When child custody agreements are either reached by a couple during divorce proceedings or issued by a judge during the process, the idea is that the order represents the best situation for the children at that time. Circumstances can change, though, and divorced parents can end up in situations where it makes sense to seek a modification of their existing child custody order.
What does the court consider?
From a basic standpoint, judges are primarily concerned with the best interests of the children when issuing child custody orders, as well as when granting modifications of them. Generally speaking, some sort of significant change in circumstances must have occurred such that the current child custody order is no longer in the best interests of the children. A parent can also seek a modification in child custody if other pre-existing conditions or facts have come to light that the court was not previously aware of.
It’s worth noting that a change in a parent’s military duties does not, by itself, warrant a change in custody.
What does a parent seeking modification need to prove?
What exactly qualifies under this standard varies, but the parent seeking a modification will have a difficult time obtaining a modification if a sound custodial environment has been established. Generally speaking, changing a custody order is usually only possible if the other parent is no longer providing for the needs of the child, for whatever reason.
A court handling a modification request must be convinced that the environment the petitioning party would provide the children, and his or her relationship with the children, would better contribute to the children’s well-being. From a legal standpoint, a petitioning party is held to a higher burden of proof in showing that he or she could provide a better environment for the children than was necessary in the original determination.
For divorced parents who are convinced that their children would benefit from a custody order modification, it is important to work with an experienced attorney throughout the process. An attorney can help a petitioning parent to put the best case forward to ensure their children are raised in the best possible environment.