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Can we change our custody schedule after the divorce is final?

Question: My husband and I divorced a few years ago. At the time, I was back in school and I had primary custody of my kids. Now that I am entering the workforce, I’d like to think about doing a 50/50 custody split. I think it would benefit both me and the kids. Can we do that, or do we have to stick with what’s in the divorce decree?

Answer: It’s important to remember that no divorce decree is ever final. Too many changes occur between the time a couple divorces and the time their child or children reach the age of majority. Whether it’s a new job schedule that means changing parenting time, or a change in income that requires a child support adjustment, most people eventually modify their first order.

The question is how to do that. The first, which is easy and will cost you nothing, is to simply make a verbal agreement to modify the current schedule. If your ex agrees, there is no need to involve the court.

This is quick and efficient, but it does come with one caveat: If at any time your ex decides he would like to revert to the original schedule, that agreement takes precedence and the change takes effect immediately. If you are not concerned, however, that your ex would renege, then that might be the best route for you.

Another option is to draft a simple order that you both agree to, sign it and present it to the court for approval. Once that is done, the new schedule becomes official and you do not have to worry about unexpected changes in the future.

Finally, if your ex does not agree, you can hire an attorney who would schedule a hearing before the court. Notice would be sent to your ex and the two of you would present your case to the judge, who would then make a decision and issue, or update, a new order.


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