Custody Modification

Here’s what I would do:

  1. I would talk to father and see if this can be resolved verbally, if not I would move on to step #2
  2. send a certified letter telling dad that you are observing these issues and you are concerned about your son’s well-being and safety (not being picked up at school) - when dad forgets what happens? are you contacted by school or after school? I would document this.
    If this does not resolve the issue I would go on to #3
  3. File to modify custody - you may even be advised to go for an emergency order. It does not seem as though your ex is treating your child in the child’s “best interest”. I would have thorough documentation of every time your child has not been picked up. Is the child supervised in the home or is he left alone? THis would be important if it was a young child, in which case you may want to consider involving DSS.

I’ve discussed with Dad, he told son that what happens at that house stays in that house and he is forbidden to tell me anything that happens on his days.

Yes, school contacts me when he forgets to pick up son.

I’ve contacted Social Services (who I think is a joke).

How rare is having modification changed

Diane Hall

it is not rare to have custody modified, though you must show “change in circumstances” or be able to demonstrate that modifying custody will be in the “best interest” of the child. If the child is being forgotten, not fed, not bathed etc…I would say it is in the child’s best interest to be out of that situation or at least to spend less time in it.

Modifications are not rare, they occur whenever the circumstances have changed enough to warrant a change in custody. It sounds like he is not properly caring for your son and that it may be in his best interests to modify custody. You can file a motion to file child custody, at the very least it may prompt your Husband to start taking better care of your son.

Helena M. Nevicosi
Attorney with Rosen Law Firm

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about what Helena said…when my husband filed to modify custody one of the issues was his son being left alone for periods of time without adult supervision. Although we had asked, begged and even called DSS about this…when she saw the court document to modify custody and this was one of the reasons why…it changed IMMEDIATELY.

My suggestions:

Stop nitpicking. Express your concerns about the clothing size, hair brushing and teeth brushing to your ex. These matters aren’t that important though. If the child is old enough, perhaps you should work on instilling personal accountability for brushing his hair more thoroughly and brushing his teeth more often. If he’s old enough to be going to school, he’s old enough to brush his own hair without mommy and daddy doing it for him. Divorced couples get so worked up over the most mundane, unimportant things and spend years fighting each other in court and calling our social services to intervene. You might be trying to club your ex in the head with all this needling, but it’s your son that is going to be hurt by it.

If he is not eating breakfast because he refuses to, then he can’t be forced to eat. If he wants to eat but his dad refuses to feed him then yes, that is significant and needs to be addressed. I’m guessing, though, that the situation is a common one - some days the child wants to eat breakfast, some days he doesn’t. As far as him telling you how hungry he always is, be careful and be fair. My children are hungrier at my house than they are when they are at their mom’s. Why? Because I feed them nutritious food and have snacks like apples and oranges instead of candy and potato chips. Sure, they might be hungry when they get back to mom’s… but it isn’t because there was any lack of food at my place. If your ex simply never has food in the house, that is different. But I would be slow to assume that your ex hates his kid and never feeds him. Don’t assume the worst. He’s probably not as evil a guy as you think he is.

Your various statements make one thing clear: you interogate your child when he comes back from dads house. It is, unfortunately, a very common thing that divorced parents do. What did dad feed you? How did you get that scratch? Why does mom make you go to bed so early? Why does dad let you stay up too late? On and on and on… It creates a terrible feeling for the child who has to put on one mask of loyalty when he’s with dad and another one when he’s with mom. Believe it or not, but doing this excessively is a form of child abuse called parental alienation. Rather than subject your son to constant questioning about what dad does or doesn’t do, replace your talk with words that supports the father-child relationship and makes your son feel like it’s okay to be loved and cared for by dad too.

You will find that people in this forum have different opinions that have formed from their personal experiences. Mal will tell you one thing, I will tell you something else and stepmother will tell you something different too. But the common demonimator is that you should put your child’s emotional needs ahead of any anger you may feel toward your ex.

Custody litigation is not the answer to your situation. When you were married to this guy did you go to social services whenever he forgot to feed breakfast to your son or remind him to brush his teeth? Did you threaten to take your son away from him when he dressed your kid in clothes that didn’t fit perfectly? Then why do it now? Real life is different from the crap you see on law and order and judge judy. It isn’t fun to be in court. Litigation will eat you alive emotionally and financially - and you are rarely better off than if you had just dealt with the problem as best as possible out of court.

If there is real child abuse going on, then demand DSS take action. If there isn’t real child abuse going on, then maybe consider dealing with this as best you can outside of court.

custodyresearcher has some great and valid points here. Sometimes we don’t want to admit that the other parent can do just as good of a job without us and look for signs that they aren’t doing it “right”. Or we blow small things out of proportion.
We also we have to be careful about letting our children manipulate these situations. The mantra should always be…“best interest of the child”

I’d have to say that custodyresearcher is probably right on this. If the child is truly being neglected then you have a problem but if he is old enough for school then he is old enough to have responsibility for some of this stuff on his own. That is what will make him feel good about himself, not having to do it but allowing him to do it.

Also, to be fair, your ex may feels as though it’s your job to teach your son to brush his teeth every night and morning, and to bathe regularly. Some, not all, but some father’s feel that this is a mother’s responsibility for the first 5 years of a child’s life if the mother is the primary caregiver.
You can mention your concerns to his father, when the situation gets bad, but realistically, it probably wouldn’t be enough to get custody.

My oldest stepson has just now started eating with any sort of enthusiasm. But I believe that’s because he’s going to start growing…I myself, rarely ate breakfast until I was older and started paying attention to nutrition. Both my stepsons used to tell us how terrible it was at their mother’s, but after my husband and his ex started to discuss this stuff, it turns out that the boys were playing both sides. I’m not saying that this is always the case, but children do learn to take advantage of the situation. The youngest used to tell me that he should be allowed to watch a specific program because he watches it at his mothers. This is NOT a children’s program and he’s finally figured out that there ARE two sets of rules. The only thing that you can do is set rules, guidelines for your home and make sure to be consistent.

Now, being forgotten at school…that may be an issue unless there is a reason such as a schedule change every couple of months or other activities that interfere with having a strict schedule consistently. Like one day a month is an appointment, or twice every other week there is something after school going on so that the schedule gets confusing. My husband has a lot of trouble keeping up with the boys schedule sometimes and his ex is changing it constantly. We keep a calendar of when the boys stay where. This will also help if it goes back to court for modification. The court can see how many days the boys miss school while with their mother and how many nights they stay with another family member instead of with her.

I do agree that IF you are questioning your son about what happens at his father’s then you should stop. It does make things confusing for the child to have one parent questioning everything and it also makes the other parent defensive. If your son has outgrown his clothes then buy him new ones…or see if a co-worker or friend has clothes that he could have or grow into. Make sure to let his father know that you are doing this and make copies and give him the receipts. Ask him to pay you part of the money back…all he can do is refuse.

The bottom line is that you have to do whatever is necessary to take care of your son while he is with you. You should do whatever you can to keep this out of court. It’s emotionally and finacially draining and ultimately the outcome will still be that you and your ex are raising this child separately, together. You have NO control over what happens at his father’s house and the sooner you realize that the easier it will be on everyone involved.

We really try not to ask my husband’s son about stuff at mom’s house. Once in a while when he talks about staying up until 1am or not having any breakfast we’ll calmly ask “Why?” but we don’t try to make it an interrogation or ever say anything like “Your mother should_____.”. Long ago we figured out that our houses had different rules and standards. It seems like when divorce and separation are at an earlier age kids adapt to this better. We also went through a time where she sent him back to us w/ things that were too small…we just ignored that and have clothes for him here. Teach him to brush his teeth and his hair and how important it is that he has breakfast in the morning and move on.

There is a good article on this subject on Rosen at: … ticles.asp

Here is an excerpt:

It is an insidious pattern that develops without conscious intent on the part of parent of child. Essentially, children learn very quickly that a parent likes it when they complain about the other parent. The parent reinforces the child

thanks for this reminder and reality check!

My ex and I have joint custody. During our son