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Family Law Answers
Family Law Answers, Family Law Attorney
Category: Family Law
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Experience:  more than 16 years experience as an attorney - current family law litigation + mediation practice
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We just got a court date set to modify visitation for my stepdaughter.

Customer Question

We just got a court date set to modify visitation for my stepdaughter. Basically, the visitation schedule we have was for 2002 when she was an infant and my husband was living 2 minutes away from her. Now - she is 7 years old - living with custodial mom - and my husband and I are 95 miles away out of state (change in jobs & marriage). This has obviously made it very difficult to visit with his daughter on Tues. evening and every other weekend as currently ordered. So we have been going on an unstable journey of visits when "mom" says it is ok - sometimes 3 day weekends or holidays. But for the most part we cannot plan vacations, weekends, or special outings in advance b/c "mom" depending on mood, will deny it. The distance itself is a hassle but the child is now of school age and now has a variety of activities that fall on weekends. We need help with what is the most compelling argument for mod. of visitation in the best interest of the child and an idea of a reasonableschedule
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  Family Law Answers replied 5 years ago.

Hi and thanks for your question.

 

There is no "standard visitation" for parents that live out of state - the court will consider all of the factors it deems relevant to determine what arrangement would be in the best interest of the child. The court is also going to look at who is the most reasonable person in that courtroom, and the fact that mom will not be reasonable or flexible about allowing dad visitations will play a part in this. It sounds like mom is not encourage time with dad - you could make an argument that she is discouraging the father/daughter relationship and discouraging father's involvement, which is clearly contrary to the best interest of their daughter. It will be important for you to highlight and have examples of times when dad wanted to visit and mom refused and how dad hangs in the balance and his visits are completely controlled by mom. This situation can be disruptive to the child and only results in instability of her not knowing where she is"supposed" to be from one week to the next.

 

Since you do live some distance away now, a reasonable schedule to request would include every 3 day weekend (where she has a Monday or Friday off of school), beginning the evening before - so that if she has a Friday off, the visit begins on Thursday after school, so she has time to get to your house, get settled, then wake up with almost 3 full days of a visit), the majority of the school vacations (still leaving a shared holiday plan in place) and at least 1/2 of her summer vacation. It's important to acknowledge that she needs stability with school to stay at her mom's house during the week, but also important to acknowledge that she does have a father, which relationship is just as important as mom's and it's important for dad to have quality time with her as well.

 

Although I understand that distance is a concern and it's a pain to drive and travel, you won't want to focus on this too much, as the court will consider it dad's "choice" to move/relocate further away from daughter. I'm not saying I agree with this and I understand that life happens, but it would not be the strongest argument to make at the hearing. It's important to stay focused on what's best for your husband's daughter, and that includes her and her father's relationship and their continued involvement and stability together.

 

I hope that this answers your question; if so, please click the green Accept button. Thanks very much and I wish you the best here.

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