Tips for Talking to Your Ex About Custody Changes

Patricia TichenorLegal

Child custody is a common and controversial topic among divorced or non-married parents. A custody arrangement that once worked for both parties might need to change in the future due to situations like health issues or financial improvement.

If you’re pursuing changes to your existing custody arrangement, here’s how to talk to your ex to keep the conversation amicable and focused on what’s best for your child.

Situations that might warrant a custody change

There are many situations that could prompt parents to rethink their current custody arrangement. Here are some common reasons someone might request a custody change:

  • Job change. If you or your spouse started a new job with a different schedule and better compensation, you might be able to tweak custody arrangements to better fit the situation.
  • Health issues (of parent or child). If a parent is sick with a chronic or serious illness, they might not be able to properly care for the child as they used to; or if a child is battling health issues, the parents might need to step up to better care for them, working out a new custody arrangement that accounts for things like taking the child to and from appointments.
  • Relocation. If a parent relocates for any reason, custody arrangements might need to change to accommodate the distance and travel.
  • Change in schedules. Schedule changes can alter the availability of either parent, possibly requiring the other parent to step up more frequently.
  • Financial situation improvement. When you first decided on custody arrangements, you or your ex might have been in a different financial situation. If finances have improved, this might allow for custody changes.

Tips for talking to your ex about custody changes

You might be able to successfully mediate your child custody changes with your ex if you follow these tips for good communication.

Prepare what you want to say

Before you sit down with your ex, write down what you want to say and your objective reasons for the change. A change in custody can be seen as a battle for control, so clarify what changed and sparked your decision to ask for custody modifications. Outline how it benefits your child so you can get on the same page and establish common goals. If you find yourself or your ex getting emotional, redirect to your notes or walk away until both parties are equally calm, collected, and ready for a productive discussion.

Set aside your feelings

Speaking with an ex can stir up emotions that are difficult to push down. However, if you think only about the good of your child, you can’t go wrong. Don’t allow emotion to cloud your judgment — your child’s well-being should be your priority.

Don’t put your child in the middle

Keep communication between you and your ex without involving your child, as doing so could put an emotional burden on them. However, also keep your child updated by sitting them down and discussing the changes. Allow them to ask questions and address any concerns they might bring up.

Listen to your ex’s concerns and needs

You and your ex might be separated, but when it comes to your child, you should be on the same team. Communicate effectively with them by practicing active listening and empathy toward your ex. Ask them about their ideas, concerns, and needs, and find ways to compromise for the good of your child.

Set firm boundaries

Just as you should respect your ex’s needs, communicate your own needs as well. Don’t compromise your personal boundaries so much that you feel you don’t have a say when it comes to parenting your child (e.g., setting rules for curfew, disciplining your child, etc.) Make requests you feel will benefit both parties and set a business-like tone to keep the conversation on track.

Get help with your DIY custody change case

A DIY custody change can become complicated, especially if your child’s other parent disagrees or is difficult to work with. If you’re a Virginia parent seeking to change custody arrangements for any reason, My Legal Case Coach can help.

We can support you in representing yourself with our easy-to-use legal case form packets, which comes with one (1) free hour of virtual coaching. We also provide prepaid blocks of ongoing coaching time if you need additional guidance.

Schedule a 15-minute call to discuss your circumstances with an experienced legal coach.