When a parent desires to legally change the custody or visitation arrangements of his/her child (or children), there are generally two options. One, the parents may enter into a written agreement whereby both parents are agreeing to a change in the child’s living arrangements or visitation schedule. Two, the parent seeking to modify or change the child’s custodial arrangements may initiate legal proceedings bringing the matter before the court for determination. Regardless of whether the parties have a child custody agreement or there is an existing court order establishing custodial rights, child custody may always be modified by a court having jurisdiction over the child.
Relocation, change of employment, remarriage, a desire to spend more time with the child, and parental conflicts are a few of the common reasons that a parent may seek to modify child custody. However, in order to persuade a judge to modify a permanent custody order, the parent seeking to modify the child’s custodial arrangements must show that a substantial change of circumstances has occurred affecting the welfare of the child since the entry of the most recent court order, and that a change in custody is in the best interests of the child. In other words, if a parent contends that his/her change of employment is a basis to modify custody, that parent would need to establish how the change of employment directly affects the minor child. For example, a parent’s change of employment may mean that that parent no longer has to travel extensively or work a late shift and the parent has the desire and ability to spend more time with the child.
If a party initiates legal proceedings, prior to a judge hearing the matter of child custody, the parties will have an opportunity to participate in free mandatory mediation so that they may attempt to resolve the matter between themselves. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement at mediation, the matter will proceed to court for hearing before a judge. When making a decision in a child custody matter, the judge will be guided by the paramount standard of what is in the best interests of the child.
Trial judges have considerable discretion in making decisions in child custody and other family related matters. This wide discretion underscores the importance of having an experienced and competent family law attorney representing you and advocating on your behalf. Daphne Edwards and her Family Law Team focus exclusively on family related legal matters, as well as appeals. We are a boutique family law and criminal defense firm that is highly qualified and dedicated to giving your matter the individual and personal attention we believe all clients deserve.