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Child Support and Custody Modifications

Circumstances change, and while you may try your best to plan for the future the truth is that eventually, most child support, custody, and visitation orders need to be modified. This could be due to variations in income, the need to switch residences, or even just accommodate your children’s evolving educational and recreational requirements.

As long as you can provide adequate proof new orders are needed, most courts will grant modifications to child support, custody, and visitation through a simple motion or order filed by either parent.

 

When Can a Parent Modify Child Support?

 

Child support can be changed when one or both parents’ income has substantially changed, or the child’s own financial needs have increased (or decreased). In most cases, the party requesting a child support modification will have to provide documentation of income and a change in financial circumstances, including (but not limited to) tax returns, pay stubs, and records of other financial obligations.

Please keep in mind, that in several states, child support responsibilities are contingent upon child custody and visitation requirements. As a result, you may need to also modify your child custody arrangement and visitation orders when asking for a modification of child support.

 

How to Change a Child Support Order?

In order to change your child support order, you must file a request for modification with the court that originally granted your child support order. Even if both parties have agreed to a change in child support, a request for modification must still be filed with the court.

If the parties cannot come to an agreement, a hearing will most likely be scheduled to offer each side an opportunity to present their arguments regarding the child support modification. Generally speaking, a court will only grant a change to an existing child support order if one or both parents can demonstrate a significant change in financial circumstances. Each state has its own individual steps for calculating parental income and child support needs.

If you find yourself struggling with a temporary financial hardship, many courts will allow you to request a temporary (or short-term) child support modification. These temporary orders are usually granted for cases of unplanned unemployment or a child or parent’s medical emergency.

Regardless of your current circumstances, you don’t have to go it alone! The legal professionals at Family Court Direct are available to help you with all the paperwork required to modify your child support orders. Contact us today.

 

Modifying a Child Custody Order

 

A variety of factors can impact child custody and visitation, including remarriage, relocation, and changes to the child’s own school and extracurricular activity schedules. At any time before the child reaches the age of 18, either parent can petition the court to request a change to child custody and visitation.

In some states, if a child has reached a certain predetermined age (i.e. 16 years old), a court may also allow for the child to petition on their own to change child custody or support.

Child custody is generally divided into legal custody and physical custody.

Legal custody involves the right and responsibility to make decisions related to the child’s medical care, education, religion, and other child-rearing-related issues.

Physical custody, on the other hand, involves the parental right to have the child physically reside with the parent.  Physical custody can be either sole or joint custody.

Legal or physical custody (or both) can be changed by filing a request for modification with the court that originally granted the custody orders. Additionally, in some states, both parents can consent to a modification at any time, without the need from a formal order of the court. The ability to come to an agreement about custody and visitation without a formal court order will depend on the individual state laws and regulations.

 

When Can a Child Custody Order Be Modified?

Child custody and visitation can be modified at any time, as long as the court determines that the modification is “in the best interest of the child.”

Most of the time, the court will attempt to ensure that the child is provided with a safe and stable environment. In many states, the court will also balance the need for a “traditional family environment” against other factors such as the child’s age, the child’s primary residence, and school district, and whether the current or proposed living arrangement has any chance of exposing the child to physical or emotional harm.

If the parents cannot come to an agreement, a hearing date will be set so that both sides may appear and offer arguments in support of their individual custody and/or visitation requests.  Once the judge issues a decision, a new court order will be signed by the parties and become legally binding.

These new orders can be modified again in the future at any time, as long as the material and substantial changes in circumstances can be established by one or both parents.

 

Changes That Can Justify Modifying Child Custody or Support Order

 

In some instances, the judges may be more inclined to modify custody orders. For example, that can occur if one parent decides to physically move without notifying the other parent or the court.

The court can limit the ability of the custodial parent to relocate with the child as a part of a child custody order. Although the move itself may not be automatically considered a substantial reason to change child custody, the court may consider it. That would especially be the case if the relocation would make the current custody schedule difficult or even impossible and thus place a burden on the noncustodial parent.

Considering that the child’s best interests are the most important, putting a child’s life or well-being in danger can be one of the most compelling reasons for a judge to change custody.

These situations can include alcohol or substance abuse by a parent, severe mental health concerns, child abuse, or putting a child in danger of being abused by others. These circumstances and behaviors can endanger a child’s physical health and significantly impair their emotional development. They can also result in the court modifying or substantially limiting that parent’s rights to physical custody.

Though it can feel overwhelming, the truth is that the court is dedicated to protecting your child above all else. When it comes to custody and visitation, modifications can often be achieved quickly and easily. The  legal professionals at Family Court direct are here to help, so contact us today.