You’ve already been through a divorce, but you want to change the custody arrangement in place. Whether you initially came to an agreement with your former spouse about such matters during the divorce process or were told by the Court what the arrangement was going to be, there is a procedure you must follow to request visitation once a divorce is finalized. Although concurring with your former spouse about a new visitation plan outside of the Court is the most optimal way to see your children more, those who cannot come to an agreement will have to go to trial.
The first step to securing visitation rights after a divorce is to file a petition with the Court.
While you’re able to do this without a lawyer by going to Family Court and asking a clerk for assistance, your best bet is to contact an attorney with extensive experience with court order modifications. This is due to his or her expertise in the field, as opposed to a clerk, whose only job is to make sure you fill out the petition correctly.
A family law attorney will remind you that the Court is only interested in what’s best for the child. As a result, any ill feelings between you—the petitioner—and your former spouse—the respondent—is irrelevant, and therefore, not worth bringing to the judge’s attention. A family law attorney can also explain what you need to prove to the judge so he or she will grant you modified visitation rights. This often involves showing a significant change in your life from which the children would benefit. Essentially, you must convince the judge you’re able to care for the children, both financially and emotionally, and provide a safe and stable environment free of drugs, alcohol, and any other type of abuse.
Find out other reasons why you shouldn't go to Family Court without a lawyer.
However, keep in mind that getting visitation rights is different than getting joint custody of your children. The former enables you to see your kids consistently with a set schedule. This could mean on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis, depending on the judge’s final order. The latter, on the other hand, refers to a type of child custody arrangement in which both parents must make decisions about them together. Such decisions include, but are not limited to, schooling, religious and medical issues.
Once you file a petition, a court date is then set.
As explained by the New York State Unified Court System, it’s important for both you and your former spouse to attend the hearing.
“Be in court for every court appearance unless you have permission from the judge to not be there,” the Court System states. “If you are the petitioner and you are not there when scheduled, the judge may dismiss your case. If you are the respondent and you fail to come, the judge may grant the petition on default, giving the petitioner what he or she asked for–without ever hearing your side.”
The Court System continues: “Before the initial appearance, you may be scheduled to meet with the Family Assessment Coordinator who will interview both parties, check background information, and offer a report with recommendations to the Judge about the level of conflict and the complexity of issues in your case.”
Still, you may not even have to go to Court if the respondent agrees to your proposed terms. In fact, parents are encouraged “to develop their own parenting plan since they are in the best position to understand all the nuances of their particular family," as previously mentioned.
Sunshine & Feinstein, LLP is a divorce firm on Long Island with extensive experience in divorce and family law. We are comprised of many child custody lawyers who work tirelessly with clients to help them achieve the most optimal visitation and custody agreement for their family. Contact us today to find out what we can do for you.
Sunshine & Feinstein, LLP, 666 Old Country Road, Suite 605, Garden City, NY 11530. (516) 742-6444. This is Attorney Advertising.