Divorced and separated parents establish a custody arrangement to determine where their minor children will live and who is responsible for decisions regarding their children’s lives. These court-ordered agreements dictate a firm schedule and set of rights and responsibilities for each parent when it comes to their children.
However, child custody orders are not permanent, fixed arrangements. In many cases, it is necessary to modify a custody arrangement for the best interests of the children and their families as a whole.
Child custody basics
Parents may assume two forms of custody, physical and legal, which are either split or shared equally between two households or granted primarily to one parent. Physical custody refers to where the children live, determined by how many nights they spend in one or both households, while legal custody refers to parents’ right to make decisions regarding their children’s health, education, religion and other aspects of their wellbeing.
These arrangements take several shapes, with varying combinations of joint, split and sole custody situations for both legal and physical aspects of child custody.
Common custody modifications
In order to restructure a custody arrangement, one or both parents must cite a valid reason for a requested modification. Common reasons for modifications include:
- Parental relocation or remarriage
- Child endangerment
- Criminal charges or convictions
- Health or financial status changes
- A change in the child’s needs
- Substance abuse
- Parental alienation
Whether the courts grant a modification depends on whether a change to the agreement is for the children’s best interests. The courts consider how a modified order might impact the children’s current lifestyle, relationships and family dynamics, and make a decision that will best serve their needs.