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Child Custody Modification

Reasons Why a Parent May Want to Change a Current Arrangement

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Parents whose current child custody arrangement no longer works for them may need to request a child custody modification in court. After attempts at communicating with a parent, there are several reasons why another parent may want to alter the current child custody agreement. Here is more information about the reasons why a parent should consider a child custody modification:

Best Interests of the Child

Generally, a court will not consider altering a child custody arrangement that appears to be working for all involved parties. Primarily, a court's concern is the best interests of the child, meaning that a court will not want to interrupt a child's way of life and well-being for frivolous reasons. A court will scrutinize the reasons why a parent would consider altering a child custody arrangement before ordering a change to the current custody order.

Danger to the Child

One of the main reasons why a court will consider a child custody modification if the child is in immediate danger in the current household. In assessing the danger to the child, a court will consider the following factors:

  • Domestic violence in the parent's home
  • Whether the danger to the child is immediate
  • Whether the child has expressed an unwillingness to remain in the home of the parent, where danger may be present

Relocation

A court will consider a child custody modification if one of the child's parents is considering relocating to a distant location. Prior to altering child custody, a court will consider the following:

  • The motivation of the parent who is relocating
  • Whether the move renders the visitation schedule impractical or impossible
  • Whether the parents have communicated a way to rework the visitation schedule
  • Whether the child's life will be interrupted (after-school or sporting activities, friendships, religious upbringing) by a child custody modification

Non-Cooperation with Visitation Schedule

If one of the parents is not cooperating with the current visitation schedule, a court may consider a change to the child custody arrangement. A court will consider the following factors before ordering a child custody modification when a parent is not cooperating with the visitation schedule:

  • Agreement reached by the parents in the parenting plan
  • Reasons for which the current visitation schedule has not been followed
  • Communication between the parents

Death of a Parent

If a custodial parent dies, a child custody modification is necessary as the court will need to determine if the non-custodial parent will assume full responsibility of the child or if a third-party will assume custody of a child. Generally, a court would prefer for the child to remain with the non-custodial parent, as it will cause less strain on a child's life. However, a court will consider alternative arrangements, if the child cannot remain with the non-custodial parent for one of the following reasons:

  • Distance from custodial home or family
  • Non-custodial parent's employment makes it impossible for him/her to assume full responsibility of a child
  • Child expresses a desire to remain with a third-party

Additional Tips

Prior to initiating a new child custody proceeding, parents should try to communicate with each other first and work out a mutually-acceptable agreement. Additionally, before considering a child custody case in court, parents may benefit from mediation or arbitration, which is less adversarial and time-consuming than the standard process.

For more information about child custody modification, refer to the specific child custody guidelines of your state or speak to a qualified attorney in your state.

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