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Modifying a child custody order

Court-ordered child custody may seem as though it is set in stone. The judge presiding over the case often goes through careful consideration when making decisions as to where children should reside, and whether sole or joint custody is best for the particular situation. However, life changes happen and the original terms of the child custody order may require modification to keep the child’s best interests in mind. One parent may choose to move a distance away, gets remarried, becomes incarcerated, finds new employment or is no longer able to care for the child. Any of these situations may be grounds to change a joint child custody order to sole custody.

When a parent files for modification of child custody, he or she must show that there has been a change in circumstances and that the original parenting arrangement is no longer the most beneficial plan for the child. Whether the parents agree on the purposed custody change or do not, the parent filing for the change must fill out a Request for Order form and file it with the court clerk. Parents are often required to go through an orientation, and then mediation to discuss what is best for the child. The third-party mediator presiding over the session will help the parents create a new parenting plan. If parents cannot, the case may be turned over to a judge for further consideration.

It is vital that a child maintain a positive relationship with both parents, and that usually means spending time with each parent. In some cases, such as when a parent moves far away, the judge may have to change a joint custody order to sole custody. 

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