No matter how carefully thought-out you and your partner make your child support and custody arrangements, there may come a time when adjustments need to be made. The family courts acknowledge the need for issues that concern minor children to be flexible, and do allow for those changes when the circumstances are persuasive enough. For more information about the compelling reasons for requesting a change and how this change may be implemented, read on.
While family law courts do see a need to occasionally allow a support or custody order to be altered, in general they are quite reluctant to make changes unless you can show a very good reason for that change. When considering issues to bring before the judge, you and your ex-spouse should keep a very important tenet in mind: the best interest of the child. Petitioning the courts for changes that primarily benefit a parent will likely be denied, unless you can show proof that the former arrangements are unworkable due to a dramatic change in status from the original or previous order. Here are some common situations where you might be able to alter arrangements:
- Age of the child: Some states allow older children (tweens and teens) to have a say in custody and visitation arrangements, especially those who are demonstrating the need for more flexibility and independence.
- A parent remarries: If you can prove to the court that better (worse) living conditions for the child has been created through a new marriage, a change may be ordered.
- A move: A custodial parent is normally prevented from making a move that would prevent the non-custodial parent from being able to fulfill their visitation privileges, unless it can be shown that this move would benefit the child in a compelling manner. For example, the medical necessity to move closer to a specific hospital could override the rights of the other parent.
- An unsafe environment: Judges will take swift action to change custody and visitation orders when a parent is involved in criminal or drug activity. Allegations won't suffice, however; you must be prepared to show proof of wrong-doing.
- Death or incapacity (physical or mental) of a custodial parent.
- Income and health changes: A sudden change in work or health status could prompt a judge to, at least temporarily, alter a child support order.
Modifying the Agreement
If both parents agree on the changes needed, a request is submitted to a judge for approval. The judge will normally approve changes that take the best interests of the child into account that don't violate federal child support standards. When parents are not in agreement, a petition for a hearing must be filed with family court. A hearing must be held, with each side providing testimony.
Make sure to consult with a family law attorney like J. Scott Braden for more information and support when the need arises to make a change in your child support, visitation or custody arrangements.