Child custody modifications and how to seek them: Part I

Many parents who go through a divorce and child custody dispute are left feeling defeated when everything has been finalized. This is especially true for parents who did not receive primary custody.

But it’s important to remember that a finalized child custody agreement is not necessarily a permanent one. As time goes on and circumstances change, child custody orders can be modified. This can occur either as the result of a consent order or a motion filed with the courts.

The consent order is essentially an agreement to change the current agreement. Say, for instance, that a child has been living primarily with his mom. As he enters into his teenage years, he decides that he would prefer to live with his dad most of the time. His mom and dad may discuss the matter and agree to honor his wishes.

They will formalize their new arrangement in a consent decree showing that both parties agreed to make the change. The consent decree is then as enforceable as the original custody agreement.

The other way to modify a custody agreement is through the courts. One parent can file a motion to modify the custody agreement, often seeking sole custody or primary custody. In order to modify the current arrangement, however, the parent filing the motion has to demonstrate that such a modification is warranted due to a “substantial change in circumstances.”

Please check back later this week as we continue our discussion. We’ll talk about what constitutes a “substantial change” and how an experienced family law attorney can help you either seek a change in custody or defend against one.

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