As in life, situations and circumstances surrounding child custody change on a daily basis. An individual may think that once a custody agreement is in place it cannot be altered, but this is not true. Modifications may be made to the custody arrangement as long as the changes are in the best interest of the child. Perhaps the custody arrangement agreed to was suitable for an infant, but the same child requires significantly different care as a teenager. Perhaps the custodial parent accepted a job out of state and is planning to move soon. No matter the situation, a family law attorney will be able to help decide if a Modification of Child Custody is the right option for your family.
While there are a number of reasons a judge may grant a custody modification, the important thing to remember is that any modification will affect the life of the child involved. In order for a judge to change the custody agreement, it must be proven that the benefit of a major custodial change is worth the disruption of the child’s known routine.
Reasons for Custody Modification
There are numerous reasons why one party of a custody arrangement may seek to modify the arrangement. Some of these reasons may cause a judge to order an immediate hearing on the current custody arrangement. If an individual feels their child is in immediate danger for reasons such as abuse, the custodial parent’s mental health, or alcoholism or drug addiction, a court may investigate the claims and modify custody for the safety and best interest of the child. Another cause for a swift change to a custody arrangement is the sudden death of one of the parties; if the child’s primary custodian dies, the other party may be given the primary custody of the child.
Emergency situations aren’t the only reason to modify a custody arrangement. Significant changes in the circumstances of one or both parents may be enough to modify the custody of a child; relocation of a person, a new career with significantly different hours, or a drastic cut in household income are a few substantial changes that could initiate a modification to a custody arrangement. Depending on your custody situation, your child’s wants and needs may be a reason to modify your custody agreement. What was best for your child as an infant may not be best for your child as they grow. In the state of Alabama there is no certain age where a child’s decision is considered; rather, the judge looks at the maturity of the child, not the age. For example, if a sixteen-year-old child states that they feel happier, healthier, and safer at their non-custodial parent’s home, a judge could take this child’s wishes into account and place him or her with the other party.
What does the court consider?
The judge will consider all facts presented scrupulously before making any decision involving a child. The home environment of the child is extremely important. The judge wants to see that the child will be well-fed, clothed, safe, and happy. Each parent’s character and stability may come into account as well. A parent who has consistent income, work hours, and romantic relationships will be seen as a stable and consistent provider. A judge will also look at both parents’ willingness to work with the other. Cooperation with the other parent may seem impossible, but a willingness to co-parent is always viewed favorably in courts. Finally, any drug or alcohol abuse is highly frowned upon. Before many custody cases, one or both parties may be asked to submit to drug testing to prove the absence of drugs.
How to Modify Custody
There are three scenarios presented most often in child custody modification: both parties agree on the modification, the custodial and non-custodial parents can agree on most but not all of the modification, or neither party can come to an agreement. If both parents agree on the modification for child custody, it is usually simple and can be done without a court appearance. This is sometimes called a Joint Petition to Modify. An individual simply needs to petition the court for a modification of custody; as long as the other parent agrees to the change, then this can be a simple and easy process.
In some cases, both parties cannot completely agree, but can agree on most changes needed to the child’s custody arrangement. In this situation, mediation might be the right option. During mediation, both parties must be willing to work together to provide the best custody schedule for the child. In almost all situations, mediation is a give-and-take: both parties must be willing to concede some demands in order for it to work. If neither party cannot agree at all, hiring a family law and divorce attorney in Birmingham or Huntsville is the best option. The litigation process usually ends with a judge listening to both parties and then deciding which request is in the best interest of the child.
Attorney Steven A. Harris regularly blogs in the areas of family law, bankruptcy, and real estate closings on this website. He is always available in any of the firm’s offices or by phone anytime for a consultation. Mr. Harris tries to provide informative information to the public in easily digestible formats. Hopefully you enjoyed this article and feel free to supply any feedback. We appreciate our readers and love to hear from you!