Although child custody arrangements are almost always set in stone, they can be modified in certain situations. Unfortunately, the process of having a custody award modified is often difficult, so if you are thinking about relocating or want to spend more time with your child, it is important to speak with an experienced child custody attorney who can help you decide what to do next.
Parents who agree that a custody arrangement should be modified are often able to avoid the lengthy court hearings that would otherwise be required. However, even if parents come to an out-of-court agreement about a change in visitation or another custody-related matter, they must still file legal documents with the court reflecting the change, as it is only after a judge has approved the agreement that the new arrangement will officially go into effect. Those who fail to take this step risk violating a court order, which can have serious consequences.
When a child’s parents do not agree that a child custody arrangement should be modified, they must present the matter to a family law court. However, even in these situations, certain modifications cannot be made until at least two years have passed since the original filing. The only exceptions to this rule are when both parents agree to the modifications or there is evidence that the child’s present environment could seriously endanger his or her physical, emotional, or mental health. In most cases, only an emergency situation will qualify for modification when a custody order is less than two years old.
If, on the other hand, two years have passed since the custody arrangement was ordered, the party seeking modification must then demonstrate that:
Changes in circumstances that usually qualify as substantial enough to justify a modification of a custody order include a parent’s remarriage, one party’s need to relocate for employment reasons, or a parent’s health concerns. However, even in these cases a judge will only grant a modification if the petitioning party can provide clear and convincing evidence that doing so is in the child’s best interests, which is the court’s primary concern. This often requires the submission of official affidavits, as well as witness testimony. Although many judges try to avoid the stresses of a full trial when deciding a modification issue, it could be necessary if status hearings are insufficient.
Issues related to child custody are some of the most difficult legal matters to resolve, especially when a child’s parents do not agree on what is best for their child. In these cases, having the advice of an attorney who can advocate on your behalf can be crucial to the outcome of a case, so if you believe that your custody arrangement should be modified or that modification would not be in your child’s best interests, please contact Sabuco, Beck, Hansen & Massino, P.C. at (815) 730-8860 to speak with an experienced child custody lawyer who can evaluate your case.
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