Married parents divorce, and unmarried parents split up even after years together. When they do, they have to reach an arrangement regarding the custody of their children.
A parenting plan or custody order explains what responsibilities each parent has to the children in the family. Typically, both parents have to carefully comply with a custody order unless they make arrangements with one another to deviate from the order.
Eventually, the division of custody and other rules in your parenting plan may no longer fit your family’s needs. At that point, you might need to go back to court to ask for a custody modification. What are some of the common situations when a parent needs to modify a custody order?
After a change in the family schedule
Did the children just graduate from daycare to kindergarten? Have you just taken a job that will put you on first shift instead of second shift?
When the family schedule changes significantly, the custody order may also need to change. Adjusting the division of parenting time or when each parent has access to the children can help ensure the parenting plan upholds the best interests of the children even as family circumstances change.
After a change in one parent’s behavior
Sometimes, the courts will limit how much parenting time they offer one adult. Maybe they didn’t have their own apartment yet and so could not host the children overnight. Perhaps they struggle with drug or alcohol issues that might lead to them neglecting the children. When one parent makes a concerted effort to improve their circumstances and become a better parent, that might lead to a successful modification request that gives them more parenting time.
On the other hand, a parent concerned because they see their ex engaging in abusive or negligent behavior toward the children may have no choice but to go back to the courts and ask for the courts to limit how much time their ex has with the children.
When the needs of the children change drastically
A custody order for a breastfed newborn will be substantially different than the custody order for a weaned 2-year-old. The needs of a child could change dramatically if they fall severely ill with a long-term condition or suffer an injury in a car crash. When the needs of the children in the family change, the custody order will have to shift as well to reflect those new circumstances.
Recognizing that your custody order no longer suits your children’s needs could lead to a modification hearing.