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Noncustodial father wonders if he should ask for more time with son after mother filed a motion to change schools


Your Question:
I'm in a situation where I have a 6 year old son in a very good public magnet school (he's doing very well) and his mother wants to move him to a "lesser" school out of county that is close to her. We have joint legal and I have him 1 day a week plus every other weekend.

She claims he travels too far to go to school and he'd be happier with less travel. I've got proof that his school bus ride would be just as long for the school she is proposing.

She has filed a motion to move him and I would like to ask the judge for custody during the school week so he can continue in his current school. I think I have a good case. She has opened the door and I intend on taking advantage of it.

As far as visitation, what should I offer her? I was thinking about offering every other weekend and summer. During the summer, I would like to have him every other weekend plus a week for vacation. Do you believe that the court would find this reasonable?

What else would you do?

Thanks

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My Answer:
Hi,

In addition to the above background information, I asked you for further details.

You responded, saying among other things:

  • The mother moved 20 miles away after your son was accepted at the magnet school.

  • On your motion, the court ordered that your son be enrolled at the magnet school.

  • Standardized testing shows that students at the magnet school achieve higher scores than students at the school near mom.

  • School near mom is 12 miles away from her. School near you is 26 miles away from her.

  • School counselor and report cards all indicate that your son is excelling at the magnet school.

Based upon the information you presented, I wouldn't necessarily take the tactic you're attempting. I don't believe that Mom has "opened the door" for you to ask for more time. I think she has actually stuck her head in the door for you to slam it hard.

Here's how I'd approach this (but remember I'm not an attorney) for long-term thinking:

    1. I'd send your ex a letter, advising that you're available to care for son after school on any day, and you can bring him to school in the morning after any overnight. Remark on how well son is doing in school. In the letter, suggest to your ex that while you don't share the same concern about transportation, in recognition of her concern, you propose to change the parenting schedule to stay in your home more weekdays. Save a copy of this letter to use as an exhibit.

    2. In court, your primary argument is that the court has already ruled on the matter of school after hearing evidence about the two very schools in question.

    3. In court, your secondary argument is that report cards and the school show how son is thriving in that school.

    4. In court, your concluding argument is that the mother has brought a meritless action before the court on matters that have already been heard ad nauseum. Show (via copy of the letter you sent) that you tried to address the mother's concerns while also keeping son in a school at which he's thriving. At this point, you want sanctions and attorney fees for this outrageous action.

    The reason why I don't suggest that you go for additional time is because I don't see any grounds on which you should get it, from the court's eyes. The only thing that has changed is this motion. Simply because mom is being an idiot does not open the door to renegotiate everything. You don't want the judge annoyed with you too, do you?

    Also, I could see how your desired strategy may even backfire. If you suggest son should spend more time in your home to cut down on transportation time, it may be perceived that both parents agree that transportation time is a problem. Then the court is faced with a decision: re-examine the entire rationale that went into the current parenting schedule, or re-examine a simple thing like which school the kid attends?

    I also think it's in your favor that the perceived difference between 12 and 26 miles isn't as drastic as 1 mile vs 26 miles. It may be worth a mention that the mother brought this entire ridiculous action before the court over a ten minute difference of travel time each way, and she's willing to uproot the child's stability and comfort in school over this.

    If you take this opportunity to really show the court how ridiculous this action is, how she's wasting everyone's time, it gives you fodder (when she loses) to mention it in all future appearances before this judge. Making her appear badly before the judge who will make future decisions is to your advantage when you have very solid grounds in the future to modify the custody schedule.

    Don't do "tit for tat."

    Instead, do "I'm gonna seize this opportunity and save it for when it'll really benefit my next move."

    All of this is my opinion, of course. There are a few ways to approach this, so think very very hard.

    I'm very curious on how this will turn out, so please let me know.

    Eric





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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