Your life -- and the lives of your ex-spouse and children -- are bound to experience numerous changes in the years that follow your child custody agreement and/or child custody orders. Fortunately, however, you may be able to change your child custody agreement and/or child custody orders in the event that new life circumstances require it.
Imagine that you or your spouse get a new job opportunity that has a different schedule or is located in a different part of the country. Or, imagine your children acquire new schedules or develop different kinds of needs. If you are facing changing circumstances like these, here are two ways to pursue a child custody modification:
1) Modifying a child custody order by agreement:
Your first strategy to obtain a child custody modification is to talk with the other parent of your children to see if you can reach an out-of-court agreement. In many cases, your co-parent will be able to cooperate with you if your request is reasonable. You'll need to draft the agreement -- usually with the aid of your respective family law attorneys -- and submit the agreement to the appropriate family law judge for approval. This process will probably involve the completion of a "stipulation form."
2) Modifying a child custody order by hearing:
If you and the other parent can't agree on the modification, you'll have to petition the court directly and ask for a judge's approval to enforce the modification. You'll need to petition the court by filling out a special child custody modification form. In this paperwork, you will need to explain the reason for the request with organized and legally sound arguments.
You'll have the best chances for success if you can illuminate why a significant change in circumstances requires the modification. The following reasons may suffice for these purposes:
- One parent moves to a new location
- One parent faces criminal charges or is being investigated by child protection services
- One child is now an adult or is attending school
- The custodial parent is not honoring the terms of the child visitation agreement
The judge will hold a hearing before he or she issues a final decision. During this hearing, the parents -- or their legal representatives -- will have a chance to defend their opinions on how the judge should decide the matter.
Learn more about child custody modifications
It can be costly and time-consuming to pursue a child custody modification, so parents should make sure they understand all the legal issues at play -- and their chances of success -- before they begin this process.