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Modifying Child Custody Agreements

A motion, or request, conducted after the rendering of a judgment is known as a post-judgment, or post-trial motion. In family law modification requests are usually made to alter child custody, child support and alimony judgments. If you are a parent who wants to request that your child custody arrangement be modified, you should take a look at the ways that they may be altered, as well as reasons that courts will consider plausible before granting a change in custody.

There are two ways a child custody agreement may be altered:

  1. The court has continuing power to modify custody orders at any point in time
  2. The parents can both consent to modification at any time

Under only certain circumstances may child custody arrangements be modified. Although child custody laws vary state by state, courts always consider stability and what is in a child's best interest when considering changes in child custody agreements. Typically, significant changes had to have occurred in the lives of any of the parties involved. Such changes can include:

  • The importance of rearing a child in a traditional family environment – This could mean that one parent has gotten remarried and highly regards the value of raising their child in a “normal” married family.
  • A substantial increase in the child's age – Depending on the state, children do not have the option of deciding who they would like to live with until they are 12 or 13 years old. If the child gets older and decides that he or she would prefer to live with the other parent, there may be a child custody modification.
  • A dramatic change to one or both parents' income level – If one parent is no longer able to maintain an expected level of care for a child, the other parent may gain custody of the child.
  • One parent relocates to another state – Most states allow the custodial parent to move with the child as long as the move is in the child's best overall interests. Courts will consider school life, how the move may affect extracurricular activities and the child's social life. The substitute visitation and modified custody will be adequate to foster a continuing meaningful relationship between the child and other parent.
  • The child's current living situation has posed a physical or emotional risk - The dangers can include domestic violence, the presence of a parent abusing drugs or alcohol or the existence of mental abuse.
  • The custodial parent is currently refusing visitation by the non-custodial parent - A court will generally consider a child custody modification if the current fixed visitation schedule has not been followed and/or if there has been a lack of communication between the parents.
  • The custodial parent has passed away – Child custody modification will need to be changed if the custodial parent has died. A court will need to determine if the non-custodial parent will assume full responsibility of the child, or if a third party like a grandparent will retain custody. They will consider the distance of the non-custodial parent from the custodial home, the non-custodial parent's financial condition and the child's desires.

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of a family law trial or wish to modify your child custody arrangements it is important that you immediately speak with an attorney.

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