Custodial parent vs primary caregiver


My ex has primary custody of our 3 young daughters, yet I am the primary caregiver. They spend majority of the time with me yet go to school over 30 miles away because that’s where my ex lives and that is their school district by his address. This summer, my ex has only spent 3 days total with the girls, and 2 of those days a neighbor watched them most of the time. My ex recently had a girl he’s been seeing move in after knowing her for just over a week, she moved in the day they met and he wants it so she can pick up the girls from school and watch them in the afternoons when he can’t. I am not ok with that, she has 3 kids of her own she left and has nearly no contact with, history of drug and alcohol abuse and my girls do not like her at all. With the school schedule as it is now, I take them Monday mornings, the take bus to ex’s that afternoon, then bus to school Tuesday morning, i’d pick them up Tuesday afternoon for therapy and take them in Wednesday morning, they’d ride the bus to ex’s that afternoon and to school Thursday morning, i’d pick them up Thursday afternoon, and they would be car riders morning and afternoon on Friday they’d go to another therapy appointment then stay with me the entire weekend. When my exh has the girls he does not spend time with them, they are either with whoever he’s dating, a neighbor, one of his friends, or his sister. When he does pick them up he tends to wait till late in the evening after dinneand bath time, them bring them back the next day as soon as he’s off work. I’m not ok with everjyone else watching my kids when it is my ex who is the primary custodial parent. Even when he can be with them he chooses not to be while he goes out all night leaving other people to watch them. When the kids are with me, they are with me, nobody else watches them, I rearrange my plans to be with them and unless he is at work I feel my ex should do the same. I also feel that with the girls residing with me majority of the time that my ex has primary custody and I am forced to drive 30 miles on way to their school to take or pick them up. Ex has provided no transportation, no clothing, shoes, school supplies, helped with insurance, doctor copays, etc…I handle it all! My schedule is so I can be with the girls every day after school helping them with homework and projects and I am able to take them to doctor and therapy appointments and attend the school conferences while my ex can’t on some and chooses not to on the rest. Since Iam the primary caregiver, how feasible would a change of custody be?
I want it so they can attend a closer school, be closer to their doctors, therapists, and psychologists, I will have peace of mind they are taken care of and doing their homework everyday, and there can be a better schedule for spending time with their dad, vs being watched by everyone else. I’ve heard that custody modifications are nearly impossible to get regardless of how strong the case may be. I would have to file a modification motion as pro se because all the money I have goes towards bills, food, and taking care of the kids. Please advise me on what I need to do and how to make my case. Thank you!


It sounds like you may need to file a motion to modify child custody. Without knowing the full facts of why the current order gives him primary custody, it is difficult to advise whether a motion to modify is appropriate or what you need to do at the hearing to warrant a change in custody. You would be best served with a consultation to discuss all the facts of your case.


My ex has primary custody because he filed an ex parte a few months after we split that I had abandoned the girls. When we first split we had a verbal agreement that the kids would reside with me primarily and him every other weekend and split holidays, birthdays and school breaks. That how it went for a while and Isaw no need in taking it to court, then my ex wanted the girls for a week and I saw no issues and said yes. I called him Thursday to verify our Saturday meet up time and he informed me he was not bringing the girls back and would not tell me where he or they were and took out papers claiming that he had them the entire time and I had abandoned them months earlier. It was over 4 months before Isaw my girls again.


With my schedule being so I am able to spend time and take care of the girls afterschool and make sure homework, reading logs, projects, and appointments get done vs my ex depending on his friends and neighbors to take care of the girls for the most part, would it give me an edge or could I use that as one of my reasons to ask for a custody modification?


I appreciate the additional facts, but a full analysis of the court file and the facts would be necessary to give you a complete strategy for how to change the child custody order. If the matter was brought in on an ex parte motion for emergency custody, you may only have a temporary order which does not require a change in circumstances for the court to change the order. You would only need to notice the hearing for permanent custody. The facts about your ability to care for the children may be considered a reason to modify, but modifications require that the party moving to modify show a substantial change in circumstances. If this is the same situation that was in place prior to the entry of the last court order, it would not be considered a change.


It has gone in under 2 years me seeing my daughters 4 hours a week to them spending 5 nights a week with me. The therapy appointments are also close to me. Ex lives in granville county and I live in durham, all therapy and doctor appointments are either in south durham or chapel hill. Ex has stated that unless I take them in for appts he will not because he has a life and can’t waste time on bs like that. 2 of them have intake evaluations at TEACCH next week which could add yet more therapy time, this was recommended by their psychologist to get them tested over there. Also, I’ve a recent change of address, I’m now in a 4 bedroom house that has more room and is closer to where their appointments are while my ex is in a 2 bedroom single wide and has his sister and her boyfriend who has a long history of drug usage and has been jailed several times for possession often staying at his house in the living room.


Again, thank you for the additional facts, but a full analysis of your case is outside of the scope of this forum. I would still suggest you have a consultation with an attorney in your area to discuss everything in detail so you can decide how best to proceed.