Parents whose current child custody arrangement no longer works for them may need to request a child custody modification in court. After attempts at communicating with a parent, there are several reasons why another parent may want to alter the current child custody agreement. Here is more information about the reasons why a parent should consider a child custody modification:
When Child Custody Modification is in Your Child's Best Interests
Generally, a court will not consider altering a child custody arrangement that appears to be working for all involved parties.
Primarily, a court's concern is the best interests of the child, meaning that a court will not want to interrupt a child's way of life and well-being for frivolous reasons. A court will scrutinize the reasons why a parent would consider altering a child custody arrangement before ordering a change to the current custody order.
When You Believe Your Child is in Danger
One of the main reasons why a court will consider a child custody modification if the child is in immediate danger in the current household. In assessing the danger to the child, a court will consider the following factors:
- Domestic violence in the parent's home
- Whether the danger to the child is immediate
- Whether the child has expressed an unwillingness to remain in the home of the parent, where danger may be present
Following Either Parent's Physical Relocation
A court will consider a child custody modification if one of the child's parents is considering relocating to a distant location.
Prior to altering child custody, a court will consider the following:
- The motivation of the parent who is relocating
- Whether the move renders the visitation schedule impractical or impossible
- Whether the parents have communicated a way to rework the visitation schedule
- Whether the child's life will be interrupted (after-school or sporting activities, friendships, religious upbringing) by a child custody modification
When Your Ex Repeatedly Ignores the Agreed-Upon Visitation Schedule
If one of the parents is not cooperating with the current visitation schedule, a court may consider a change to the child custody arrangement. A court will consider the following factors before ordering a child custody modification when a parent is not cooperating with the visitation schedule:
- Agreement reached by the parents in the parenting plan
- Reasons for which the current visitation schedule has not been followed
- Communication between the parents
Following the Death of a Parent
If a custodial parent dies, a child custody modification is necessary as the court will need to determine if the non-custodial parent will assume full responsibility of the child or if a third-party will assume custody of a child. Generally, a court would prefer for the child to remain with the non-custodial parent, as it will cause less strain on a child's life. However, a court will consider alternative arrangements, if the child cannot remain with the non-custodial parent for one of the following reasons:
- Distance from custodial home or family
- Non-custodial parent's employment makes it impossible for him/her to assume full responsibility of a child
- Child expresses a desire to remain with a third-party
Additional Child Custody Modification Tips
Prior to initiating a new child custody proceeding, parents should try to communicate with each other first and work out a mutually-acceptable agreement. Additionally, before considering a child custody case in court, parents may benefit from mediation or arbitration, which is less adversarial and time-consuming than the standard process.
For more information about child custody modification, refer to the specific child custody guidelines of your state or speak to a qualified attorney in your state.
Edited by Jennifer Wolf.