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Modification of Your Child Custody Arrangement
Even if you and your ex spent a long time hammering out a child custody agreement, the time may come when you need a child custody modification. Situations change, and what worked in the past may not work anymore. If you or your ex wants to officially change your child custody agreement, you need to petition the court in order to do so. There are several things you need to consider before requesting a modification in child custody.
Reasons for Child Custody Modification
Often, a parents need to relocate will cause one parent to ask to modify the child custody arrangement.
Some states have travel restrictions for custodial parents, and many custody agreements specifically outline whether a parent can move with a child. Before you consider moving, you need to understand your current child custody agreement, the laws in your state, and how those laws can affect a modification of your child custody agreement.
One parents relocation usually wont cause a court to transfer custody to the other parent unless the judge decides its in the childs best interests to not move. The court will consider whether the child will lose meaningful contact with the non-custodial parent and what impact the relocation will have on the childs physical and emotional well-being.
If there are travel restrictions in place and you move with your child anyway, you may be held in contempt of court. Even if you have custody, your ex may ask for a modification of the agreement if he or she doesnt want you moving the children.
You may also decide to ask for a change in the custody arrangement if your ex is no longer providing a good environment for your children. You will have to convince a judge that circumstances have changed so much that the child will be better off in different circumstances.
A court may consider modifying a custody agreement if one parent cant provide a stable environment and moves frequently, cant hold down a job, has many relationships or marriages, or tries to interfere with the other parents visitation rights. Before a custody arrangement is modified, the judge must be convinced its in the childs best interests to do so.
Usually, a court wont allow for a change in custody because of religious reasons unless a parents religious decisions are hurting the childs mental and physical health. Changes in a parents health or lifestyle must be significant before most courts will consider changing a custodial agreement.
Courts will also usually not consider child support calculations when considering a modification to a custody agreement. Child support calculations and visitation are separate issues-you cant stop paying child support if you dont get visitation, and you cant deny your ex the right to see your child even if he or she isnt paying child support.
However, if one parent has had a "substantially changed" lifestyle, such as being out of work for an extended period of time, that parent can go back to the court to ask for a modification in child support.
Exes will often informally make a change to a custody arrangement, altering visitation days or who pays for a particular activity. If the change is working for everyone and you want to put it in writing, a judge will consider how the change came about, how well it is working, and how long it has been in effect before formally modifying the agreement.
If either you or your ex wants to modify the custody agreement, its important to talk to a lawyer who has experience with family law and child custody issues. Laws vary by state, and you need to understand your rights and obligations and how changes will serve your childs best interests.