Life naturally changes and evolves, and you should be able to change and evolve also. Your current child custody order should not hold you or your child back from making the natural changes that come with life. If the child custody order that is currently in place is no longer workable, you can seek the legal services of a family law attorney and make modifications to the child custody order that is currently in place.
Once the current child custody order has been in place for at least a year, it is easier to qualify to make a modification to the child custody order rather than attempting to make the modification within the first year of the implementation of the order. While you can make modifications to a child custody order within the first year in some specific circumstances, if you are past the first year of implementation the standard is lower than that which must be met in a modification that takes place less than a year from entry. When a modification is filed a year or longer after the entry of the previous order, one of the following will need to be established:
- the circumstances of the subject child, a conservator, or other person affected by the child custody order that is currently in place have materially and substantially changed since it was implemented;
- the child who is the subject of the suit is at least twelve years of age and that child tells the judge who they want to live with; or
- the person who has primary care and custody of the child according to the current order has allowed someone else to have primary care and custody of the child for at least six months, excluding if this relinquishment of care and custody was due to active military duty.
Material and substantial changes are specific to each case, but often involve the remarriage or relocation of one or both parents, conservators, or guardians. A material and substantial change may also include a developing medical condition for a parent or the subject child or a significant change in the work schedule of one or both parents, conservators, or guardians.
A modification must be filed with the court and can make changes to the child support or possession and access that is currently in place through a child custody order. The child custody modification must be filed in the same county where the current child custody order was implemented. That court will have continuing jurisdiction.
If the child has lived in a different county for at least six months a family law attorney can help you file a motion to transfer in order to get the modification transferred to the county where the child currently resides. The modification must also be filed by a qualifying person. Qualifying people are:
- either parent;
- someone listed as a party in the current order;
- someone who has had actual care and control of the child for at least six months not ending more than ninety days before the date the modification is filed (who is not a foster parent of the child); or
- someone who has lived with the child’s parent, guardian, or conservator for at least six months not ending more than ninety days before the date the modification is filed and said parent, guardian, or conservator has died.
A family member such as a grandparent, great-grandparent, or sibling may also file a child custody modification if:
- both parents have passed away;
- both parents or the surviving parent or managing conservator agree with the modifications being sought; or
- the subject child’s present circumstances will significantly harm the child’s physical health or emotional development.
An accomplished attorney can help you determine if you qualify to file a child custody modification and then help you start the process of filing the motion if you do qualify. They can explain your rights and the options available to you. The attorneys can assist you in achieving your goals.
If the party who did not file the child custody modifications agrees to the changes being sought, the process can go relatively smoothly. There are forms that can be signed by both parties and then the judge can review the modifications and as long as they are in the best interest of the child the judge can sign off on the modifications and implement the new child custody order. If the other party does not agree to the child custody modification being sought the process has a few more steps. A judge will conduct a hearing regarding the child custody modification and then decide if they will grant the modifications. In making their decision they will keep the best interest of the child in mind. It is important to show that not only do you qualify to make the child custody modification, but the changes are also in the best interest of the child.