What to Expect During a Custody Modification Case
There are many reasons why you may want to modify the custody arrangement for your children. An initial custody arrangement is not set in stone–and a family’s needs can change dramatically as children age, particularly as the family’s activities and responsibilities change or the child’s desires alter as they grow up. Knowing what to expect in a custody modification case can help you prepare for the proceedings and ensure that you have a plan in place for your custody modification.
What the Court Looks For
If you have to pursue custody modification in court, the court will consider two key factors.
1. Why do you want to modify your custody agreement?
The reasons why you want to modify your custody agreement may vary. Generally, to go to court in order to modify a custody agreement, you will need to show a considerable change in your circumstances based on when the custody agreement was originally created. That may include:
- Substantial, long-term change in one parent’s schedule
- One parent moving into a very different geographic area
- Changes in the parent’s behavior toward the children that necessitate a change in the agreement
- Criminal action on the part of one parent
- A change in family circumstances (a new marriage, for example) that necessitates a change in the custody agreement
In order for the court to agree to modify the custody arrangement, which usually means that the other parent does not automatically agree to the change, you will need to show that the change in circumstances requires a change in your existing custody arrangement, whether that means that the child needs to spend more time with the other parent or that it is very inconvenient for everyone involved to continue with the existing agreement–or that, for some reason, it is unsafe for the child to continue to spend the same amount of time with the other parent.
In order to modify your custody agreement, you may need to provide evidence or documentation of the changes that have occurred that may necessitate the change in agreement. The court may, for example, may want to see that your address has changed, or that adhering to the current custody agreement will in some way cause financial hardship (for example, if you need to buy plane tickets or considerable gas in order to transport your child back and forth).
2. What is in the best interests of the child?
When it comes to custody agreements, including modification of existing custody agreements, the courts will always rule in the best interest of the child. When a parent has reason for modification, it does not necessarily mean that it will work in the child’s best interests. For example, a parent who moves a couple of hours away from the original location might find it very inconvenient to drive into the area to pick up the child from school for their weekend, but if that continues to represent the best interests of the child, the court might order that the custody agreement does not need to change.
If you wish to contest a custody modification, often, you may want to show that it is not in the child’s best interests in some way. As the parent who does not want to modify the custody agreement, or who wants to modify it in a different way, you will also have a chance to present evidence or arguments that will help establish that the modification is not in the child’s best interests or that it is not necessary in some way.
Resolving a Custody Modification: What to Expect
You do not necessarily have to go to court in order to modify your custody agreement. You and the child’s other parent have the right to decide on custody modifications based on your own needs. For example, if the custody agreement states that your child needs to go back and forth every other week, but one of you moves well out of that geographic area, you might decide to shift to another agreement on your own.
Have a lawyer draw up a new agreement.
If you and the other parent can agree on a custody agreement modification that works for both of you, you can start by having a lawyer draw up a new custody agreement and file it with the court. While the court will still need to review that agreement and establish that it works in the best interests of the child, you will not have to go to court in order to have that agreement signed–and your lawyer can usually take care of those important tasks for you.
Go through mediation.
Sometimes, you and the other parent may not be able to agree on a fair custody agreement. You may end up fighting over the custody agreement or struggling to lay out terms that work for both of you. Perhaps you both want as many weekends with the child as possible, or maybe you have a hard time deciding how to handle holidays. Just like the original custody agreement, it can be difficult to reach a resolution. Going through mediation will allow you to sit down with a mediator who can help offer other suggestions and even give you more information about how the court might rule in a particular instance, which can help you decide how to proceed.
Go to court.
If you cannot reach an agreement with your child’s other parent, you may have to go to court for a court ruling. In court, you will:
- Present your arguments regarding a new agreement.
- Wait for the other parent to present their arguments.
- Receive a ruling from the judge on your case.
A Lawyer Can Help
If you need help modifying an existing custody arrangement, a lawyer can help guide you through the process and provide you with more information about your next steps, whether you can come to an agreement with the other parent or you need help from the court to resolve the dispute. Contact Pedrick Law Group, APC today at 818-325-3934 to schedule an appointment.