged children from his marriage. He had a very ugly divorce and was dragged through the mud by his ex-wife. However, over time, they both came back to friendly terms for the sake of their children. I have known the children since they were very young and have an excellent relationship with them.

Here is the issue: my husband and his ex have a court ordered visitation schedule. She has full legal and physical custody. The schedule is pretty standard, but doesn't include any vacation or summer overnights as it was written when the children were very young.

However, over the last several years, they verbally modified the schedule to include overnights during this time, and also during the week. This was always at the mother's request and convenience, and we always accepted. The children grew accustomed to and enjoyed this more liberal schedule. About a year ago, his ex-wife got pregnant and decided to have the baby with no father involvement. At that time, she all of a sudden went back to the original schedule, saying that the kids "didn't do very well" with weekday overnights. Yet, she also refuses any other overnights now, even during vacations or the summer. They have tried mediation, but that didn't work. My husband finally retained a lawyer and is asking for more visitation.

I guess my question is, do you think he has a good chance of getting more time with the children? We are both teachers with nothing questionable in our past. His ex-wife is a bit kooky, but otherwise normal. We live very close to each other. What is a reasonable amount to expect? He would like at least one night a week, EOW, and at least 2-3 overnights during vacation and 4 weeks in the summer. Thanks!

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My Answer:

I think you have an excellent shot at getting a parenting plan similar to what your husband is requesting. It's close to the starting place for many noncustodial parents. You may not get the 4 weeks vacation during summer, but it won't hurt to try for it (i.e., and maybe you'll only get 2 weeks, which is still nice).

The attorney can argue that circumstances have changed in that the parenting plan had been modified for years before the mother abruptly changed it back to original orders.

Given that the mother has had all the power here, given that she's showing that she won't act reasonably, make sure the orders that your husband requests are nailed down and specific so there is no room for subjective interpretation. Sounds like she may be a poor loser if he gets what he wants.

For example, rather than asking for "4 weeks in the summer", ask for orders that the children will spend "July 1 at 9AM to July 31 at 9AM with the father every year" but only if you don't mind mom perhaps having all of August.... the court may order that too. Otherwise, you can split the four weeks into a couple of two-week chunks in your request.

Rather than asking for half of spring break, request orders that the children will be with father "from the end of school on the last day of school prior to spring break until 5pm on the following Wednesday".

Rather than EOW in general terms, request orders for "from 5pm alternating Fridays until delivery to school Monday morning, or 9AM if no school".

Rather than requesting alternate holidays in general terms, lay out every holiday, beginning time and ending time, and which parent has each holiday in even years and odd years.

If he really nails down a solid parenting plan with very few loopholes, this may be your only return to court for a long time. If it's a weak parenting plan open to interpretation, y'all will have to go back to court to argue about what it means.

If your lawyer can't get you significantly more fathering time (including sleepovers), I think something's wrong, or I don't have all the info about the situation.

Good luck.


This website gives common sense advice that is not intended to act as legal guidance nor psychological guidance. The author is neither an attorney nor licensed psychologist. For specific legal guidance or specific psychological guidance, consult with a licensed professional.

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