How Do I Change My Custody Order?
A few years have passed since your divorce or custody order was entered. Perhaps you entered into an agreement with your ex-spouse regarding the custody of your children, but you now believe the current arrangements are no longer working. Maybe your child is older and more mature and expressed that they prefer to not spend as much time with the other parent. Or, you might now be in a more stable position to exercise more visitation than you were when the last arrangements were put in place. What do you do now? Can you modify your custody and visitation order?
Until your last child turns 18, you can ask a court to modify a custody and visitation order. However, in order for a judge to consider your request, something substantial must have changed since the court issued your last custody and visitation order. The law requires a “material change in circumstances,” and proving a change is the first step in modifying your custody or visitation order.
So what constitutes a “material change”? In short, there’s no clear list. The change can have either a positive or negative impact on the children’s lives. Some examples may include the introduction of a new step-parent, the children’s needs as they grow older and mature, a change in a job status or schedule that allows for more time with the children, or perhaps a serious illness or injury.
Once a court finds that a material change has occurred, it will next assess what custody or visitation arrangements are in the best interests of the children. This is a 10 factor test which the law requires a judge to fully consider. These factors encompass the major aspects of a child’s life, such as his or her age, health, developmental needs, relationships with other family members, and the ability of the parents to cooperate to resolve disputes.
It is extremely important to consult with an attorney prior to filing for an amendment to a custody and visitation arrangement. An attorney can assist in evaluating whether there is a material change, and help you prepare for a successful outcome in court or in settlement negotiations.