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Custody modification and substantial change requirements

Sharing custody of a child after divorce can be a difficult transition for any parent. However, parents and children will eventually find a new normal.

However, it may not be long until things change and one or both parents want to modify the existing agreement. In these situations, it can be important to understand when modification may be necessary and how the courts will consider such requests.

When is modification appropriate?

Because changing a custody or visitation agreement can result in instability and confusion, courts do not take modification actions lightly. Typically, they will only approve modification if it is in the child's best interest and reflects a substantial change in circumstances.

Parents must note the change in their motion to modify the custody or visitation order, so it is crucial to know what might constitute a "substantial change in circumstances." Substantial changes can include:

  • Parental involvement in toxic behaviors or relationships
  • Out-of-state or international relocation of a parent
  • Significant improvement or deterioration in a parent's physical or emotional health
  • Repeated or significant interference with custody by one parent
  • Instances of domestic violence
  • Changes in a child's wishes

These are just some of the examples that could prove to be significant enough to warrant a change in an existing custody order. Note that they also have the potential to greatly affect a child's well-being, too.

Proper modification practices

It is not wise to change a custody order yourself or dismiss the orders of a court. Doing so can have legal repercussions and create problems in terms of enforcing the original custody order. Further, parents who do not secure court-approved modification could be putting their own child in danger.

Instead, parents should pursue the appropriate and legitimate channels for requesting modification. If you have concerns about how to do this, or if you are unsure of meeting the "substantial change" requirement, you can discuss your legal options with an attorney.

Securing a custody modification can be crucial in helping parents continue raising a child together in a positive environment. Though it can take time to adjust to any changes in custody, it can be much easier when the adjustment is justified and protects a child's best interests.

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Raleigh, NC 27615

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