Custody arrangements, whether decided by the parents in a pending divorce and submitted to the judge for approval or decided by the court in a contested matter, are generally designed to remain in place for as long as possible. This gives children whose lives have been upended by divorce some measure of routine and stability. These children can come to depend on the expected giving them a better sense of security.
However, custody arrangements made earlier in a child’s or a parent’s life often no longer continue to work in later years. When these arrangements become outdated based on the circumstances of a child’s or a parent’s life, it may be necessary to seek a modification of the court order. It is always best to pursue this modification through the courts so that it is made official and enforceable. Changing custody arrangements on your own outside of the court can leave you open to claims of misconduct and other disputes that can cost you time, money, and emotional stress.
Need legal help with a custody issue? Burch Shepard Family Law Group can help. We are available for a free, initial consultation at (949) 565-4158 or contact us online.
What Circumstances Would Justify a Child Custody Modification?
In order to get a custody order modified, you will have to show the court that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred that impacts the child’s life and that making the change is in the child’s best interests. Without these two factors demonstrated to the court, you are not likely to succeed as courts operate on the overriding principle of what is in the child’s best interests.
Common reasons that could lead to a successful modification can include:
- Relocation where a parent wishes to move away with the child for the purpose of remarriage, a better job situation, or to be closer to extended family who will provide additional emotional or other support. However, if this relocation places the other parent at a distinct disadvantage in maintaining his or her ongoing relationship with the child, it may not be regarded as important enough to be granted. Courts will weigh all the factors to determine what it deems best.
- One parent is continuously violating the terms of the custody arrangement. Repeated violations can include failing to return a child at the designated time, taking the child out of town without letting the other parent know, refusing to let the other parent have his or her designated parenting time, or any other violation. Evidence will have to be provided to the court to back up your claims and to prove that the child’s welfare has been compromised due to these violations.
- A parent has engaged in some type of neglect or abuse that is negatively impacting the child. This could be substance abuse, criminal behavior, leaving the child unattended, or some other type of behavior that endangers the child. This will have to be shown in court and can lead to the abusive parent losing all access to the child or to only being allowed to see the child in supervised visits.
- A parent has sustained a serious illness, whether physical or mental, that has impacted his or her ability to care for the child.
- A parent has overcome a negative situation, such as drug or alcohol abuse, and demonstrated his or her new ability to care for the child leading to a desire for more parenting time.
- A child’s needs have changed. As children grow up, their needs change and what was once considered right for a three year-old no longer works for a teenager, for example. One parent may be more fit to meet those needs than the other. This could also result in the child maturing enough to state a preference as to where he or she would like to spend the most time.
These are just examples of what may justify a custody modification. If you and the other parent agree on a modification, you can submit it to the court for approval. If the court approves it, it is then legally binding. If the court does not approve it, then parents are not bound to follow its terms.
Need Legal Advice About Modifying Your Custody Agreement?
If you need legal counsel to help you determine whether your need for a modification seems valid, we advise you to discuss it with a knowledgeable family law attorney. At Burch Shepard Family Law Group, you can get trusted legal advice from a team that focuses exclusively on family law. We don’t do anything else which means we have a pulse on the law, changes to the law, how courts operate on the issues, and we have honed our skills in methods that can be used to help you resolve your family law issue.
Arrange for your consultation by calling us at (949) 565-4158 today.