Child custody and visitation orders can be so complicated to make decisions about. In addition to trying to make the best schedule for the children, the allocation of time can have a large effect on child support payments. In addition, when going through a separation, parents are often less willing to agree about basic decisions surrounding the child and over-analyze the other parent's choices. Thus, even after the court has already created a custody and visitation order, many co-parents continue to return to court to make alterations based on the other parent's bad behavior.
However, it is important to add some perspective before you take your ex to court to modify custody and visitation orders. There are many practical factors to consider before returning to court, because the less court involvement in a child's schedule, the better off that child will be.
1. Remember that your ex is a human being: While you may not like them anymore, they might not be a bad parent just because they messed up one time. Imagine if you were still in a relationship with them. Would you force them to spend less time with their child if they forgot to pack your kid's lunch one day? Would you not let watch your child overnight because they were 15 minutes late to pick up your kid from soccer practice? While these seem like giant screw ups from afar, the reality is that people make simple mistakes sometimes and it isn't always a practical idea to punish them for it.
2. Don't penalize your child for something your ex did: Maybe your ex did something really bad. Maybe it is worth reducing their parenting time. But at the same time, maybe your child really enjoys the time they spend with your ex, and reducing that time could be detrimental to them.
3. Court costs time and money: Even if you don't hire a lawyer, going to court means you have to take time off of work, hire childcare, and drive to the county courthouse for the day. If you do hire a lawyer, you will spend way too much money on phone calls about the little things your ex did wrong and negotiations with your ex about pick-ups and drop-offs. It just might not be worth all of the costs.
Ultimately, you will save a lot of headaches and money if you sit down and talk to your ex. Remember that they are human and are bound to make mistakes. Don't get too upset over small failures. If you can talk with your ex and figure something out, it will be much more beneficial to you in the long run. I know that many of you are reading this and are thinking that you can do that, but your ex is too stubborn. Re-evaluate that stance. Often, both parties are being equally stubborn, and even if your ex is stubborn, it still might be worth it to put up with a bad person on minor issues as compared to the cost and time of going to court.
Maria E. Crabtree, CFLS