Understanding How and When a Child Custody Order can be Modified

One of the most important orders that issues in a divorce case involves child custody. Historically, child custody orders tended to be hotly contested between the parties to a divorce case. Because of the fact that custody of minor children born of marriage really impacts these children in a significant sense, courts have taken steps over the course of the past decade to reduce the conflict that oftentimes surrounded a determination of an appropriate custody order.

An area in which in an effort has been made to avoid unnecessary conflict between parents who are divorcing or who have divorced centers around modifications of child custody orders. As a matter of policy, courts desire that there be a sense of stability and constancy when it comes to child custody orders. Therefore, courts have gravitated towards limiting the instances in which a child custody order can be modified, towards restricting when an order providing for the custody of children born of a marriage can be altered.

With this in mind, in order for a parent to be able to prevail in altering or amending a child custody order that parent will need to demonstrate what is known as a “material change in circumstances.” In other words, there needs to be a demonstration in the circumstances surrounding a custody order that is so profound it literally in and of itself suggests that a modification of an outstanding custody order necessarily needs to be undertaken.

A material change of circumstances can be considered to have occurred if the custodial parent is considering a move out of the jurisdiction of the court and where the non-custodial parent resides. In a good number of instances when the custodial parent is intending to move out of the jurisdiction (out of state) the presiding court will look closely at the prospect of altering the custodial arrangement.

Other examples of material change of circumstances that may warrant an alteration of the custodial arrangement in regard to the children born of the marriage can include a situation in which the custodial parent ends up having an issue with alcohol or drugs. Sadly, in this day and age a significant number of custodial issues arise in instances in which a parent is confronting a problem pertaining to alcohol or drug usage. Again, the underlying situation in which a change of custody becomes warranted needs to be something very serious and profound.

In the final analysis, courts will not alter a custodial arrangement involving minor children on a whim. There really must be a profound reason as to why a child custody order should be altered. In the absence of agreement between the parents in regard to custody of children, a clear demonstration will need to be made that carrying forth with the current custodial arrangement will not satisfy the best interests of the children themselves or will prevent the non-custodial parent from being able to have a meaningful relationship with those children.

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