A child custody order, whether agreed upon or issued by the court, is your go-to blue print. It outlines the scope and terms of both your legal and physical custody and is firm and binding unless otherwise modified. Just as children grow and change over the years, so can custody orders. The order you put in place when your child was three years old, may not suit his or her or your family’s lifestyle when that child is twelve years old.
Clients often come to my firm questioning themselves about whether or not to change their current order. I try to remind parents in that position that there may not be a simple answer, but if the benefits will help your family move forward and avoid unnecessary conflict, it can be beneficial. Here are some considerations to think about when deciding if modifying your custody order is the best move:
1. Have you talked to your child’s other parent? Depending on the type of communication and relationship you have with your child’s other parent, you may want to raise the subject of modification with him or her first. If you both agree to what you want to adjust, it can be as simple as bringing those terms to your attorney who can then draft an agreed stipulation to submit to the court. Obviously, if what you want to change is not well received, you will have to go through the more extensive court process, but it can never hurt to attempt a dialogue.
2. Is what I want to propose in my child’s best interest? Truly in your child’s best interest, not what would just be easier for you. Think about what your child needs at this current stage of life. If what you are proposing could make his or her life better, it may be smart to pursue. But, remember that modifications should not center around what you want- rather around what your child needs.
3. Can I back-up what I am asking for with legitimate reasoning? You are going to need to be prepared to answer why you want the change you are proposing. Often clients will say “because I just want my child with me” when I ask that very question. While that is a nice sentiment, it is not enough for the court to modify your order. An example of this legitimate reasoning could be that you want your child with you more during the school week because you know your child’s other parent gets the child to school late. You know that there have been multiple tardies recently and that you have a more flexible early morning schedule. You can easily find the school attendance record and speak to your child’s teacher to back up this assertion.
After thinking about the above, contact an experienced custody attorney like those at Petrelli Previtera Schimmel, LLC. Schedule your initial consultation today!