Your divorce has been finalized and the court has signed off on your child custody agreement, making it an official order. After a few years of smooth sailing, you find that the current arrangement no longer works for your family. What should you do? In many cases, family law attorneys will recommend continuing to abide by the terms of the current custody order until you have your order modified by the court. Filing for a modification of a custody order is not a simple process, particularly if only one party seeks the modification.
Will the court grant my request for custody modification?
Before you file for a child custody modification, it is important that you make sure that you consider that courts do not modify a custody order for just any reason. Generally, courts will consider a modification if the person filing for modification can prove:
There is a material change in circumstances in the custodial home
In order to modify your custody order, you must establish a significant change in the custodial home. For example, the court will generally consider the following as ‘material changes’:
- Remarriage of a custodial parent
- Relocation of parent out-of-state
- Custodial parent becomes unable to care for the child due to illness or disability
- One parent is abusing or neglecting the child or engaging in substance abuse
- Custodial parent becomes unable to financially support the child
- One parent is keeping child from seeing the other parent
The material change negatively affects the child
A material change in circumstances is not enough. The change must adversely affect the child under the current custody arrangement. Some adverse effects may include:
- Poor performance in school/drop in grades
- Behavioral issues
- Mental health issues (e.g. depression, anxiety)
The modification is in the child’s best interest
Once you have proved that a material change in the custodial home has negative impacted the child, you will need to show that the modification being suggested will positively benefit the child and serve in their best interest.
Courts will closely review any requests for child custody modification and will only approve the modification if it finds that the modification is warranted and is the best thing for the child. A family law attorney can help you determine whether your reasons for modification will be considered valid in the eyes of the court.