Advice from Ohio family law attorneys
If a custody agreement was put in place after your divorce was finalized, it’s unlikely that its terms will be set in stone forever. As life moves forward, your situation is bound to change. Whether you move, get a new job or your schedule simply switches, your custody plan will have to change sooner or later. It sounds simple enough, but as with most things dealing with the law and the courts, that depends. The lawyers at Babbitt & Dahlberg, Columbus, Ohio family law attorneys with more than 50 years combined experience, explain what to expect:
1. You can make changes on your own.
If you get along with your ex and were able to cooperate while crafting the original custody plan, it’s possible that you can adjust the agreement on your own. Sometimes it’s a quick fix, like needing to pick up the kids one hour earlier or who takes care of the kids before school. When you are both okay with the proposed changes, it’s actually encouraged that you do that. The courts are totally fine with this type of cooperation.
2. Be sure to get changes in writing
But here’s the catch—if you make changes on your own, you need to get it in writing. Get it on a napkin, through an email or whatever scrap piece of paper you have laying around. You don’t necessarily need to submit it to the court, or get a magistrate or judge to sign off on it, but it’s safe to have something that shows that you were both on the same page about the changes. This will come in handy in case your communication stops going so well.
3. Your ex might say no.
Sometimes an agreement isn’t possible. If you’ve asked your ex to update the custody agreement, and they said no, the next step should be to talk to your family law attorney. At this point, they’ll work with you to determine exactly what you want, then file a motion to ask the court to make the change.
4. Some custody plan changes are easier to achieve than others.
It is no more or less difficult than anything else involving the courts. The difficulty truly depends on exactly what you need to change in your arrangement. If you need just a minor tweak to your original custody plan, that’s much easier to accomplish than if you want your child to permanently live with you. If the situation calls for a court-appointed guardian, any psychological experts, or if it goes to trial, it could take longer.
5. The change to your custody plan will take some time when you work with the courts.
Thanks to a recommendation by the Supreme Court, cases involving a reallocation of parental rights and responsibilities are encouraged to take no longer than six to nine months. As you can guess, some courts are better about sticking to that recommendation than others. And of course, there are always exceptions to the recommendations. It’s not uncommon for cases dealing with a change in custody or parenting arrangements to take more than a year to finish, especially if psychologists or other professional experts are involved.
Changing your custody agreement can be a simple as a conversation with your ex, or as complex as going to trial. If at any step in the process, you feel uncomfortable with the situation, like your ex is taking advantage of you or your agreement isn’t in your child’s best interests, you’ll want to get a lawyer involved right away. At Babbitt & Dahlberg, protecting parents and their children is crucial—and we’ve seen it all. If you need help changing your agreement, call us today at 614.228.4200.