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3 reasons to re-think informal modifications to a custody order

Parents who share custody of a child know that flexibility can be crucial from time to time. There might be last-minute changes to a pick-up schedule or an isolated instance where parents agree to extend one person’s parenting time for a week. Being flexible can be in everyone’s best interest and keep a co-parenting arrangement amicable.

However, there is a difference between being flexible and making informal modifications to a custody order. While flexibility can be unavoidable and may be beneficial, informally modifying a court order can be detrimental to an arrangement. Below, we explain why.

It sets a dangerous precedent

Courts must approve custody orders to ensure the order protects a child’s best interests and parental rights. When people make changes to these orders, they can ultimately compromise either the child’s well-being or the rights of a parent.

Making changes might seem like small compromises at first, but over time, parties can wind up straying further away from the original order. Eventually, these adjustments can cause damage to a child or the relationship he or she has with either parent.

It causes confusion

Custody orders are critical in setting guidelines and expectations for parents and children. They help establish a new normal and create a sense of consistency, which can minimize confusion.

When parents regularly or significantly change custody plans, they create confusion for themselves and their children. As such, it is critical to make every effort to comply with the existing custody order, especially in the year or two immediately following a divorce.

It makes it difficult to enforce the order

Courts can only enforce legitimate court orders. This means that if you and the other parent have tweaked your order and the other person violates the new rules, the court may not be able to do anything about it if the violation does not also violate the original order. 

To avoid unnecessary conflict and unintended consequences when making changes to a custody order, parents should seek legal guidance and court approval, even when you both agree to modification.