Children all over the U.S. are finishing school and making plans for the summer. For families going through a divorce, this normally relaxing time of year can be the most stressful. Maybe you're the parent facing a summer alone or with few memorable moments in the making. There is a way to make things better and add more time with your children.
Consider this scenario. Your ex-wife has your young daughters overnight at her house much more than you do. She has a new fiance who lives in another state who is so wealthy that your ex can marry him, quit her job, move up there and be with the children all of the time. She has asked the court to rewrite the child custody order to allow her to move out of state and change your time with the children to eight long weekends per year and four weeks in the summer.
Since splitting with your ex, you have not been very involved with your daughters' activities. You have spent your time working hard to support yourself and pay the child support, but you have not been the ideal Dad when it comes to quality time with your children. What do you do now?
After a parental time-sharing plan is established in a divorce or paternity case, it is subject to being rewritten if there has been a substantial change of circumstances since the original plan was established. The judge will determine if a new schedule is required based upon the best interests of the children.
Clearly this is substantial change of circumstance. It would be shame to deny this woman happiness with a new husband. But what about the best interests of the children? They are going to be way better off financially and instead of having both parents working full time, they will have Mom at their beck and call 24/7. How do you fight that?
These "relocation" cases, as the courts call them, are difficult. Unlike most things in divorce or paternity cases, there is going to be a clear winner and a clear loser when the judge rules. There are steps you can take to help your case by the time you get in front of the judge. You have to act fast, though.
Start going to every doctor or dental appointment the girls have. Be the parent who leads the Brownie Troop they are in. Be the assistant coach of the girls' softball team. Be the homeroom Dad.
You get the idea. Do everything you can do to be the involved Dad that you have not been so far. By the time you get to the final hearing on the request to change the parenting plan to allow for relocation, the judge is going to have a hard time granting it. Even though you were not an involved Dad since the split with your ex, you have now proven that you are SuperDad. It will be very hard for a judge to move the children away from a parent like that.
Enjoy your time with the girls and think how proud they will be of your relationship when later on in life, you walk each one down the aisle.
Stann Givens has been practicing law in Florida for 41 years and is the founding partner of Givens Givens Sparks. He has been Board Certified by the Florida Bar as a Marital and Family Lawyer since 1991, on the list of "Best Lawyers in America" since 1998, and been named a "Super Lawyer" since 2006.