Court Orders: Read Them
Court Orders: Read Them
Today’s tip: If you have a Court Order about custody, visitation, or support, read it at least once a year. You may have rights or obligations that you have forgotten about.
One time I worked with a dad who had the right to take his child somewhere for 3 hours after school every school day. All he had to do was notify the mom about when he was going to visit. He thought he had to get the mother’s permission for each weekday visit, so he was not getting many visits. Reading what his court order actually said was a big help to him and to his child. The child preferred being with Dad to being in an after-school program.
I posted what is above on my Facebook page and it attracted an unusual amount of attention. Maybe there are a lot of people who forget important details.
Other examples: A mom discovered that she did not have to pay half of the cost of plane tickets for her daughter to fly from state to state for visits with her dad. That was the dad’s responsibility. A dad discovered that his Thanksgiving visitation rights every other year were not just for a few hours on Thanksgiving day. From the end of school on Wednesday until Sunday at 6:00 pm, it was his turn to have his kids with him and his relatives.
Sometimes, of course, a parent reads a three-year-old Court Order and finds bad news. One dad had a Court Order that said he could have his kids with him for two weeks in the summer if he let the mom know by March 1st which two weeks he wanted. He did not reread the Order and missed the March 1 deadline. Consequences: no summer visit. Sad.
One mom and dad had agreed to take custody turns from school year to school year (unusual, I know, but that’s for a different article), and their agreement was incorporated into an Order. At the request of the children, now teenagers, the parents agreed that the kids should reside with the mom for all of their high school years. They simply made the change without returning to court. Then the mom looked back at the Court Order and discovered that she and her ex had agreed that if the kids ever lived with the same parent for two consecutive school years, the other parent could have them for two months of the summer. Oops. The dad had moved and the kids did not have friends in his new neighborhood. The kids, being teenagers, wanted to spend most of their time with their friends. Luckily, the parents were able to revise their summer plans without needing to return to court. That’s one of the long-range good outcomes of mediation. Parents often learn a little about negotiating with each other constructively to figure out what will be best for their kids, and they carry those skills into the future.
If you have a story about a court order to share, you can comment anonymously on this page or write to me privately at mediatorQ@gmail.com.
The author is a Professional Family Mediator certified by the Virginia Supreme Court. She is not an attorney. This site is for informational purposes only. Nothing here should be construed as legal advice.