Custody agreements establish how parents will raise their children after a divorce or separation. They outline rules related to the child’s living arrangements, education, medical care, and other factors that contribute to his or her best interests.
But custody agreements can be modified in cases where circumstances have changed.
Custody modifications are common, but it’s important to understand how to implement any changes to your custody agreement in order to achieve the best results with minimal disruption to you and your family.
Custody Modifications and the Best Interests of your Child
When addressing custody modification requests, courts typically focus on the child’s welfare when making their decisions.
The factors that impact the best interests of children include the parents’ ability to provide adequate care, health issues, and the risk of abuse or domestic violence.
Custody modifications can be implemented at any time prior to the time at which the child reaches 18 years of age.
Parents can request custody modifications through the court that in which they established the original custody agreement. Parents that agree on the modifications can easily obtain the requested order.
In cases where parents do not agree, a hearing is scheduled by the court so that each parent can present his or her case along with any relevant evidence.
Family law attorneys can help parents present the right evidence at their hearings so that they obtain the changes that support the long-term wellbeing of their children.
Demonstrating Changed Circumstances
The parent who requests a custody modification must demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances. They need to provide information that justifies custody modifications and show that it supports the child’s best interests.
Any changes in circumstances must be shown to significantly impact the child’s wellbeing. Changes that affect the parents’ preferences aren’t sufficient to justify changes in a custody agreement.
Also, any changes in circumstances must have occurred after the date of the original custody agreement when requesting modifications. Having knowledge of these changes prior to the original agreement may cause your request to be denied.
Substantial changes to circumstances include felony convictions, changes in mental or physical health, illegal drug use, or the presence of physical violence.
Custody modifications can be made in response to the child’s changing needs in education, medical care, and other factors.
Obtaining new employment and an increase in income may result in changes that give one parent more custody rights than those originally established in the custody agreement.
Family law attorneys know how to demonstrate changed circumstances in cases that involve custody modification requests. This prevents any confusion that parents may have when presenting their cases to the courts.
Examples of Changed Circumstances
Understanding what constitutes a substantial change in circumstances is essential to achieving the custody modifications you want.
Your family law attorney can help you identify these changes and guide you through the process when submitting your request to the courts.
Substantial changes include the relocation of either parent. Increases in distance can interfere with visitation rights, and changes to the custody agreement may be warranted.
If either parent moves in with a new partner, there may be issues that arise that compromise the child’s best interests. New partners that have criminal records or previous history of drug abuse may lead parents to seek a custody modification.
Children often begin attending school after the original custody agreement was ordered. Attending a new school may require changes in the agreement and must be considered alongside the child’s best interests.
As children grow older, they may begin to state their preferences related to custody. In some states, children can testify to the courts, and parents may request a custody modification based on the stated preferences of their child.
Requesting a custody modification due to changed circumstances can be done with the help of a skilled family law attorney.
There are many factors that parents must consider in order to achieve the outcome they want, and having the right legal resources prevents lengthy and costly court proceedings while protecting the wellbeing of the entire family.