Child Custody Advice Needed

Updated on January 22, 2013
J.G. asks from Frederick, MD
8 answers

My youngest son's father lives in another state five hours away. Currently we have 50/50 custody. My son is three now but soon we will have to go to court for school. His father wants him to go to school with him, but the school system isn't as good, he lives at home with his mother, and he can't even keep his phone on much less afford the day to day of having a child. My question is, have any of you Mom's been through something similar and can give me advice?

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answers from Indianapolis on

I would imagine the custody arrangement will have to be revised before he starts school. One of you should have full custody. 50/50 works best when you live close together. Distance makes it complicated. Who has physical custody right now?

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answers from Redding on

Forgive me, I'm a little confused.

How have you been managing 50/50 custody with dad five hours away in another state?
Is your son spending one week with dad and one week with you?
Is the 50/50 arrangement related to legal custody only?

Family courts definitely want a child to have a beneficial relationship with both parents, but they take into consideration how difficult going back and forth might be on the child. Due to the distance, I don't see how it would be humanly possible to have a true 50/50 physical custody arrangement.

In cases like yours, where distance is an issue, the child usually stays with one parent during the school year with the other parent sharing holidays. The other parent has summers with the child allowing for a vacation with the first parent. It can get tricky, but it's doable.

My ex-husband and I shared legal custody, we "shared" physical custody, but I was actually the "custodial" parent as my son was with me at least 67% of the time. The percentages were important as they were used to determine child support amounts.

It sounds like your son would be better off with you during the school year so that he can have a stable routine. Even trying to do every other weekend, the poor kid would be spending 10 hours in the car.

It sounds like you've got some time to think about it, but one thing I learned is that if you want the court to grant what you want, you have to present it to them. It needs to be a workable plan that's fair to the child and the other parent.

From personal experience, it takes a lot of compromise on behalf of both parents.

Best wishes.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My lawyer told me to NEVER agree to "joint" custody if you are living in different states.

Where is your divorce/custody decree now? I would "move to modify" to YOUR state (the state of residence of your son) 6 months before kindergarten. That will re-establish custody, visitation, child support etc.

The issue with having JOINT legal custody is that his dad will "have a legal say" in decisions that YOU make. Not a good idea if there is an "imbalance" in time spent or in location. ie - he might want to have a say in what pediatrician you pick.... even though he doesn't have any way of getting your son to that Dr.

You can have JOINT physical custody.... you get him 182 days - he gets him 182 days..... which will be the ENTIRE summer, christmas break, spring break etc.

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answers from Minneapolis on

If his life is that unstable (living with his mother and having money and/or responsibility issues) who knows if he will be - living in the same city, wanting to have his son, have the resources to pay for a lawyer & court - in the next two years.

I might look now for a lawyer you trust, but hold off on taking any action until your son is older.

On the other hand, you say you have 50/50 custody. Is that legal custody or physical custody? Unless your son is spending 50% of his time with his father, five yours away in another state, then you don't have 50/50 physical custody and "the court" expects that he will go to school where you live.

Again, you might want to have a consultation with a lawyer now to be clear on your situation.

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answers from Eugene on

Just because your son's father wants joint custody, doesn't mean it's a good idea. Be willing to fight for what is best for your child. If you can see that your school district is better than his, and that you are the more stable parent, then stand your ground.

In my case, my ex and I have joint custody of our 2 boys, but I'm the residential parent. So, although their dad has a say in decisions about school and medical issues, my boys live at home with me most of the time, and stay overnight with their dad on weekends. It has worked out well because they see their dad every week, but have the consistency of coming home to the same house every night of the school week. I hope you can find a schedule that will give your son the stability he needs as he starts school.

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answers from Dover on

When you say 50/50 custody, do you mean legal or physical custody? or both? I am asking because 5 hours away makes for a 10 hr round trip so I would suspect it's legal not physical at this point. Although we didn't live in separate states we did far enough that we were in the same district but different elementary schools. I agreed to joint legal custody (although I made all the decisions because he could never be bothered) but I had placement/primary physical custody with him having visitation. Then I moved just across the state-line but basically the same distance. He later moved to same state but 2 hours away.

Living in different states, you will have to go to court and the sooner you do it, the better. You could have sole custody with visitation to other parent or joint legal custody with one having placement.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

Go to court and get custody of your child. You have enough grounds based on the fact he lives with his mom alone. One of my staff in my child care center went through a divorce and he got full custody because they had been living with her mom. His mom got him an apartment the day he moved out.

Now let me tell you about their living circumstances at her mom's. They lived in the basement. It had 2 bedrooms and a full bathroom. It had it's own entry and exit out by the pool. They ate with the family but had a fridge and microwave in their rooms.

All he had to say was she wasn't able to support herself and live on her own. He got full custody. It took a while but she finally got her son back.

So I think if you just filed for full custody and presented the case that he lives with his mom and can't even keep his phone turned on that no judge would give him more than visitation at his own expense for the travel.

You need to have this in writing so that when the dad starts rattling his chains of wanting to keep this boy over his limited visit you can call the police and have him arrested for not bringing him home.

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answers from Norfolk on

Hi, Bella:

Go to your local mediation center. They have divorce and custody mediators. See if you two can work out your differences and take that agreement to court.
The Judge would certainly appreciate the two of you working things out.
Good luck.

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