If you’ve reached a custody agreement with someone, it’s not set in stone forever. Circumstances change, people change, and of course custody arrangements have to change. This is especially true if you reach a custody agreement with someone when the child is young. As the child grows older, changes will need to be made.
Custody agreements are never really final, and neither are court orders regarding custody. Either party may move at any time for a reconsideration of custody. Of course, immediately after a trial, when a judge has made a decision on the merits, changes are unlikely to be seriously considered or granted. Judges look for a change of circumstances when considering motions to modify custody.
So what sort of change of circumstances might bring about a new custody order? If a judge previously found that one of the parties was not fit to have as much custody time because of a drug problem, mental illness, or a past history of being unwilling to care for the child, then showing that one of these issues has been carefully addressed may result in a change of custody. Showing a course of rehab, having witnesses able to speak about the change of the party, or showing that the party has taken classes for anger management or other types of counseling that might help them can all be part of showing a change of circumstances. Perhaps the judge previously refused to give overnights to one party because their house was not in a good condition to live in or because they were homeless. Once a person has established residency and has an acceptable place for a child to spend overnights, the custody order can be modified.
Other examples of change in circumstances can be because the child, as they grow, needs something different from each parent. Perhaps the child is an athlete and has an opportunity by spending more time with one parent to improve their chances at an athletic scholarship. In other cases, courts have found a change of circumstances where one parent is able to help them with academic challenges that the other parent struggles with.
As you can see, there are a number of ways that a change of circumstances can be found by a court. Understanding the significance of these changes and preparing to prove them is all an important part of litigating custody matters, even after a custody order came down in a trial or other hearing. Whether you’ve reached a custody arrangement by agreement or by court order, there are ways to modify the agreement.
Of course, in all circumstances the best approach is to go to the other party and see if you can work it out as co-parents. Courts appreciate efforts that have been made to do this by co-parents and do not generally smile upon someone who comes into court without having tried to first work it out with the other parent. But when an agreement can’t be reached, going to court for a modification of custody is the next step.
If you have questions about how to approach a custody change, contact the custody attorneys at Cornerstone Law Firm regarding your situation. Our family law attorneys can help you figure out the best way for you to move forward with your custody matter.