Child custody arrangements are often a significant source of disagreement in any divorce negotiation involving children. Even if both parties initially agree on a custody plan, changing circumstances may result in the need for modification to the original arrangement. Fortunately, the court system has recognized that custody plans must be easily altered to suit the changing needs of the children, and have provided a means of making the necessary changes.
There are a variety of reasons why a child custody arrangement may need to be altered. If one parent moves a long distance away, for example, it may mean he or she will no longer be able to visit the child as frequently as before. This could result in a custody plan changing from one in which both parents enjoy custody on alternating weeks to one in which one parent has custody during the school year, and the other during the months of summer vacation. As the children grow older they may also require different types of care that can best be provided by a change in the custody arrangement. The remarriage of one or both former spouses may also prompt the renegotiation of the child custody arrangement.
Whatever the reason for a child custody alteration, the first step to making a change in the custody arrangement is to demonstrate that a change in circumstances has occurred since the original custody plan was drawn up. Even though it is common for child custody arrangements to be changed, the courts have recognized that it is generally in the best interests of the child to have a stable custody plan in place.
Once it has been shown that a change in circumstances has taken place, the parents may either come to an agreement on their own or, if they cannot agree, may ask the court to intervene. If it is necessary for the court to become directly involved, it is likely that the parents will first be referred to a mediator who will attempt to resolve any differences and create a new custody plan that is acceptable to all parties. If the mediator is able to craft a new custody plan it will be presented in writing to a judge, who will make it a court order by signing the document. Even though mediation is useful in many cases, the parties may still be unable to come to an agreement. In this case they will attend a hearing before a judge, who will consider the evidence presented by both sides before deciding whether or not the existing custody arrangement should be altered. Any proposed alteration will be examined by the judge using the standard of what is in the best interest of the child.
Due to the uncertainties inherent in raising children, child custody arrangements are rarely seen as permanent. Although it is possible to negotiate a change in a custody plan on your own, consulting with an experienced family law attorney before entering into any new agreement will provide peace of mind to any parent concerned about protecting their custodial rights. Contact the family law attorneys of DiPietro Family Law Group by calling (888) 530-4374 to schedule a consultation today.