A divorce agreement is often a snapshot in time. It reflects the best agreement that someone could make at a given time regarding things like custody and support. However, things change. Children grow. What worked in the past may not make much sense in the present.
So, how do you approach your ex-spouse about modifying the agreement you have? Naturally, the last thing you want to do is end up in a protracted court battle (again) over the kids or child support. Here are some tips that you can use to start negotiations:
1. Make sure you have a good reason to ask for a change.
You don’t want to “rock the boat” over minor inconveniences. Also, the court won’t approve a post-divorce modification if it isn’t in the best interests of the children to make one. Some good reasons include the desires of the child (maybe to be closer to friends or to stop rotating homes so often), a change in your job, a move, or educational or sports opportunities the child could gain by relocating.
2. Approach your ex-spouse in a non-threatening manner.
This can vary from couple to couple, but you may be safest starting with an email and asking to meet in a public place, like a coffee shop, to talk. Make it clear that you just want to talk about the issue — not hammer out an agreement right there.
3. Don’t be vague about what you want.
Nothing can upset someone like uncertainty. From the moment you initiate contact with your ex, make it clear what you are asking. For example, say, “I want to talk about having our son live with me during the week so he can attend the school district in my area where they have a great art program.” Don’t say, “I want to talk about custody.” That could put your ex on the defensive before you even start.
If you are able to negotiate a new custody agreement with your ex, make sure that you talk to your family law attorney about the details. You’ll eventually need to get everything in writing for the court’s approval. If you can’t seem to negotiate with your ex at all, then you can move on to other options.