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Hey all, first post--thank you for taking the time to read and respond.
I am a single father with physical custody of my 7 year old son, we share joint legal custody. His mother has parenting time every-other weekend and every Friday. Under our current arrangement (and order) she picks up our son for her parenting time and I pick him up from her residence at the end of her parenting time. We currently live approximately 20 minutes apart.
Now she has told me that she is moving approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes from my residence. Should my son have to drive almost 5 hours every week? That alone seems unreasonable to me, unfortunately finances is a serious consideration as well--it would cost me roughly 50 dollars (and that is a blind estimate) per week to make this commute.
She has not contributed financially to our son in greater than 30 months now. We have a court date to establish child support in a few weeks, thankfully, but the original order was for her to pay $180 per month (I guess it beats nothing). She is contesting the order saying that she cannot pay that much....how then can she possibly expect to pay 200+ dollars per month in extra fuel fees to pick up her son!?
The question I have is: what are my rights? Do I need to assume this financial and time consuming burden simply because she chooses to move far away? Can I petition the court to ask that she assumes the travel burden--even so, I still don't think its right that my child spends 5 hours a week in a car...
I have no interest in prohibiting her from seeing our son in any way, but I have to think of his best interests as well.
Thanks Bart--we live in Minnesota. When we settled the custody order we left the child support as "reserved"--I am not sure if there will be any arrears. I have printed my daycare, medical, dental and pharmaceutical expenses for the past 24 months just in case the judge goes for it though.
I'm curious, why do you not require her to share the financial burden of supporting the child?
You know, like she puts on her big girl panties and pays child support. How does she pay her bills now? Does she have a job?
This move is a critical juncture in your custody matter. She is effectively changing all the rules for your time and your son's time, and doing so unilaterally. I'm going to guess that the move is motivated by something other than her son's best interests - is it Mr. Wonderful? Imagine driving 5 hours every Thanksgiving for the next 10 years, and Christmas, and Father's Day, and Spring Break, and . . .
Your rainy day is here, time to button up your son's best interests.
If you find something offensive in what I write, please accept my apology in advance. (Not that I'm going to change anything just because you don't like it, but it's not my goal to offend anyone.)
Now then - Your ex was ordered to pay $180/mo in child support. But she hasn't paid anything in 30 mos. Let's see.......
$180 X 30 months = $5400
WOW!! That means she's $5400 in arrears.
Translation = She's got "dirty hands."
Clairification = Thou shalt not enter family court with "dirty hands."
It would be one thing if she attempted to pay "something." Courts take that into consideration. But in your case, she's made no attempt to pay anything. That's gonna hurt.
In states like Oregon, $5K is the magic number - felony failure to pay child support. There's all kinds of sanctions they can levy that include jail time, loss of driver's license, wage garnishment, etc, etc, etc. The list goes on. Basically, they can throw the book at you and hold your feet to the fire until the arrearage is caught up.
Translation = From now on, your ex must fight a war on two fronts.
You already have an upcoming court date. Furthermore, your ex's new residence can be classified as a "significant change in circumstance" that has occurred since the last order was written. IMHO, you've got everything in your favor to rewrite your temporary order the way you want. So - Sit down and write your wish list. Remember, temporary orders usually become final at trial. Now's your chance to make it good. Just make it sound "reasonable" and in your "child's best interest."
1) Let your ex do all the driving - pick up and drop off. Take advantage of this. This is one of those sanctions the court would love to levy against a non-compliant parent who's $5400 in arrears. Remember, it's not just the $50/wk in gas money. It's also about wear and tear on your car which translates into additional maintenance costs, accelerates depretiation and time of replacement. These are important factors (above and beyond the usual costs to raise a child) to consider when assigning child support.
2) Bed time on school nights. Will your child have been fed by the time he is dropped off?? For example, if bed time is 8:00, then drop off time should be no later than 6:00. If he must eat when he returns home, then drop off time should be no later than 5:00. Additionally, mid-week parenting time should be eliminated altogether during the school year.
I trust this has given you food for thought. As you compose your modification draft, you've gotta look into the future and include circumstances that may not exist today. Leave no stone unturned.
Remember, she's in arrears. You're the primary parent. She has no grounds to contest your modifications provided, of course, they are reasonable and in your child's best interest.