Modifying Visitation Schedule

In 2009 I was awarded sole legal custody of my 3 children, now ages 9-16. Because my former wife and I lived less than 5 miles apart, the visitation schedule gave her time on Thursdays after school until evening and visitation every other weekend, starting on Thursdays after school until the beginning of school on Monday morning.

My ex just emailed me this evening saying that she is moving 2.5 hours away to live with her husband (they have never lived together since they got married a year ago…they are now moving in together because she is being evicted from her current home for failing to pay rent). She says she intends to continue observing all the time she was awarded in the court order.

However, to accomplish this, she will be living part time with her parents (who live 1 mile from me) and part time with her husband while she has the children for visitation. For example, she says she will have the kids spend Thursday nights living with her at her parent’s house, and after school on Fridays she will drive the kids 2.5 hrs to spend Friday and Saturday nights with her husband and then back to spend the night with her parents Sunday night so the kids can get to school in the morning.

The home that they would be staying in with my ex wife’s new husband is a dilapidated 1975 2 bedroom mobile home with one bathroom. Including my ex’s other kids, that would be 2 adults and 5 kids living in a 2 bedrom trailer.

My kids are upset about this chaotic arrangment and say they don’t want to be shuttled around like this. My teenage sons will have to quit the sports teams they are on and several of their other activities such as Scouting be completely disrupted. My ex was chastened in court by the judge previously for frequently moving the children and not maintaining sufficient stability in their lives.

What legal action can I take to prevent this situation? I assume I have to try to have the court order changed based on a change of circumstances - or something like that. Since my ex says it’s possible for her to observe all this visitation at her parent’s house, can she be compelled to keep the kids here in my area at her mother’s house for her visits? Or something similar?

Yes, you should file a motion to modify custody based on a substantial change in cirumstances affecting the best interests of the children. You will need to show evidence to the judge that the place they will be living in will prevent the children from engaging in their current activities, and is unhealthy/unsanitary/overcrowded, etc. Yes, it is possible that the judge could keep the visitation schedule the same but require all visitation to occur in your local area with her staying with the her family as she has been doing. The judge will have wide discretion in custody matters.