Frequently Asked Questions

A group of children sitting outside together.


 I am often asked how a parent can be awarded more custodial time than an existing order allows.  Fre-quently the question is termed in percentages.  This is a dead give-away that the person is thinking about the child support calculation, rather than the child.  There is little likelihood of success with that frame of mind.

If you really want to spend more time with your kids, think of what is the best thing for them.  If it is the best thing for them to have more time in your care*, then there are steps that you can take which will increase your chances.

First, ask your ex for the time.  You can do this on an occasional basis, or make a permanent schedule change if you present the case well enough.  Sometimes reassuring that you will not seek to change the support amount will be all it takes.  Keep careful records of the time you have.

If you and your ex are not good at co-parenting and unable to adjust parenting time by agreement, then be sure you are using all the time that you do have and look for ways to do more.  When you have your time, be present.  Don’t go out. Don’t leave them with sitters.  If you have the time, go help in the classroom or coach their teams.  Volunteer for the mundane tasks too.  Take them to the doctor and dentist.  Offer to take them if you know that your ex has other scheduling issues or would like to go out on a date.

If you are in court, it will be far more important what you have been doing than what the old court order says.  So keep very good records.  Use a calendar and include detail of what you did.

Get to know their teachers and be present for all school functions.  Be aware of how they are doing in school and what projects they are working on.  If they need extra help with a subject, volunteer to do the tutoring. Volunteer to build that model of a mission.  Make sure the school office has your contact information and you are on the emergency card.  Ask if they will send you duplicate notices.

Get to know their health care providers.  Make sure you know the medical events that need attention.  Have they had their physical for school?  Is it time for a dental check-up?  Are they taking all of their prescriptions?  Are there health conditions that you can learn all about?

Be responsible about paying for their health care needs, their school needs, their extra-curricular activities and their clothing.  Even if you are the support payer, you can bet your ex will let them know they didn’t get their new tennis shoes because you wouldn’t help out.

Participate in joint decision making as much as possible.  Schooling, activities, medical treatments, discipline.  Do not cede those decisions to your ex without weighing in.  Be a part of how your child’s life goes.  If you have joint legal custody, these decisions are to be made together.  If you do not, still try to participate as much as possible.  Always have good reasons and well set out arguments to support your position.  And always be collaborative and appropriate.  You should behave as though the judge is sitting there watching you.  Don’t use children as messengers and don’t have tough conversations in front of them.  If you have to use email or letters, remember that your letter will be read by others, some of whom will be judging you.  Be polite.  Use “please” and “thank you” wherever you can. The communication should be about the parenting time and child issues only.  This is not the time to air out old grievances, or property issues.  Take out every mean, hurtful or unproductive thing before you push the send button.  Then save all communication records.

Make your time with your kids enjoyable.  This is not to say that every visit has to be a party or a treat.  But have a happy home, good meals and spend some one on one time with each child.  Help them with homework.  Talk to them about the things that they care about.  NEVER talk to them about custody issues.  Those are for the adults to work out.  They don’t need that burden.  The divorce has stressed them enough. At some point they may be telling a family court mediator, or the judge, what life is like in each parent’s home and whether they enjoy their time there.  You can bet that if you have been “working” your child to create a more favorable custody result, it is going to come out and backfire on you.

Never say a bad word about your spouse to anyone other than your attorney and your best friend.  And don’t allow your family or friends to do it either.  It will get repeated and it will get back to your ex.  The children may hear it as well.  Remember that your children are made up of half you and half your ex.  If they hear disdain from you about your ex, they are hearing disdain of half of them.  It is extremely damaging.

Studies show that children of high conflict divorce do not do as well in life as children whose parents behaved well when they parted ways.  If you love your children, do whatever you can to reduce the conflict.  If you can (and it is not always possible to eradicate it) you have a better chance of your ex being more willing to share custodial time.  If you can’t, and you end up in court, you will have the evidence you need to show which parent is responsible for that bad conduct and therefore is less able to care for the children’s feelings.

 *Are you really the best choice?  Can you answer these questions:

Name and phone number of pediatrician, dentist?  When is the next checkup?  Name your child’s clothing and shoe sizes?  Name and email of your child’s teacher?  Names and parents names of your child’s friends?  Name and number of the sitter?  The back up sitter?  What is the cost of a school lunch?  What are the times/dates of the next gym class/basketball/ballet?  When is camp registration due?  Are stud earrings allowed at soccer practice?  What is your child reading? Where are the Wild Things?  What is their favorite food?  Can you make it?  What is the last field trip you volunteered for?




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