After you have exerted the emotional energy required to secure a proper custody agreement, it may not seem appealing to do it again. Making changes to living arrangements or potentially altering parent-child relationships can be difficult, especially if it will upset your ex or your children. However, there are times when modifying your custody order is advisable or even necessary. The most important thing to remember is you need to do what is best for your children.
Do you need to modify your custody order?
Your decision to modify your custody order should be guided by what is in the best interests of the children, and whether there has been a significant or substantial change in circumstances. There are myriad reasons why modification may be either prudent or unavoidable.
- Your Child's Age. When your child enters high school, he or she will undoubtedly become more involved in social and extracurricular activities. If this cuts into your ex's visitation time, your ex may try to keep your child from participating in activities that are important to his/her physical and emotional development. Additionally, as your child gets older, he or she may be able to adequately voice his/her preferences and provide the court with firsthand knowledge of why he wishes to live with one parent versus the other.
- People relocate. If your child needs to change schools or one parent must move for any other valid reason, shuttling your child back and forth can be difficult or impossible.
- Relationships change. A significant change in the relationships of anyone involved in your child's life can make life difficult or unhealthy for your child. If your child is unsafe with your ex's new partner or step-children, or if you or your child's relationship with your ex becomes dangerous or harmful, you should seek a modification.
- People change. If your ex begins abusing drugs or alcohol, becomes violent or threatening, fails to comply with the existing custody order, or one of you becomes critically ill, you should get a modification. Your ex may also simply become less interested in raising your child. In some instances, the order can be changed if the children spend significantly more time with one parent than the other, or if one parent is engaging in behavior that is clearly not in the best interests of your child.
- One can no longer provide a safe living environment. Both parents must provide proper living environments for the children. If living situations or finances permanently change, you can seek modification.
- One parent returns from the military and the original order was based on deployment. This is a significant change in circumstances, and warrants a custody modification. The same logic can be applied for change of jobs, or even incarceration.
- Your custody order doesn't work. You tried it, and for one reason or the other, it just doesn't work. Perhaps it's because joint decision-making is impossible with your other spouse, or agreeing on access during holidays never seems to occur.
Courts will modify custody orders only if there has been significant or substantial change to family circumstances and it is in the best interests of the children. Although the thought of returning to court may be daunting, you should seek proper legal counsel if you are considering modification of your custody order.