For divorced parents, sharing custody time of your children often is a struggle, especially as children get older and are spending more time with friends and being involved in extracurricular activities. However, how do you know when you might need a court-ordered custody modification? And when might you be successful when you file for one?
First, if the court sees your current custody order as working for all parties, it’s unlikely it will allow a custody order modification. Courts want what’s in your child’s best interests and for your child’s way of life not to change significantly over contested custody issues. Courts also want divorced parents to work out custody sharing changes outside of legal proceedings.
However, in some cases, you might need a child custody modification. These include the following:
A child’s safety is at risk
- If your former spouse is a domestic abuser or an active drug or alcohol user. If you can show the child is in imminent danger being with the other parent, the court is more likely to grant a custody modification.
- When a child is unwilling to go to the home of the other parent because they are afraid for their safety. While in Missouri a child needs to be 18 to decide which parent to live with, he or she can let the court know at a younger age that they are afraid to stay with one parent. A judge will decide on whether their fear has merit.
Either parent moves
If either parent moves far enough away to make shared custody possible, then courts will consider a child custody modification. As part of that, the court evaluates the following:
- Who is relocating
- Whether the current visitation schedule is possible because of the distance between parental homes
- Whether parents have tried to rework the visitation schedule
- Whether the child’s life will be interrupted by the modification (if he or she will have to change schools, lose friends or lose out on participating in former extracurricular activities)
When your ex ignores agreed-upon visitation schedule
If your ex has been ignoring the agreed-upon visitation plan, a court will evaluate the following in a child custody modification:
- If the child’s parents have reached an agreement on the modification
- The reasons a parent didn’t follow the custody agreement
- What the communication is like between the parents
Death of a parent
Obviously, if one parent dies, a custody modification order will change. The court will decide if you now get full custody of a child or if a third party will assume custody.
If you feel you need a child custody modification, consult an experienced family law attorney. They can help you best prepare your case to get the best visitation schedule for your child.