The decision to modify your child custody agreement should not be made lightly. After all, children thrive on structure and security, and altering their custody schedule can throw their world into flux.
But a custody agreement that is no longer working doesn't reflect your child's best interests. The challenge is determining which circumstances justify petitioning the court for a modification.
The following guidelines may be helpful to parents struggling to decide whether to modify their child custody agreements.
- The agreement no longer works for the parties
If you split up when your child was age 4 and he is now 12, it's unrealistic to expect those arrangements will suffice going forward. Adolescence is a time when kids develop many outside interests. Your custody agreement likely doesn't factor in the time your son spends at practices, games and other extracurricular activities.
- You're concerned your child is at risk with the other parent
If you have been divorced from your ex for awhile, their lifestyle may have altered significantly. Maybe they now spend all of their spare time at the corner bar or have developed a drug habit. Or perhaps their new partner has introduced the threat of domestic violence into the home. These are all valid reasons to change the custody agreement to keep your child safe.
- One parent relocates from the area
Life happens. Jobs change and people get transferred to other regions. Your old custody agreement doesn't reflect these new circumstances and needs to be tweaked.
- Noncompliance by one parent with the custody terms
Everyone's wires can get crossed from time to time regarding the custody schedule, but if your ex repeatedly violates the terms of the agreement by not having the child available for the custody exchange, it might be time to revisit the matter in court.
If you are unsure whether or not you have grounds to petition the court to modify your custody order, address your concerns with your Orange County family law attorney.