Life Change And Child Custody Modification

Divorce Attorney

You are going through a life change and you need your child custody order to reflect those changes. An attorney who is an expert in family law can help you modify your current child custody order so that it better meets the needs of you and your child. You know what changes you want, but you may not know how to make those changes a reality.

While modifications can be made within the first year of implementation of a child custody order in qualifying circumstances, they are easier to obtain after a year of implementation. A child custody modification can be filed by either parent, someone listed as a party in the current order, or someone who is not their foster parent but has had actual care, control, and possession of the child for at least six months and has not ended more than ninety days before the date the modification case is filed with the court.  You may also file if you have lived with the child and the child’s parent, guardian, or conservator for at least six months not ending more than ninety days before the date you file the modification case and the child’s parent, guardian, or conservator has passed away. Certain relatives may also qualify to file a child custody modification. Grandparents, great-grandparents, or siblings may file a modification if both parents are dead, if both parents, the surviving parent, or the managing conservator agree with the modification being filed, or if the child’s present circumstances will significantly harm the child’s physical health or emotional development. 

A modification may be made to the possession and access schedule or the child support in the current child custody order. To make these changes and file them with the court the legal services of a family lawyer would be greatly beneficial. A well-skilled attorney will be able to explain your rights and options to you and guide you in forming a plan of action that will help you best achieve your goals.

To receive the modification you are seeking from the court you must meet certain legal standards. As with anything in the court regarding children you must prove that the changes you are seeking are in the best interest of the child. The judge will always keep the child’s best interest at the forefront of their minds. You must also prove to the court one of the following three situations:

  1. that the circumstances of the child who is the subject of the suit, a conservator, or other person affected by the current child custody order have materially and substantially changed;
  2. that the child is at least twelve years old and said child tells the judge who the child would like to live with; or
  3. that the person who has primary care and custody of the child according to the order has allowed someone else to have primary care and possession of the child for at least six months.

The third situation does not apply if the primary parent has relinquished care and possession of the child due to active military service or deployment. Material and substantial changes that would qualify are broad, but some of the most common changes would be the remarriage of one or both of the parents, relocation of one or both of the parents, a job change requiring a vastly different schedule or significant travel, or a change in a medical condition of the child or a parent. 

Once you have determined that your situation qualifies to modify the current child custody order, you will need to file the modification. The modification must be filed in the county where the current child custody order was implemented. If the child has lived in a different city for the previous six months the modification should be filed in the original court and then the case can be transferred to the new county of residence. This is something a family law attorney can help you with if this applies to your situation. Once the modification is filed, you may want to start implementing the changes, but you should not do this until a new child custody order is put in place by the judge. You should continue to follow the current child custody order while you wait on the modifications. 

If the child custody modification you are seeking is uncontested all of the pertinent parties can sign forms agreeing to the changes being sought. A judge can then review those changes and if they decide that the changes are in the best interest of the child then they can grant the modifications and put a new child custody order in place. If the party who is not seeking the modification contests the changes then after the modification is filed it will be set for a hearing. A judge will conduct the hearing and then decide whether or not to grant the modifications. They will keep the best interest of the child in mind and can grant none, part, or all of the modifications being sought. It is imperative that you show that the changes you are seeking are in the best interest of the child and that you qualify to make the modifications through one of the above-mentioned situations.