When the relationship is over and the couple decides to divorce, one of the most important issues the court will litigate and make a ruling on is child custody. Ideally, the court will encourage the divorcing couple to work out a parenting plan that works for everyone involved.
However, it is important to understand that a custody order is a living document; one that can be subjected to modification in the best interest of the child. But, when exactly can a custody order be modified?
Here are two questions the family court will ask when assessing the validity of a custody modification request.
Is the child in danger?
Since every aspect of the custody arrangement revolves around the child’s best interest, child endangerment is one of the most compelling reasons why the court will modify an existing custody arrangement. If either parent is exposing the child to danger, the court will substantially limit their contact with the child. Abusive behaviors that can justify endangerment include:
- Physical, psychological, sexual and emotional abuse
- Placing the child in situations that make them susceptible to abuse like the use of hard drugs in the presence of the child
Is the other parent violating a custody order?
When a custody arrangement is arrived at, either following a mutual agreement or through the court’s directive, both parties are bound by its terms. If the other party is not respecting the custody arrangement, say not allowing you to see the child when you should or not returning the child after the visitation, then you can petition for custody modification. Of course, a one-off incident of missed visitation or a delay in returning the baby can be addressed without involving the court. However, if the behavior is persistent even after raising your concerns, then you need to take the matter to court.
A child custody order is a binding order. Find out how you can negotiate a child custody order that works for both parties while addressing the child’s best interest.