Child custody is one of the biggest issues that divorcing parents face – and many parents don’t really understand the way the courts view the situation. In general, the court expects parents to set aside their own wants or needs and resolve their custody disputes based on the “best interests of the child.”
What if “what’s best” for your child has changed, however, since your custody orders were established? That’s a common situation, and you can ask the court to modify your orders to reflect your child’s current needs.
When is it appropriate to ask for a change?
Regardless of how you personally feel about your existing custody orders, the court is unlikely to change them unless there’s been a significant change in circumstances. Some good reasons to ask for a modification include:
- You want to relocate: Whether you’re moving to a different city or a different state, a move can negatively affect your parenting time. You may want to incorporate virtual visitation and make adjustments to the existing holiday and summer break parenting time schedule so that you can maintain your relationship with your child despite the distance.
- You want to relocate with your child: This can get very contentious, but there are times when a long-distance move really can benefit your child. This is particularly true, for example, if the child has special needs and you want to relocate to an area with better schools, specialized medical care or a ready-made family support system.
- Your co-parent’s lifestyle has changed: Divorce can do funny things to people, and you may one day find you barely recognize your co-parent. If they’ve developed an addiction, become abusive or otherwise developed an unstable lifestyle that puts your child in danger, that’s always a reason to request modifications.
Whatever your reasons for asking for a modification of custody, it’s always preferable if you and your co-parent are in agreement about what should happen. If that’s not possible, you may be wise to seek experienced legal guidance right away.