Can an existing child custody order be modified?

| Oct 23, 2020 | Family Law

A child custody agreement is often one of the most contentious parts of a divorce decree. Ideally, the end result serves the best interests of the children but not over-burdensome to the parents. However, circumstances change over time. Well-drafted agreements will address foreseeable issues, but life has a way of offering us the unforeseen, particularly here in 2020. This can be addressed with a post-divorce modification of the custody agreement.

Not the same thing

Custody and living arrangements are different. For example, parents can share custody of a child or children, but they may live more often or full-time with the custodial parent. A parent may not have custody of their children, but they do have a visitation agreement. Couples may still need to modify their child custody agreement to address unforeseen circumstances.

When is custody changed?

Examples, where this could be the case, include:

  • A parent moves for work
  • A change in the parent’s work schedule
  • There were documented instances of abuse
  • There was a change in the home that negatively affects the child
  • An older child wants to move into a non-custodial parent’s home or expresses specific preferences regarding their living arrangement.

The state has a list of administrative steps for a motion of modifications to the custody or visitation order. This will include filing paperwork, having papers served to the other parent, and attending a court hearing. The court hearing will include opportunities to present evidence and question witnesses. The custody agreement cannot be modified without a court order.

Legal help often necessary

A family law attorney can be helpful even when the parents are both comfortable with the post-divorce modification. These legal professionals can help fill out paperwork, help determine the right modification, and guide them during the hearing.