Divorce decrees and other child custody orders are never truly final, although the word “final” may be in the title: an Agreed Final Decree of Divorce, for example. When a child’s circumstances change or the circumstances of a parent changes, the court orders may be modified. Modifications may include the modification of custody arrangements, possession schedules and/or support arrangements.

In a situation where parents separate when their children are teenagers, a court order may never need to be modified, but if children are young when a court order is entered, one or more modifications may be needed along the way. Court orders put in place for a five-year-old child may not be in the best interest of a fifteen-year-old.

Sometimes one or both parents’ financial situations change so that the child support amount needs to be modified upward or downward. In other cases, one of the parents may get a job transfer and a child, who is a junior in high school, for example, may prefer to move in with their other parent so they can complete high school at the school in which they are currently enrolled rather than relocate along with the parent with whom they have been living. There are also emergency situations where a modification is needed such as when a parent is having mental health issues, including addiction, which are affecting their ability to take care of their children. As children get older, they may have the ability to express to the Judge their preferences about their custody arrangements and their parents’ possession schedules, although a child’s preference is never binding on the Judge.

Modification cases are rarely ever easy. The person asking for a modification to the existing order has the burden to prove that the circumstances of one or both parents or of the children have changed since the previous order was entered and that the requested modification is in the best interest of the children. Courts are generally resistant to modifying custody, possession and support orders without ample evidence of a change in circumstances.

Call or contact Carolyn with your questions or concerns. She will help resolve your family law issues.