One of the only predictable things about life is that we can count on it to change. This is true for everyone, and it is especially true for families with children. As children grow, their needs change. A schedule and a visitation plan that may have worked well when children were toddlers may not work so well when they are preteens. This is not to mention the fact that the lives of parents change too. One parent might begin a new relationship, or take a job that requires a relocation. Whatever the situation may be, it is sometimes necessary for families to seek a modification of the court’s original custody order.
As with every other divorce issue, it is of course always best if the parties can discuss the issue themselves and decide upon a modification that may be best. If the parties are able to do so, they can file a motion to modify the custody order with the court, and along with that motion, they submit their proposed modification to the judge for approval. This is often referred to as a consent order, and is typically the best approach to reduce time, expense, and stress for everyone involved.
If, on the other hand, the parents are not able to agree on what sort of modification might be necessary, the parent desiring the modification will need to file a motion to modify custody with the court and prove either a violation of the original order as we discussed in the preceding section on enforcement, or prove what is known under the law as a “substantial and material change in circumstances.” If the court has determined that a substantial material change in circumstances has occurred, it will then consider whether modification of the existing custody order is in the best interest of the children involved.
Understandably, courts have some amount of discretion in determining what is considered a “substantial and material” change in circumstances. Often, if one parent is relocating to another state and the move might impact the child’s stability and emotional well-being, the court might consider that circumstance substantial enough to warrant a modification. Likewise, a significant lifestyle change for one of the parents might also necessitate a change. If for example, one parent suddenly begins struggling with addiction or mental health issues that are having a detrimental effect upon the child, this may qualify for modification. In other instances, if one parent has entered into a new relationship with a person who has proven to be a negative influence on the child or otherwise displays behaviors that are detrimental to the child’s well-being, this may qualify for modification of custody as well. If one parent starts suddenly leaving the child alone for long periods of time or failing to nurture and care for the child as he or she should, this may also warrant modification.
Generally, courts have a good deal of discretion and consulting with an attorney as to your particular circumstances is always a wise decision when determining whether or not a request for modification might be successful.
If you need to speak with an experienced custody attorney in Huntersville about modifying your existing custody order, contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation.