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FS-Visitation Schedule Causes Distruptions
Jan L. Warner & Jan Collins

Question I have been divorced for three years, and my nearly 14 year old daughter has been assigned a 50/50 rotating 3-2-2 visitation schedule with me being called the “residential parent.”. She is very unhappy with the lack of stability in this schedule and all the problems associated with living in two homes. Even though her father lives just a short distance away, it seems like there is always something she needs or does not have. It is also difficult to establish boundaries when two parents don't discipline in the same manner or set the same rules.

The situation between her father and me is strained, to say the least. He recently picked her up from my house with three police cars in tow. From what I could gather from the officers, he claimed he had custody beginning at 12:01 AM. My daughter was as embarrassed and surprised as I was. Because he is passive aggressive, I can only assume he was getting back at me for another issue in which he did not get his way. He did not inform me he would be calling police when we disagreed on a time for exchange.

I was contacted last week by the school's Safe coordinator to say that our daughter was been caught "cutting herself", and she said it was because of her father.

I have been trying to decide how to go about requesting a visitation schedule change from the court, but don't have the money for another attorney (I spent $43,000 in attorney fees on the first one, mostly focusing on custody, already).
The judge ruled against my wishes for our daughter to have the stability of one main home in 2007. Do you think he may reconsider because of the situation, her ability to express her own desires, and the obvious emotional issues that have grown from this terrible situation? She would still be able to see her dad every day after school, but not stay over as much.

Answer: What a mess this obviously misguided decision has caused. While we certainly believe that children should have good relationships with both parents, quality time is more important than quantity of time.

Because it is obvious that you and your former husband do not have the best relationship, it is difficult to understand how a judge awarded the custody split. We don’t know if a guardian ad litem was appointed for your daughter then, but one was certainly needed.

Based on your description, there certainly have been significant changes of condition since 2007 that would justify a judge taking another look at what two years of this decision has caused. We hope that you take advantage of the counselors at school and secure an independent private psychologist or psychiatrist if necessary.

Depending on how your state courts operate, you may or may not have the same judge who heard the case before, so you must be prepared with third party evidence to show the changes of condition. You should also seek the appointment of a qualified guardian ad litem to represent your daughter’s interest.

Like it or not, you should not go this alone, but seek out an attorney who can help you. The issues here are pretty focused, and the expense should not be what it was before. With the assistance of outside, independent counselors and mental health professionals, you may even be able to secure a reduction in visits pending a full hearing. And since self-mutilation was reported at school, the local child protective service should probably be notified.

Coming to effect a change for visitation purposes with three police cars is ridiculous. With budget cuts today, it seems ludicrous that without a judge’s direction, even one police officer would intercede in this situation.

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