In the months or years following a divorce, as life situations change for parents and children, renegotiations of child custody and visitation agreements are quite common. However, if you enter into negotiations ill-prepared, you could end up wasting a lot of time and money while making it even more of a challenge to renegotiate down the road. Here are five big mistakes people often make during child custody/visitation renegotiations, and how to avoid them.
1. Offering no change of circumstance
Remember, the court has previously determined child visitation and custody rights for specific reasons, taking certain factors into account. If you ask your ex or a judge for a change in these rights without offering clear evidence that these deciding factors have changed, your request to renegotiate is likely to fall flat.
2. Failure to abide by the current agreement
If you have withheld visitation from the other parent without just cause, or if you have disobeyed any court order related to custody and visitation, you’re coming to the table with two strikes already against you. Neither your ex nor a judge will look favorably on your request to change the terms of custody if you’ve not been showing respect for the current terms.
3. Failure to clarify exactly what you want in concrete terms
If you are unhappy with your current child custody agreement, chances are it’s because you failed to be specific about terms the first time around. (For example, if you didn’t address who gets the kids during certain holidays, that lack of clarity might now be a point of contention with your ex.) Custody renegotiation is a perfect time to fill in some of those gaps; if you don’t tie up loose ends, you’re wasting an opportunity.
4. Using renegotiation (and the kids) as a tool for vengeance
In particularly contentious divorces, one parent might be tempted to extend the custody battle as a way of getting back at the other. This is a bad idea because it turns the children into pawns in your personal dispute. Since the court’s goal is the best interest of the children, anything that demonstrates you are not acting in their best interests will backfire on you. Just don’t do it.
5. Not seeking legal representation
Child custody is a nuanced and tricky business. If you attempt to renegotiate without the help of a skilled attorney, you’re likely to be just as unhappy with the outcome than you were the first time. Always seek professional legal counsel before trying to renegotiate child custody and visitation agreements.