My ex and I had a non-contested divorce and she was awarded custody three years ago. I now have more time than her to spend with our son due to work schedules. Is it possible to obtain joint custody after a divorce is final?
I do not practice law in your state. Therefore, I cannot inform you as to the specific laws of your state and can only provide you with general tips on your situation.
In most states, there is a process by which you can file a motion to modify the existing custody and placement order following a divorce. Different states have different criteria you would have to meet in order to be able to proceed with a motion of this nature.
In Wisconsin, where I practice law, a person is typically restricted from requesting any sort of modification to custody or placement within the first two years after a final order is entered on custody and placement. After two years, a person can request a modification if there has been a substantial change in circumstances such that a modification to custody or placement would be in the best interest of the child.
Also, in Wisconsin, as in most states, we have two different concepts, the concept of custody and the concept of placement. Custody refers to decision-making ability for the child regarding major life decisions – things like what school he attends, what religion he’s brought up in, whether he’s allowed to join the military before age 18.
Placement refers to how much time a parent has with the child. In your question, you state that your ex-wife has custody, but I’m not sure if what you really mean is that she has primary placement, or if under the terms of your divorce, she has both sole legal custody and primary placement.
Regardless, if your son is now placed primarily with you because of your ex-wife’s work schedule, you should be able to file a motion to modify the existing custody and placement order to grant you joint legal custody and primary or shared placement of your son.
You can also always reach agreements with your ex-wife to modify existing orders, so if she’s at all agreeable to modifying the order so it actually reflects the amount of placement time you’re having, that’s definitely an option.
Remember, I am unable to provide you with anything more than tips on your situation, so please consult a domestic litigation attorney in your area to obtain specific advice as to the laws in your state and how they impact your potential case.