Modifying a Custody Arrangement

As life changes, our needs and those of our children will change. Children will mature out of or into different activities, such as sports or other extracurricular activities, making existing custody arrangements no longer reasonable.

Parent’s lives change too, such as a new career, moving to another location, and more. As these things occur, continuing with the same custody arrangement may no longer be reasonable.

Changes can be made to the arrangement in place, but parents must realize that for small or insignificant changes, courts may deny their request. One of the main reasons for this is that making these changes takes time, and if requests were made due to insignificant changes or requests, it would slow down the court system to an unnecessary degree.

Common Reasons for Needing to Modify a Custody Arrangement

Below is a list of common reasons some parents need to change the existing arrangement. This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive but rather a summary of some reasons.

Change in locations – if one of the parents moves and now resides a significant distance from where they once did, this may require a revision to the custody arrangement. If the child is now forced to spend several hours in the vehicle to comply with the arrangement, shifting to a different schedule may be reasonable to accommodate the new location better.

Unemployment/Change in career – significant changes in employment, such as a job loss for either parent, may result in the need to modify the custody arrangement. There may be financial issues due to the loss of income, or schedules may vary due to a significant career change.

Change in the profession – similarly to the above, if one of the parents has changed careers and now needs to travel more often or is less available than they once were, this may result in the need for a change in the schedule or the change of the primary caregiver.

Medical conditions – either parent may experience significant health issues and needs to modify the arrangement.

Abuse or neglect of the children – if abuse or neglect is occurring and it can be proven, a change may be in order. Keep in mind that suspected abuse may not be enough to convince the judge a change is necessary, but rather valid evidence supporting the suspicions.

What if the Co-Parent Disagrees with the Changes?

If both parents agree that the changes need to occur and the result is what’s best for the children, the process of modifying a custody arrangement can be quite seamless and quick. If one of the parents disagrees with the proposed changes, however, the process can require time in court to establish their reasons for the judge and let them determine what is in the child’s best interest.

Judges will want to see sufficient evidence that a substantial change has occurred, resulting in a need for modification. Suppose there isn’t a significant material change. In that case, if the child isn’t old enough to request changing their primary caregiver, or if the proposed changes aren’t in the child’s best interest, you may have a challenge on your hands to make modifications.

How Can I Work with the Co-Parent to Agree on Changes?

One option to help co-parents agree is mediation. Mediation is appealing for many reasons, some of them being that it is a private process rather than having personal details brought up in public court. Others love that mediation provides a neutral third party to help navigate negotiations with their professional skills.

Utilizing mediation can result in coming to an agreement sooner than going through the court process, and in many cases, the process is less costly to the parents. Once agreements are made, paperwork can be drawn up to add to the request for modification, showing that both parties agree on the necessary changes and what’s best for the children. The rest of the process can be relatively straightforward and quick.

Factors Courts Will Take into Account

The changes must be material and significant before the courts review the case. Once that has been established, the courts will always put the child’s best interest at heart and decide based on this.

The relation to each parent and immediate family in each household is one of the factors that will be considered. Does the child have an extended family close to one of the homes that can offer more support and a good environment than the current living arrangements?

Are both parents financially and emotionally stable and in good health in general?

Will the proposed changes create financial issues for either parent? Will the proposed schedule modifications mean that the child now spends multiple hours in the car commuting back and forth to the primary giver’s home?

Are both parents willing to stick to the new arrangement, or will one of them try to alienate the child from the other? Courts will review how both parents have been conducting themselves to ensure they allow access to the co-parents if that’s in the children’s best interest.

It’s Crucial to Be Prepared

Whether you have significant changes happening, if you suspect abuse or neglect, or if your co-parent will contest the proposed changes, it’s imperative that you speak with an experienced family law attorney immediately.

Call our office at (254) 269-4591 to learn more about how we can best assist you. We work diligently with our clients to formulate a reasonable and effective strategy to create the best results for the children. Whether it’s professional advice and guidance, mediation, or litigation, we can help you make necessary changes for the betterment of all involved.