If you’re a parent whose custody agreement isn’t working out, you probably already know that you have to have valid reasons to modify child custody… but what are those reasons, and what can you do if one of them applies?
Reasons to Modify Child Custody: The Basics
The court won’t grant your request to modify child custody if you can’t provide a valid reason for doing it. Typically, the courts favor an existing custody agreement over making changes – unless, of course, there’s been a significant change in your (or the other parent’s) circumstances.
Either parent can file a motion to modify child custody. The catch: The person filing for the change will have to show the court why it’s in the child’s best interest.
5 Common Reasons to Modify Child Custody
There are several reasons parents give for asking to modify an existing custody agreement. Some of the most common include when one parent:
- Needs to relocate because of work or personal reasons
- Is exercising religious practices that are harming the child
- Has put the child in a dangerous environment
- Is preventing the other parent from seeing the child
- Has failed or is failing to properly care for the child
Let’s take a closer look at each – and remember, these aren’t the only reasons a court can modify custody. There are dozens more, and every case is different.
Related: Grounds for full custody of a child
When a mom or dad needs to relocate – whether it’s for work or personal reasons – the parents may need to change the entire custody agreement. For example, if the child spends every other weekend with one parent, but that parent is moving out of state, it would be unreasonable to expect the custodial parent to make travel arrangements that frequently. It would probably be pretty hard on the child, too, depending on how far away the other parent was moving.
#2. Harmful Religious Practices
A judge won’t change custody because of one parent’s religion unless there’s proof of harm to the child. Dress codes, dietary restrictions and other activity restrictions aren’t usually big enough reasons to modify child custody. However, if there is proof of harm to the child – such as abuse or other issues – or when one parent threatens to take the child away to practice a particular religion (it happened in New York), the court may find that a change is in order.
#3. Putting the Child in a Dangerous Environment
If one parent puts the child in a dangerous environment – such as taking the child along to buy drugs or has an unsanitary and dangerous home (like in the case of hoarding) – the other parent may be able to ask the court to modify custody. There are several places and circumstances that can create a dangerous environment for kids. If you’re not sure whether something qualifies, talk to your Stockton custody lawyer about the situation. She’ll be able to help you sort things out.
If there’s a custody order in place, both parents are supposed to stick to it – it’s an official court order. However, when one parent prevents the other from seeing or spending time with the child, a modification might be necessary. This is extremely serious, and it’s harmful to the child (and everyone else involved). If this is going on in your situation, talk to an attorney about what you can do to help salvage your relationship with your child. You may also want to talk to a therapist with your child.
#5. Failure to Properly Care for the Child
Every parent has a responsibility to care for his or her children. When one parent fails at that responsibility, such as by failing to provide adequate food, shelter and clothing – or when the parent fails to emotionally care for the child – you may have a reason to modify child custody.
The bottom line, though, is that the parent asking for the modification has to show that there are significant changes that make the change necessary. You’ll have to provide the court with proof in order for the judge to consider your request.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Your Reasons to Modify Child Custody?
If you need to discuss your situation with an attorney and find out what your options are as far as changing your custody agreement, we may be able to help you. Call us at 209-546-6870 to schedule a consultation with a caring, compassionate and knowledgeable Stockton divorce attorney now. We can also help you with issues related to parentage and child custody, spousal support and other divorce issues.