My step daughter wants to live with her father and me, but the mother says absolutely not. She is 12 years of age and has terrible grades. What is the best way to begin our fight for custody, or is it a waste of time/money? We think we can make a difference in her future for the better.
Only an attorney in your jurisdiction can provide you with an accurate analysis of your chances of prevailing on a motion to modify residential custody, but I can make a few general observations.
A twelve year old girl is not always the best judge of her own best interests. Laws in most jurisdictions support the idea that a child’s desires should not be the sole basis for determining custody. While your stepdaughter’s choice may be taken into consideration, she is still very young and I don’t think her wishes will be very persuasive in Court.
It does appear, however, that there may be some objective cause for concern as it relates to your stepdaughter’s current schedule, particularly in light of her poor grades. Talk to the school. Your husband should be an active participant in all parent/teacher conferences and should be vigilant of her studies and demanding of information from the school, even if he is not the custodial parent. Do not rely on your stepdaughter’s mom to do the work for you.
Changing residential placement is difficult to do and is often the equivalent of hitting a thumbtack with a hammer in the eyes of some judges. If schoolwork is the most pressing issue, can you request more time during the school year and relinquish more time in the summer? Can your husband carve out time to accompany your stepdaughter to tutoring? Can you request an additional evening or afternoon to increase contact and communication with your stepdaughter and monitor her schoolwork and socialization? Start small and be creative. If you can not work out a compromise then work with a local counsel to weigh your options.
Jill Best is the Litigation Manager for the Cordell & Cordell, P.C. office in Overland Park, Kansas. She practices exclusively in the area of domestic relations. She is licensed in the state of Missouri, the state of Kansas, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, the U.S. District Court of Kansas and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
Ms. Best is a frequent guest on Dads Divorce Live and has presented at numerous family law seminars for the public and fellow attorneys.