When is it time to seek a modified custody agreement?

Question:

I have been divorced for 8 years now. I have a 15-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter. We have joint legal and physical custody. I have growing concerns about the current custody arrangement, and am seeking guidance on when enough is enough.

This past summer she took the kids on a canoe trip where she allowed herself and my 15 year old to get drunk, leaving my then 11-year-old exposed with no sober adult. My son recently was hospitalized and she made a huge scene at the hospital about me being there since that day he was technically in her custody. Today I requested information from her regarding the outcome of the hospital visit. She cussed me out and said if our son is almost old enough to drive a car then he was old enough to communicate important medical information. Our divorce decree specifically states that the children are not to be used to relay messages, and specifically states than any major illness or medical concerns are to be communicated promptly.

Given the level of break down in communication recently seen, and which continues to deteriorate, is it time to seek modified custody? Is this an actionable item, or do I simply have to sit back and take this?

Answer:

I would say enough is enough. Considering her behavior at the hospital and the absolutely absurd behavior on the canoe trip, you need to take action immediately.  Each state has different laws governing modifications of custody and placement. I do not practice in Missouri so I cannot tell you the standards for modification.  However, Cordell & Cordell has many attorneys licensed and located in Missouri who would be happy to assist you.

Considering her recent behavior, sitting back could put your children in serious harm.  Do you have any evidence that she allowed the 15 year old to drink on the canoe trip?  You need to make sure you are writing down all of your concerns right now to ensure that you do not miss anything when you are explaining the situation to your attorney.  In most states, you have to show a substantial change in circumstances in order to obtain a modification of custody and placement.  You should think about all of the differences there are between the situation at the time you divorced and today.  Your attorney will also explain what additional information he or she will need from you to proceed with a motion for modification.

 

 

 

Erica Christian is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Wisconsin. She is a member of the Wisconsin Bar Association, the Family Law Section and the Children’s Law Section.

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