Changing the status quo can be difficult, especially after divorce. But there are times when parents' child custody agreements need to be tweaked in order to meet the best interests of the children.
How can parents know whether or not they should return to court for a child custody modification? Courts will generally not permit parents to alter arrangements unless there have been significant changes in the family's circumstances.
Below are some possible scenarios where custody agreements may need to be modified.
Whenever a child is in danger
This is probably the most important circumstance and needs to be acted upon immediately. Some of the circumstances that could endanger minor children include:
- Immediate danger to the children is present
- The children are afraid to stay in one parent's home
- There have been instances of domestic abuse occurring at one parent's residence
One parent relocates out of the area
Depending on the career, frequent relocations may be part of a parent's job description. Courts will revisit the custody arrangements under those circumstances, considering:
- Whether the custody and visitation schedule is no longer practical
- The relocating parent's motivation for moving
- Whether or not the parents have already attempted to adjust the schedule between themselves
- How a custody modification would affect the kids' lives, i.e., will they still be able to attend the same schools and play on the same sports teams?
One parent passes away
If the children's custodial parent dies, a modification can determine if their noncustodial parent shall assume custody or whether another adult needs to be appointed as guardian. Courts usually prefer that children live with their other parent, but consider other placements if the noncustodial parent is not a good choice. Reasons for that might include:
- The kids want to live with a grandparent, adult sibling or other family member
- The new home is very far from their present neighborhood, school, etc.
- The other parent works a schedule that is not conducive to retaining custody of minors
Mom or dad repeatedly breaks the custody or visitation agreement already in place
One parent's refusal to cooperate with the present arrangements may induce a court to reconsider that parent's custodial or visitation rights. Your family law attorney can review the specifics of your circumstances and offer a recommendation on whether to pursue a modification.
Source: The Spruce, "5 Reasons to Request Child Custody Modification," Debrina Washington, accessed Oct. 20, 2017