Child custody orders are not always set in stone. When parents decide to dissolve the marriage, one parent may be awarded custody and the other visitation rights under certain conditions. However, if circumstances change, the existing custody order can be brought up for a review and possible modification.
All it takes is either parent to request the court to review and modify the existing order. The parent who wants a modification must provide reasons for their request. Here are three common reasons why a parent may (and should) petition the court for custody modification:
When the child is in danger
One of the reasons the judge will consider modifying an existing custody order is if the child is in danger under the current arrangement. The court will take the following into account when assessing any claims:
- Incidents of violence against the child
- Whether the danger is immediate
- Who perpetuated the danger and their relationship to the child or other parent
If the child’s current environment isn’t safe, that’s always a good reason to request a change in custody.
Physical relocation by the custodial parent
The court will consider modifying an existing custody decree if the custodial parent wants to relocate to a distant location that will disadvantage the non-custodial parent. The court will look into the following before deciding whether the request for modification is justified:
- The motivation of the relocating parent
- How the relocation is likely to disrupt the child’s well-being
- Whether the relocation renders the existing visitation arrangement impossible or impractical
- Whether the parents are open to creating a new visitation schedule
Sometimes, custody and visitation orders may be shifted to allow for longer periods of visitation and “virtual” visits by the non-custodial parent.
Violations of the visitation schedule
If either parent is consistently violating the existing visitation schedule, the aggrieved parent may petition the court for a review and modification of custody. Here, the court will take the following factors into account before making a ruling:
- The existing parenting plan as initially agreed upon by both parents or put in place by the court
- The nature of communications between the parents and any lack of cooperation by either party
- The reasons for which the current visitation arrangement is being violated
If a custody plan is no longer working for either parent or the child is in danger, custody modification may be an option worth exploring.