Child custody is determined during the divorce process. It is always an important aspect of divorce for parents who want to remain in their child’s life. Perhaps you have joint custody over your children or maybe you are not the custodial parent and only have visitation rights. If a significant change arises in your life or the circumstances of your arrangement, you may be able to modify the original child custody orders.
When can custody be modified?
You cannot seek modification simply because you are unhappy with how custody was decided. There must be a change in circumstance and it must be in the child’s best interest to have a new custody arrangement.
One reason you could seek a modification would be violence or abuse. If you discover that your child is being mistreated physically or mentally, you could seek a modification to custody. You could also seek modification if substance abuse or other factors create an unhealthy environment with the other parent.
Health issues could be another reason. If the other parent becomes seriously ill or injured, perhaps they cannot care for the child as well as they could before.
There may be other reasons to seek a modification but these examples should provide an idea of what a significant change in circumstance means.
How do I seek modification?
You will need to file a form with the court that originally issued your child custody orders. If you have moved since the divorce, it might be possible to move your case to a new location, though this can get complicated.
Once you have filed a request, a date will be set for a hearing. You will need to show a change in circumstance and prove why modification is in your child’s best interests. In general, a modification is viewed as disruptive to the child because a stable and consistent schedule is healthier. You will need to show that the new custody arrangement would have benefits that outweigh this disruption.
Court will look at a number of factors when making a decision. If your child is mature enough to make decisions about their own well-being, they may also have some influence in the decision.
Like any custody matter, you should not try to work through it on your own. A skilled family law attorney has experience with cases like this and they can help you achieve the best outcome.