One of the most difficult parts for any family going through a divorce or separation process is the determination of child custody arrangements. The split of one household into two requires that both children and parents maintain connections with one another, which requires legal arrangements to dictate when, how often and where the children spend time with either parent.
A standard divorce decree establishes firm guidelines as to each parent’s custody rights. However, these arrangements are not permanent by nature.
How the courts determine child custody
The court will determine a custody arrangement largely by considering what circumstances are in the best interests of the child. The courts consider a wide variety of factors, including each parent’s availability, willingness to maintain a relationship with the other parent, parental fitness, involvement in the child’s life prior to proceedings, the child’s needs and the proximity of each home to the child’s existing friends, school and community.
How to modify child custody orders
Until a modification of child custody arrangements occurs within a court of law, or until the child reaches the age of 18, both parents must adhere to the established order. However, marital changes, health issues, shifts in income, relocation and changes in the child’s needs can all prompt a change to an existing arrangement.
To alter a custody order, one or both parents must file a custody modification request that details why a change to the arrangement would be in the child’s best interests. A judge will review the request and, if necessary for the child’s wellbeing, modify an order.