When Will a Court Approve the Modification of Child Custody?
Navigating the world as a divorced parent is full of ongoing challenges, both to meet the child’s needs and to keep a civil and functioning relationship with the former spouse. Sharing child custody is a balancing act of protecting the rights of each parent and keeping the child safe and secure. Once a plan is established, courts do not readily grant changes unless big shifts have occurred in recognition of the child’s need for stability and consistency. Once a child is integrated into a routine, modifying the terms to meet the request of a parent can be highly disruptive and cause negative effects for the child socially and psychologically. However, sometimes these changes are necessary, but not only will courts closely scrutinize any request to modify child custody closely, only certain issues are considered significant enough to potentially justify new child custody terms. Keisha Knight Pulliam and her ex-husband, former NFL player, Ed Hartwell, are battling over custody of their young daughter, but a judge recently denied Hartman’s request to alter the custody arrangements based on claims of mistake by the court and denial of visitation. This issue is highly complicated and volatile, and an experienced family law attorney should be involved to ensure rights are appropriately protected.
When Is Modification Permitted?
The standard governing the modification of child custody orders is relatively succinct but vague. Modification is allowed whenever the best interests of the child call for new arrangements. The best interests of the child is an open-ended inquiry, based on the evaluation of many factors, on how to best protect the safety and wellbeing of the child. This means courts have wide discretion to make this decision, and are generally assessing the current risk of harm, the child’s level of stability in the current environment, and how well the parents cooperate.
Circumstances Typically Required
Although the parameters for granting a child custody modification are largely left to the courts, family court judges generally look for certain circumstances or issues when considering these petitions to determine if there is a real need to change the present plan. Some of the issues more commonly accepted as grounds to modify child custody include:
- The child is stressed by the current arrangement, and one parent wants to reduce the time between homes to promote more stability;
- A danger of abuse or neglect of the child by the other parent, a housemate, partner, or other family member;
- Relocating with the child, particularly out-of-state;
- A parent is no longer able to meet the needs of the child due to unemployment, or alternatively, has an inability to balance childcare and fulltime work;
- The other parent is not cooperating with the current custody arrangement, causing instability for the child; or
- One parent dies, and the non-custodial parent wants to obtain full custody to prevent a spouse or other family member from gaining rights to raise the child.
Modifying child custody orders is very fact specific, and a family law attorney is best equipped to know how to present a case to convince a judge change is necessary.
Speak to a Pennsylvania Family Law Attorney
If you have questions about your child custody case, get the information you need to protect your parental rights and guard your child’s welfare. The Media child custody attorneys at the office of Barbara Flum Stein & Associates know the obstacles you face with modifying and enforcing child custody orders, and are ready to discuss your case and offer options to get the results you want. Contact the Delaware County family law firm today at (610) 565-6100 to schedule a consultation.