The entry of a final judgment and decree in a Mississippi divorce usually resolves all issues between the divorcing parties, including property division, spousal support, child support and child custody. Unfortunately, living and financial circumstances sometimes change, and the conditions of child custody that may have been crafted by the parents of a minor child or the judge no longer suit the situations in which one or both parents find themselves. In such cases, the most feasible solution is a motion by one or both parents to revise the original order for custody.
Filing a motion for modification
The original order for child custody can only be changed by a court order. However, the parents may agree to the necessary changes, and most Mississippi judges will accept such an agreement and incorporate it into a judicial order. Difficulties will arise, if one of the divorced parents does not agree with the views and wishes of the other parent. In such cases, the parent who wants to amend the child custody order must make a motion to the court that considered the original divorce proceeding. While individuals may be able to file such a motion without seeking legal assistance, retaining an attorney to prepare and argue the motion is usually the best course of action.
Grounds for changing the original order
The party who wants to change the terms of the original order must demonstrate that the child (or children) is affected by a substantial change in the circumstances that prevailed when the original custody order was issued. Such changes can include any number of situations, such as an unexpected decline in the financial circumstances of either spouse, a crippling accident, a significant change in the child’s health, the forced move of one parent to another state, or the conviction of one parent for a crime that affects his or her parenting agility, such as domestic abuse.
The motion must describe with particularity the exact change in circumstances and how the changes have (or will have) a significant negative impact on the children. Unless both spouses agree on the change, the motions will almost certainly require a court hearing. When such motions are heard, experts in child psychology, pediatric medicine and related fields may be required to testify as experts.
Amending an order for child custody, especially if it involves a major change in the children’s living situation, can be a complex and expensive proceeding. Consulting an experienced family law attorney in advance can be very helpful. A knowledgeable lawyer can evaluate the changed circumstances, assemble and present evidence to support or oppose the motion for an amended order, and suggest changes that may preclude a fight over how the living conditions of the child should be altered.