Your meticulously-planned visitation and custody arrangements that have worked so well for several years may come into question when your minor child reaches their teen years. It's only natural that as children grow and change, the agreement that covered a young immobile child is simply not going to work as well for a teen with a burgeoning social life and a desire for independence. It should be comforting for parents to know that these agreements can always be altered, so read on to learn more about changing up your agreement to better suit your teenager.
Is it time for a change?
What might have been manageable when the child was young, may become a challenge when the social, educational, and sports obligations that tends to occupy the time of a typical teenager begins to creep up. Teenagers are busier than ever, and the pressure to add extracurricular activities and volunteer work to their list of accomplishments when applying for college can mean that after-school obligations have multiplied as they get older. Teenagers may chafe at a requirement to visit the non-custodial parent without regard to the teen's other obligations, so petitioning the court for a revised visitation schedule may be in order.
Visitation arrangements are normally called for when one parent has sole physical custody of a child, and the times and dates for these arrangements are often spelled out in detail. Visitation and custody orders from the family courts are not just suggestions, they are meant to be followed to the letter, so a plan that is not working should be reevaluated with the help of the court system. It should be noted that visitation arrangements are meant to ensure that the non-custodial parent gets a fair amount of time with the child, but the courts will always place the best interest of the child above all else if circumstances require.
Factors to consider before modifying the agreement.
You might want to spend some time evaluating the reasons for requesting a change, since visitation and custody modifications cost money, can cause problems with the non-custodial parent, and may disrupt everyone's schedules. Moreover, the teenager's motivations may need to be examined to determine the validity of the request. As parents, you should ask yourself some of the same questions that a family court judge will likely ask:
1. Is the request to make a change an effort on the child's part to spend more time with the more permissive parent? Make sure that this change is not about allowing the child to attain a less restrictive environment during a time when dating, curfews and other contentious issues tend to surface.
2. Does the parent who will become the custodial parent exhibit responsible parenting skills? Will the home environment be stable and healthy?
3. Is this an impulsive request? Make sure that all parties to the change understand that this change should be considered permanent. While it should be noted that all issues pertaining to minor children can always be modified, doing so requires a considerable cost, both financially and emotionally.
4. Do both parents agree to the change?
5. Is this request sudden? Be sure to thoroughly investigate what may appear to be sudden requests to ensure that coercion, force, or bribery is not a factor.
Contact a family law attorney to learn more about modifying visitation and custody arrangements.
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