According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 22 million American children have parents who live in separate households. When you have a custody order from the court, it’s common for families to modify it over time. Children change as they grow, and the situation of the parents can change too. When that happens, you may be able to change the custody order. Whether you can change a custody order depends on what changes in the circumstances of the children and what kinds of modifications you’re requesting.
Custody Changes – Major Changes
The biggest change to a custody order switches which parent has the most time with the children or decision-making authority. It might change an order from the parents having roughly equal parenting time to one parent having the children most of the time. The change might alter which parents make the major decisions about raising the child.
To make a custody change, you must show that there’s a major change in the circumstances surrounding the children. The courts prefer the status quo. An example of a big change might be:
- A parent going to prison
- A parent suffering from severe substance abuse
- Child abuse allegations that require intervention from social services and similar problems.
Parenting Time Changes – Minor Changes
It’s easier to make minor changes to the parenting time schedule. Parenting time changes don’t change the approximate split of time between the parents. Instead, it changes the schedule here and there to accommodate growing children.
An example of this might be a child who wants to play a high school sport. The court order might change to order a parent to forgo a Friday night parenting time in exchange for more parenting time during school holiday breaks. Alternatively, if a parent’s work schedule changes, it might be easy to change their parenting time from every other week to every Monday and Tuesday, for example. The courts usually don’t balk over requests for changes in parenting time schedules that make it easier for the children.
Emergencies and Day-To-Day Changes
Another way to change a custody agreement is to make a temporary change. For example, you might want a one-time change so that your child can attend a special family event. To make this kind of change, you need to work with the other parent. The parents should agree in writing to make the change.
How to Change Your Custody Order
Whether or not you can change a custody order depends on what you’re trying to change and the reasons for the change. Big changes are the hardest to make and require the most proof of their necessity. Minor but permanent changes to the schedule are possible as long as you have a good reason that’s for the welfare of the children. Temporary changes are difficult without the cooperation of the other parent. An experienced child support attorney such as the Child Custody Attorney Phoenix AZ can help you determine if a change is a possibility in your case. They can also assist you with the necessary paperwork and other legalities to help make that happen.
A special thanks to our authors at Hildebrand Law for their insight into Family Law.