How to avoid losing visitation rights when your spouse moves.
Tim had a very amicable divorce. In fact, Tim and his ex-wife used two “collaborative law” attorneys to wrap up their divorce in about 120 days. When Tim obtained his divorce from his ex-wife in 2009, they had worked together to develop a parenting plan that gave him a 50/50 visitation schedule. The approach saved them thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees and it gave Tim a lot of confidence that things were going to work out just fine. Tim became just as trusting as ever other father towards the mother of his daughter.
At first things went really smooth. Then about a year and a half later, Tim found out his ex-wife was dating again. He was happy for her. She had met an Air Force Major who was stationed at McChord AFB. He was a pilot in the Air Force. Then, suddenly her new boyfriend received orders to fly for the Thunderbirds, which meant relocating to Phoenix, AZ. Tim’s ex-wife claimed it wasn’t serious. Tim’s ex-wife hadn’t even married him yet; heck, they had been only dating for two months. But then suddenly, his ex-wife gave him a notice of relocation claiming that she had a new professor position at Arizona State University which meant that she was moving to Tempe, Arizona in 30 days. Although Tim received the notice and was properly served, he never did anything about it in time. His ex-wife kept telling him that she wasn’t going to move and that she was just gave him notice just in case it was an out of this world offer. She told him not to worry about it. Unfortunately, Tim believed her. Once the time period expired, Tim’s ex-wife sung a new tune.
What Tim didn’t know was that she had already married her Air Force boyfriend. She had already quit her job at Swedish and was boxing up the house to move to Arizona. He had no clue about any of this because he always assumed his ex-wife was straightforward with him, as she generally was when they were married. Since Tim did not respond in time, his ex- wife was made primary custodian and took his daughter with her to Arizona. The imagine was ingrained in Tim’s mind forever: he still remembers his daughter’s tears as he watched her drive away in the backseat of his ex-wife’s Honda Pilot on her way to Tempe, when Hailey was only 7 years old.
There was nothing Tim could do. It wasn’t for a lack of trying. When Hailey left, he had no idea if he’d ever get to see his daughter in Seattle again since his ex-wife asked for modifications to his then existing 50/50 parenting plan that required all of Tim’s visitation to occur in and only in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area where Hailey resided. After it was too late, Tim hastily asked the court to stop the move by filing an objection to the relocation but since he filed too late, the court wouldn’t hear it. Tim represented himself hoping to save some money. Unfortunately for Tim, the court didn’t just refuse to hear it, it order Tim to pay his ex-wife’s attorney’s fees. It was a complete slap in the face.
Tim’s confidence in the judicial system began to fade fast. Finally, a friend suggested he hire a lawyer and after looking around, he found a lawyer that he felt very comfortable working with. Luckily for Tim, his lawyer smartly moved to modify the new parenting plan that the ex-wife obtained against Tim. Tim’s lawyer got the parenting plan heard by a different judge because he knew that judge had a reputation for ruling against men. The new judge was much more sympathetic and felt sorry for him. It granted his request for a modification and gave him extended visitation with Hailey during holiday periods and the summer visitation. It wasn’t what Tim had before but it better than nothing.
In 2012, Tim was looking forward to his Christmas break. At the time, his parents lived in Boise, Idaho and had arranged an extended family reunion for Christmas. Tim hadn’t seen his brother in over two years since his brother lived in California with his own family. Tim’s sister was very busy with residency from finishing medical school, but she was also expected to come to Idaho with her husband for the Christmas break. This was a rare chance for Tim and his daughter, Hailey, to spend some quality time with Hailey’s five cousins. Having the reunion in Boise, where he knew it would have snow on the ground, was just icing on the cake.
Read part 2 next week to find out what happened with Tim’s holiday visitation in 2012.