By Matt Allen
TV star Kelsey Grammer is reportedly proposing an unusual child custody agreement with his ex-wife: he gets custody of their son; she gets custody of their daughter.
The former “Frasier” star has petitioned for primary physical custody of his 6-year-old son who would live with him and his new wife in Chicago while his 9-year-old daughter would live in California with Grammer’s ex-wife, Camille, according to documents obtained by TMZ.
So how do child custody laws treat split custodial arrangements where one child lives with one parent and the other child with the other parent?
These child custody agreements are not common but they are possible, according to Cordell & Cordell divorce lawyer Jennifer Paine.
When making its determination, the court will consider whether the children are close, how far the children will have to travel to go to school, see friends, be with each other and have parenting time with the other parent, and any other factor relevant to the children’s best interests.
Even though the Grammer child custody case doesn’t seem to involve two parties in agreement, some parents may reach an agreement to split the children up on their own.
However, you must get a court order outlining your agreed upon arrangement because informal child custody agreements between parents are just that: informal.
Courts rarely, if ever, enforce verbal agreements or modify their own orders to reflect them because they have an independent duty to ensure that the current order is in the child’s best interests.
Depending on the procedures in your local courts and the temperament of your particular judge, this could range from merely placing a judicial stamp of approval on a written agreement between parents styled as a “amendment number X to divorce decree” to an evidentiary hearing during which one or both of the parents give testimony to explain why the agreement is in the child’s best interests.
In most states, the standard to modify the court’s order is “substantial change in circumstances” or “proper cause.” The touchstone of this standard is a change since the last order sufficient to modify the order to better serve your children’s best interests. The analysis is highly fact-intensive.
In addition, E! is reporting Kelsey proposes he and his ex share joint legal custody of both kids, with each parent having both children one weekend per month. He also suggested that Camille have custody of both kids on Mother’s Day and him on Father’s Day and that both kids visit each parent for a full month each summer.
Camille is proposing both kids live primarily with her.
If you are in a similar child custody battle, contact the family law attorneys of Cordell & Cordell for help protecting fathers rights.