When parents divorce or separate, they often have a child visitation or child custody arrangement. This can be a mutually agreed arrangement between the two parents or a court-directed custody order. However, it is important to note that custody and visitation are not always cast in stone.
An existing custody order can be amended either through mutual consent or via a court order. To be legally binding, the amended custody order must be presented to the court for approval. Often, the court will allow modification of a child custody order under the following circumstances.
When the child is in danger
During the custody trial, the court will always take the child’s best interest into account when awarding custody and visitation rights. However, if one parent is engaging in activities, or a lifestyle that endangers the life of the child, then the court will not hesitate to review and modify the existing custody order. Activities like substance abuse, prostitution or criminal activities can warrant a review and possible modification of the existing custody order.
When circumstances have changed significantly
Sometimes, a custody order can start out quite simple before getting increasingly complicated over time. If the circumstances of the parties have changed, you might want to petition the court for modification. Some things that may justify a change in circumstances, and hence modification of the custody order, include:
- If the custodial parent has remarried or is cohabiting with another lover
- If a parent is planning to relocate
- Evidence of drug and substance abuse
- If one parent is violating the existing custody order
- If a parent has taken rehabilitation and parenting classes
The child custody order is a living document. When parents divorce or separate, they may enter into a custody arrangement that serves the child’s best interest. However, if circumstances change, one or both parents may petition the court for custody modification.