You and your ex-spouse have a child custody order in place, but it’s just not working for you. Perhaps you want to see more of your child but your ex-refuses to consider it. You have tried talking to your ex, but he or she is not interested in discussing the matter. Is there anything you can do? Can you have child custody arrangements changed?
The answer is… maybe. Technically, child custody can be modified at any point before your child reaches age 18. Generally speaking, however, a court usually only considers modification if circumstances change and they believe modification is necessary and in the best interests of the child.
When might the court consider modifying child custody?
Obviously, if your child is in immediate danger in his or her current living situation, this would be one of the main reasons a court would consider a child custody modification. If a child has expressed unwillingness to remain in the home of one parent, the court will assess whether current living arrangement puts the child at immediate risk of physical or emotional harm.
A child’s well-being and best interests are almost always the primary consideration when it comes to child custody. However, as part of that well-being, a stable environment plays a role. Because of this, a court might take any significant change of circumstances into consideration when determining a modification of custody or visitation.
Common reasons to request a modification
If the other parent has not passed away (since modification obviously becomes necessary when a parent dies), some other reasons the court may consider a modification request include:
- Either parent’s physical relocation
- A substantial increase in your child’s age
- Your ex repeatedly refusing to abide by the established visitation schedule
Either parent’s physical relocation
If either you or your ex is hoping to relocate to a far-away location, such as a different state, the court will look into a modification. Usually, the court will take into consideration factors including whether the move will make the existing visitation schedule impossible and how the move will impact your child’s life (such as an interruption to existing schooling and religious upbringing and after-school or sporting activity involvement).
A substantial increase in your child’s age
As your child gets older, his or her emotional needs might change. This type of modification is usually based on your child’s preference when, as an adolescent or teen, he or she begins to have problems with your ex-spouse or desires to develop a stronger relationship with the non-custodial parent. While no state allows the child to outright choose a parent, the focus of these modification cases is usually whether the reasons for the child’s preference are realistic.
Your ex repeatedly refuses to abide by the visitation schedule
The court may consider a child custody modification if one parent will not cooperate with the agreed-upon visitation schedule or if the custodial parent frequently or continually refuses visitation by the non-custodial parent. They will take into account such factors as to why the current visitation schedule is not being followed, as well as communication between the parents and whether an agreement regarding a parenting plan can be reached.
What should I do?
Before considering taking a child custody case to court, you may want to attempt to work out an agreement with your ex that is acceptable to everyone. Child custody can usually be more easily modified if both parents are amenable to the proposed changes. Parents who cannot agree may also benefit from mediation or arbitration. If you are hoping to modify current child custody arrangements, a North Carolina family law attorney with experience in custody cases can offer insight into the approaches that might work best for you and your child.