What Are the Changes to Child Custody and Support Arrangements if One Child Lives with Dad and the Other Lives With Mom?

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“I got a divorce in 1996 and my ex has had primary residential custody of my two children, 11 and 16. My daughter who is 11 has wanted to come live with me for quite some time but her mom would not let her until now. She has moved in and is thriving at school and is active in extracurricular activities. This is a big change from her mother’s house where she was starting to withdraw and make bad grades at school. She has always been an honor roll student. There she is left alone for at least 3 hours a day on a school day and all day if she is out of school. Furthermore she has a medical condition making bowel movements painful and difficult, but last year her step mom and I took her to the doctor who prescribed a medication that worked. When she moved in with me I found out her mom had stopped giving her her medicine and she had gone over a month without a bowel movement, which is very serious. At 11 she had to wear diapers to school. After several trips to the MD and hospital we are finally getting this under control but there are lingering effects. I do not feel like she was getting the care she deserved and constantly complained of fights. Her step-dad even installed a web-cam after my 16 year old son had left bruises on her to monitor the home from work. To me this is unacceptable!

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

My 16 year old son still lives with my ex because he is in high school and does not want to leave his friends. I would like to have full parental rights of my daughter. The health issues coupled with the fact that her stepmom is a stay-at-home mom makes my home the best place for her. She is not getting the care she needs at her mom’s. Since my ex agreed to let her come live with me I have a couple of questions about how to make it a legal arrangement:

1: How can I go about becoming the legal custodial parent of my daughter while my son stays with his mom?

2: What rights do I have if my ex voluntarily let her come to live with me?

3: If my ex has custody of one child and I the other what would the child support agreement typically be?

I just want my daughter to grow up happy and healthy. Is that, coupled with the fact that she wants to live with me, enough to have the courts award me custody? I have better income, live in a safer city in the same state, and have resources that her mom does not have. We live in Tennessee if that helps.”

If your ex is agreeable to letting you have custody of your daughter, it should be relatively easy to modify your existing child support order with the courts. While you may be able to do this yourself, it is best to work with an experienced family law attorney to make sure all the necessary paperwork is filed correctly.

Even though your ex is allowing your daughter to live with you for now, she could revoke this arrangement later and enforce the original child custody agreement. Thus, it is important to have the modified custody agreement filed with the courts.

When you modify the custody agreement, you can also file the paperwork to modify the child support since you will be taking on increased financial responsibility for your daughter while she lives with you. This is an example of a changed circumstance.

Again, it is important to make sure all the paperwork is filed properly with the courts, and it would be best to consult with a family law attorney to make sure you follow all the necessary steps. The last thing you want to have happen is for your ex to change her mind and take your daughter back, or come after you for unpaid child support.

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Author: House Attorney

A house attorney has answered this question.