Getting Child Custody Right the First Time: The Tough Road to Modification

The stress of divorce or separation when children are a product of a tumultuous relationship can be nefarious to good decision making on so many levels. It is perfectly understandable that people tend to self-preserve when they are under the tremendous pressure of suddenly paying for separate households, attorney fees, and formerly shared expenses. As one retiring Chancellor in Rankin County used to say, wisely I may add, that “two can live cheaper than one”. I surmise that emotional stress is the most likely culprit for the large number of regrettable custody decisions that drive attempts to modify child custody. There are a vast sea of people attempting to modify child custody– a treacherous sea at that.

Cooler heads often and more likely receive the better outcome in domestic relations cases. If I had a dollar for every call we have received in 14 years resembling “I made a terrible decision to have few rights to my children because I just wanted the situation to end”, I would retire today quite comfortably. That dynamic has truly reached epidemic proportions-and there is no end in sight. There may be no simple solution to the complexity of this common problem, but there is always value to clear thinking.

The foremost lesson that may be learned from the mistakes of others is that doing anything right the first time around is always easier than having to clean up a mess, then having to start from scratch. Cleaning the mess of a poor child custody agreement is a greater task than beginning with a blank slate.

Never forget (I am speaking to the non-custodial parents) that you have a tremendous burden of demonstrating that something REALLY BAD is suddenly occurring with your child’s custodian………it has absolutely nothing/nada/zip/zero to do with how your situation has improved or that you have now suddenly seen the light. Your bad decision is not simple to shake off unless your child’s primary caregiver has really messed up. Let that sink in for a moment.

You may be wondering if there is any advice I may give to those (possibly yourself) who have made regrettable decisions with their child custody matter. I do. It is almost never too late to have some remedy, even if not perfect. I suggest that anyone looking to have additional rights to spend time with their child seek to change the angle of approach: argue instead that visitation is not workable.

The standard to modify unworkable or even difficult-to-manage visitation does not require the high burden of proving that the custodial parent is badly messing-up. There is no need to show a “material change in circumstance adverse to a child’s best interests”, only that the visitation has become cumbersome (a better word may be “challenging”), but I digress. Often it is not what you say, but how you say it that is most crucial to outcomes. If the proof is only luke-warm that a negative change is harming your child, there is a different, easier path that often will produce positive results.

In sum, let your desire to love and spend time with your child not be diminished by the fear that accompanies parenthood. There are many routes toward accomplishing a better relationship with your children. The law is, and should always be, sensitive and accommodating to those who love their children. While it is never easy to “split the baby”, your good intentions will always set a path toward a more positive future. Your children will one day thank you for it.

If you are dealing with a challenging custody decision, let us help you get it right the first time around. If you have made a bad decision or received the “short end of the stick” in a custody matter and have a deep desire to strengthen the bond you have with your children, we will approach the matter with vast experience and consideration for your constitutionally protected rights. My associate and I have 27 years of experience dealing with the most difficult custody matters and look forward to using it to your advantage.

Matthew Poole, Esq. is a single parent and has a focused practice of providing remedies to those who seek to strengthen bonds with their children and grandchildren. Lindsey Turk, Esq., his associate, is also a single parent with vast experience in family litigation.

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