Divorce is among the biggest life changes that many people will experience. However, changes continue to occur after divorce. Some may be significant enough to require modifications to existing orders regarding child custody or an existing parenting plan.
One parent may wish to move far enough away that adhering to the existing custody and visitation plan is no longer possible. This may occur due to a new job or a new marriage. Whether the parent seeking to relocate is the custodial parent or noncustodial parent, he or she must file for a modification to the existing custody order.
Restrictions and requirements
Any request to modify custody or visitation must meet the same “best interest of the child” standard that was used to determine the existing order. Such requests may stem from a change in one parent’s work schedule, evidence of substance abuse or other criminal behavior by either parent, relocation by a parent that impacts their time with the child, or evidence that the child is struggling to adapt to a new home or school.
If your current custody or visitation order was established less than two years ago, you must present substantial evidence that the modification is necessary because the child is in imminent danger of being harmed physically or emotionally. For custody and visitation orders that were issued more than two years ago, the petitioning party still must show that the requested change is in the best interest of the child.
A modification request must be filed with the court, and a copy of the motion must be presented to the child’s other parent. Even if both parties agree to a proposed change, it must be approved by the court. If the child’s other parent does not agree with a proposed modification, the parties may be required to participate in mediation to seek a resolution. Ultimately, the court will determine whether a disputed modification petition is approved.
Protecting the child
The court may order a guardian ad litem to represent the best interests of your child. The guardian ad litem is an attorney who is trained in this area of the law. The guardian ad litem may speak with the child, the parents, grandparents, the child’s teachers, or other people in the child’s life prior to making a recommendation to the court.
Filing a request to modify an existing custody or visitation plan is a complex matter. Whether you are seeking to modify an existing order or wish to block a modification petition, it is wise to enlist the help of an experienced family law attorney.