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5 Reasons a Judge Will Change Custody

Court orders always feel final. Fortunately, our judicial system understands that life changes frequently and unexpectedly, and judges may modify orders if that is what is fair and appropriate—especially when the matter involves children.

If you and your child’s other parent got a divorce, but the original custody order is no longer working for you, you may be able to modify the order if you have enough evidence that this is what is best for your child. A modification may be possible even if your ex-spouse does not agree with you.

Alternatively, your ex-spouse may be hoping to modify the custody order against your wishes. In this case, you will likely have the opportunity to argue your case and protect the best interests of your children. According to the North Carolina Judicial Branch, the parent seeking a modification will need to prove that there has been a “substantial change in circumstances,” and a custody order modification is necessary to serve the child’s best interests.

Let’s take a look at 5 common reasons a judge will change a custody order. Keep in mind, however, that this is not a comprehensive list, and the unique factors of your situation will require personalized counsel and advocacy from a seasoned attorney.

1. The Child’s Needs Have Changed

One of the reasons why custody order modifications are relatively common is that children’s needs evolve as they get older. For example, a child may have needed as much stability as possible when they were very young, but they can now handle frequent visitation. Or they might have a new extracurricular activity that fits better with the other parent’s work schedule. They could also have different educational needs that the other parent is better suited to support.

There is the possibility that the child develops an emotional, mental, or physical disability, and one of the parents is better suited at caring for them. The parent wishing for the change will need to file the motion to modify and prove that the changes to the child are substantial.

2. One or Both of the Parents’ Circumstances Have Changed

In order for a judge to approve a modification of custody orders there must be a "substantial change of circumstances". This does not mean that the parent and child are all of a sudden not getting along. This essentially means that the change is permanent, not temporary. Examples of substantial changes of circumstances include:

  • One or both parents loses their job
  • A permanent change in lifestyle that will impact the best interests of the child
  • One of the parents experiences a physical, emotional, or mental health issue
  • One of the parents becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol

Not all changes of circumstances are negative though. One parent may be ready to be more involved in their child’s life after recovering from alcoholism.

3. The Custodial Parent Moves

Some custody agreements will prohibit the custodial parent from moving out of state, or the custodial parent may simply need to give the other parent notice of the move ahead of time. Regardless, some moves even within these parameters will require an order modification. This is because moving does not automatically warrant a modification of orders.

If the non-custodial parent wants to modify the custody order because the other parent moved, they will need to prove that:

  • The non-custodial parent will now have a much more difficult time adhering to the current custody and visitation schedule; or
  • The move is significantly impacting the child’s life

Keep in mind that physical relocation does not automatically warrant a custody modification. The result of the modification petition will depend on how significantly the move affects the child and/or non-custodial parent.

4. One Parent Is Ignoring the Terms of the Current Custody Order

Whether or not both of you personally agree with the original order, you are both legally obligated to comply with its terms.

From refusing to return the child home to going on trips without giving notice to the other parent, custody order violations of any degree are serious. The parent who is not violating the order may be able to obtain an order modification if they can prove that these violations are affecting the child’s welfare.

In addition to requesting an order modification, the parent who is not violating the order might file for contempt. If this motion is successful, the parent who is found in contempt of court may need to pay a fine or even go to prison.

You will have to provide evidence to the court and give ample time in doing so. This can become complicated, so it's critical that you consult with our child custody attorney. We can guide you in the right direction that will value both you and your child's best interests.

5. The Child Is No Longer Safe

The child’s safety is, of course, paramount. A judge may limit or even terminate a parent’s custodial rights if that parent is endangering their child in any way.

Examples of endangerment include:

  • Abuse: This can come in the forms of physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, or psychological.
  • Immediate Danger: This includes any actions or inactions by the parent that allow the child to be put in danger.
  • Drug Abuse: Any substance or alcohol abuse that puts the child in danger or is classified as a negative influence will not be tolerated.
  • Mental Health: These can include psychotic breaks, mental health hospitalizations, and unstable behavior.

If your child is in urgent danger, you may be able to get an emergency custody order, which grants temporary custody without the court having to hear from the other parent. You should also go to the police if you and your child need immediate support and protection.

What Our Law Firm Can Do for You

At Krusch Law, PLLC, our attorneys have decades of experience assisting clients with challenging family law matters. We have the skills needed to support you during this difficult time, and we will treat you with nothing less than the respect and compassion you deserve. We are fully prepared to step in and help you ensure your child has everything they need.

Call (704) 343-8811 or contact us online to schedule your initial consultation today.