Whether your circumstances have changed or the best interests of the child are at stake, it may be necessary for parents to request a child custody modification. Changing child custody can result in new visitation rights or new primary custodianship, depending on the evidence parents can provide during a hearing. Learn more about why you may want to alter your current child custody agreement.
Ask a Divorce Attorney: Five Reasons to Consider Custody Modification
1. The Needs of the Child
If the needs of the child have changed as the child has gotten older, this may be a good opportunity to request a modification. For example, if the child is old enough to understand visitation, or if the child has developed educational or physical difficulties that can be monitored better by another parent, these are good reasons to request a modification.
Sometimes, especially for older children, sports and other extracurricular activities will necessitate a modification to the current child custody arrangement. If an older child needs to attend a school that is closer to the residence of the other parent, this may also be a reason to modify the current order.
2. The Circumstances of the Parent
If the circumstances of the parents change, it may be time to alter the current child custody agreement. Specifically, one or both parents must be able to demonstrate a significant change to convince a judge to alter custody arrangements. For example, if a parent becomes unemployed and can no longer provide for a child, or if there is a permanent lifestyle change such as a new marriage, a judge may be persuaded to update the child custody arrangement.
A parent who is engaging in harmful behavior can also be a reason to modify orders. For instance, if a parent becomes dependent on recreational drugs, it may not be safe for that parent to have custodianship of the child. A major change in the parent’s physical, emotional, and psychological health can also prompt a change in the custody order.
3. The Custodial Parent Relocates
Although moving a short distance isn’t usually a big deal, if the custodial parent relocates to a new state or moves several hours away, this could be a reason to request a modification. In these cases, the non-custodial parent will need to prove that the relocation has made it difficult to honor the standing child custody orders. The non-custodial parent may also need to prove that the relocation is significantly impacting the child’s overall stability.
4. The Current Order Is Being Ignored
If the current child custody agreement is being ignored, this could be another reason for parents to file a petition to modify child custody arrangements. For example, if the visitation schedule is inconsistent or if the non-custodial parent does not return the child to the custodial parent on time, this could be evidence that the current order is being ignored.
5. The Child Is Not Safe
If there is evidence that the child is not safe with one parent, this could serve as a reason to request a modification. The child may be endangered if a parent cannot provide a safe environment or if there is any evidence of sexual, emotional, or physical abuse. In these cases, the parent requesting the modification will need to prove child endangerment.
6. The Death of a Parent
Finally, if one parent has died, there will need to be a modification to update child custody arrangements. This is especially true if a non-biological parent who was the spouse of the deceased parent wants to maintain custody. Depending on the suitability of the other parent, sole custodianship may or may not be granted after the death of the other parent.
Why Would a Judge Grant Child Custody Modification?
A judge generally grants a custody modification request when there is sufficient evidence and when the best interest of the child is at stake. The best interest of the child generally refers to the overall ability of the child to thrive in a stable environment, which is an environment that will provide for the child’s physical and emotional needs.
Should Parents Try to Mediate New Arrangements First?
When you work with a divorce attorney in Houston, TX, you may be given the advice to try to mediate new child custody arrangements first. Mediation is an ideal step since it will be much faster to modify child custody arrangements and will be less stressful for the entire family. Mediating child custody arrangements, even for modification, can allow parents to collaborate and create a schedule that works for both parties.
However, if mediation is unsuccessful, then altering child custody arrangements through a court hearing is the only option. Typically, mediation is only successful when both parents are willing to compromise for the sake of the child. If one parent refuses to cooperate, then a court hearing is the only way to modify the current custody agreement.
Modifying child custody arrangements may be necessary for several reasons, such as the needs of the child or the circumstances of the parent have changed. You can file a petition to modify child custody with the family court. A judge will assess the petition, order a hearing, and update the custody agreement.