Custody question

I have 3 children with the ex. A 15 year old girl, a 9 year old girl, and a 6 year old boy. For the first 12 months that we were separated the oldest lived with me and the other 2 spent every other week with me. It was even in our separation agreement that way, although I put in there that the oldest could visit her mother any time she wanted (she “hated” her then). 5 months ago my oldest changed her mind and wanted to go to her mom’s. I let her, and she’s been there ever since (“hates” me now - teenagers blah). The other 2 have remained on the same schedule for a year and a half now.

My question is this: The divorce went through 2 weeks ago. We have mediation for the kids this week. She says that she is going to try to get full custody. Will the court do that, or does she have to prove that the current arrangements are bad first? How does the separation agreement factor in? The kids have settled nicely into their routine and we have always refrained from speaking negatively about the other household in front of them because I don’t want them to be uncomfortable in either place. I even had my son’s Kindergarden teacher compliment us last week on us keeping our personal issues from affecting them as much as we have. She said to keep doing whatever we were doing because it was working great. I am scared of losing my kids though.

When you say she is going for “full custody”…do you mean she wants the children with her the majority of the time and that you will only get limited visitation like every other weekend? I would doubt, given that you have been in this situation for 1.5 year, that she could work that out. She’d have to prove that the kids were not doing well in school or there were some mental or emotional issues that made this type of big change necessary.
I would however be prepared and get a letter from that teacher who made the positive comment. I’d also probably sit down with the younger children and just see where they are. This would be a pretty disruptive change from their perspective.

Yes. She wants to have the kids during the week and I get them on weekends. Her whole argument is that, because of my work schedule, I drop my kids off at my parent’s house to catch the bus in the morning and then we eat supper with them in the afternoon 4 days a week. She says this means that they are raising the kids and not me. I’m supposed to tell my work that they have to work around my schedule and take off for any tidbit that comes up. First, we’ve had 4 layoffs and the economy stinks. Second, I only get 32 hours right now (reduced). Third, I work 7:00 - 3:30 Mon-Thu.

  • She also says that I’m not spending “quality time” with my kids on the weekends because we never stay home. I’ve taken them to Carowinds, Dixie Stampede, Aquariums, the State Zoo, Broadway at the Beach, countless festivals, the beach, etc. Heck, all that has been since October. We did more before then when I had 40 hours.

Is your ex a stay-at-home mom? I think it is only realistic to have kids experience a fairly normal life even if there parents are separated. Normal life means kids go to school and are often in after care of some sort until parents are finished work. Many parents cannot get off work for school events. That is just an unfortunate fact.
Be careful of falling into the “Disneyland Dad” trap and thinking that taking them all of these places will be more memorable or important to them than just time spent with you playing board games, taking a walk or watching a movie together. Kids don’t expect all of that and in this economy it sounds like you are trying too hard to entertain. Dial down and just spend time at home with them. It sounds like you have a good case to have shared custody with their mother.

Thank you!