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Noncustodial father wonders how to get more time with 9 year old son

Your Question:
I have a 9 year old son with a woman that I never married. I kicked her out after I learned of her cheating on me. We never had anything in writing. She did daycare, and I worked 3rd shift, so she would get him during the day, and I would pick him up from 4 until 9 and every other weekend. Then I started seeing someone, and things got ugly... When our son was 4 she quite daycare and started at a fast food resturant. We went to court, for custody rights. I wanted him ALL the time, but couldn't because of my shift (11pm-7am). Anyway, I did receive joint legal and physical cusody, but my "visitation" changed to Tues. 4-7, Thur. 4-9, every other weekend, and revolving Holidays. She is VERY difficult to deal with, unless it will benifit her. I have since married (2yrs. ago) the woman I've been with for the past 6yrs. She has two other children (14 and 13), and my son has a blast with them and his step-mom. He often wants to spend the nights (Tues. and Thurs.) with us, but his mother says NO! He is so sad... He's asked me why he doesn't stay with me more, like some of his friend (they have 50/50 time). I have talked this over with my wife, is in complete favor of trying to get 50/50 time. My concern is that, I've heard it's hard to do after a schedule has already been ordered. My wife and I are VERY involved in our childrens lives, we go to their games, church, sunday school, parent teacher conferences, school programs, and such... Do you have any advise for me to help this process go smoothly???

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My Answer:

Your question is an unfair one. It appears that there is 0% chance that this process will be a smooth one. The mother won't agree to any extra time for your son to spend with you. The only option available to you is to ask a judge to force it -- and that is necessarily ugly due to the adversarial nature of litigation.

I asked for further information from you, which isn't posted, so if any readers wonder how I know a particular fact... that's how.

I think you may have a case to get more time with your son. But it's certainly not a slamdunk.

None of your points - on their own - are particularly persuasive, bu it's possible that you can weave an overall picture that would be convincing to a judge to expand the child's time in your home. Here are the points that I see worth making, in the modification action you'll file with the court:

  • The mother is a smoker and your child is exposed to second-hand smoke. The dangers of continual exposure to second-hand smoke are well documented. Your home is a nonsmoking home.

  • The mother has many boyfriends. The cheating is irrelevant to child custody. However, if your son is seeing her date someone new every few months, for years on end, that does not create a stable home. If she does not expose the child to her dating, then this is a non-issue.

  • You've attempted, with no success, to resolve this with the mother. She refuses all discussion.

  • The child is now X years older than when the original orders were made. The original orders are no longer serving the best interest of this 9 year old boy.

  • You live very close to his school. There is no reason why you shouldn't pick him up from school and take him to school.

  • You work a night-shift. You can put him to bed, and you can take him to school. You'll sleep while he's at school and catch up on the days that he's not in your home. If you aren't willing to be awake in order to take him to school, you can't argue that you can care for him at that time.

  • The mother leaves for work before he goes to school, and she comes home in the evening. She is not available to care for him during the week, unlike you.

  • Your son has become well-bonded to his step-siblings.

  • You're limited in your ability to take your son on special vacations, so orders on summer vacation time are needed. Outline the difficulties with Disney, which you want to avoid in the future.

  • Your son has frequently and continually expressed a desire to spend more time in your home.

  • While having strengths in some areas of parenting, your ex has some limitations in her ability to effectively help your son with homework. She never graduated high school, never got her GED, and has been diagnosed with dyslexia. More weekday afternoon time in your home give you greater opportunity to help your son with his homework.

The court, or your attorney, may propose that it could be beneficial to do a fast-track custody evaluation where a custody evaluator looks at each home, interviews the parents and the child, may phone interview teachers, and finally makes a recommendation to the court. If everything you're saying is true, this should benefit you.

I suggest you request a bit more than what you think would be best for your son, and realistically what YOU can handle. Your request for relief from the court may look something like this:

  • Tuesdays from after school or 3pm (if no school) until the next morning at 9am or return to school.

  • Wednesdays from after school or 3pm (if no school) until 6pm. You can help him with homework and take care of him while the mother works.

  • On alternate Thursdays, from after school or 3pm (if no school) until the next morning at 9am or return to school.

  • On the other alternate Thursdays, from after school or 3pm (if no school) until Monday morning at 9am or return to school.

  • Each parent shall have two weeks of summer vacation with the child. Mother's are 9am on July 15 to 9am on July 29. Yours are 9am on August 1 to 9am on August 15.

If everything you've told me is true, if you have no hidden skeletons you haven't described, and if your judge is at least partially reasonable, you may walk away with something close to what I outlined.

All you can do is outline your strongest, most relevant points in a factual manner (i.e., don't use adjectives to describe your ex... just lay out the facts of her actions and let the judge make his/her conclusions from them).

To get a stronger grasp on what's really important to a judge, I suggest you do some reading on websites like mine or by reading a couple of recommended books.

The worst that happens is you keep what you have. But, I think you may walk away with something more. You sound quite reasonable and in a good position to make this request.


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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