One of the more difficult types of cases that a family court judge hears is child custody cases. Because of the time, energy, and money it often takes to come to a resolution in these cases, the court does not allow parents to just file petitions to modify custody orders whenever they feel like it. In most states, the courts will review custody every three years if they are asked to by one or both parents. There has to be specific issues and specific requirements in order to ask the court to change the order anytime outside that three-year window.
Does the Co-Parent Agree with the Change?
If you would like to modify your agreement and the other parent agrees, the process is a simple one. Your attorney can draw a new agreement and file it with the court. In the majority of situations, the court will accept a modified agreement when both of the parents agree on it. Once the court signs the modified agreement, it is now a legally enforceable document.
If the other parent does not agree to the change, there may be a way to work out a compromise. Having a seasoned family law attorney who is skilled in child custody negotiations can go a long way in working out a modification agreement that can eventually be filed with the court.
What Is an Acceptable Change of Circumstance?
If it the other parent does not agree to the change and your three-year review is not close, you may still be able to file a modification petition if there has been a substantial change of circumstances which you feel requires a change in the existing custody order. Keep in mind that no matter what this change of circumstances is, any change must still meet the best interest of the child doctrine which the court uses to measure all custody decisions.
Some examples of what the court could accept as a change in circumstances include:
- One of the parents are moving or planning to move
- One of the parents has a new spouse or partner
- One of the parents has had a substantial change in their living situation
- One of the parents has been convicted of a crime
- One of the parents has developed an alcohol or drug problem or they have relapsed
- The parent who has primary custody of the child is not providing for the child
- One of the parents is unable to care for the child because of issues with their mental or physical health
If your child custody attorney residents trust can prove that there has been a significant change of circumstances and that custody should be modified because it is in the child’s best interest, the judge will likely grant the request.
There are other, more common and benign reasons why child custody can be modified. As children get older, they become more involved with friends and other activities and they may be the ones who want the changes made.