What Should You Do To Oppose A Custody Modification?
If you have sole legal and physical custody of your child, most states will consider you the "custodial" or "residential" parent. In other words, you are primarily responsible for your child's well-being and have sole discretion in decisions that may affect their day-to-day life. In most cases, you only need to consider the non-custodial parent when making decisions that may affect their court-awarded visitation rights.
The court usually decides custody arrangements during a divorce, so it's rare for these agreements to change significantly. However, there are certain situations where a non-custodial parent may file a motion to modify an existing custody agreement. This situation can be upsetting, and you're likely wondering what your next steps should be if you're facing a motion to alter your custodial status.
Can a Non-Custodial Parent Request a Custody Modification?
Parents are often surprised to learn that a non-custodial parent can make a legal motion to alter an existing custody agreement. While such modifications are relatively rare, they are possible in most states. The specific circumstances where a parent may request a modification will vary between states, but they typically require a substantial change in living circumstances.
Physical or emotional danger are some of the most obvious situations where a court may grant a modification, but these are usually not the only allowable criteria. In some cases, courts may consider a modification due to significant changes in circumstances, such as a custodial parent moving out of state. If this change affects existing visitation agreements, a modification may be necessary.
Note that not all justifications for an altered agreement are negative. For example, a non-custodial parent may have had circumstances that made them a poor fit for custody, such as severe health issues, financial instability, or substance abuse problems. In some states, a positive change in their circumstances may be sufficient justification to modify the existing custody agreement.
What Should You Do If You're Facing a Custody Modification?
No one wants to entertain the idea that they may lose custody of their child, so motions to alter custody agreements can be frightening. If your child's non-custodial parent is filing for a modification, it's important to understand the details of their claims. Their reason for filing and their requested modifications can significantly impact the likelihood of their motion succeeding.
Unfortunately, answering these questions on your own can often be challenging. Once you know your child's non-custodial parent has filed for modification, your next step should be to contact an experienced family attorney. A lawyer with strong knowledge of child custody laws for your state can help you examine their motion and determine if there's a serious risk of modification.
If the motion appears to have a high likelihood of success, you'll want to work with a lawyer to file an opposition and begin to prepare for your court hearing. These steps are critical since a valid and unopposed motion will have a greater chance of succeeding. The sooner you begin working with a custody lawyer, the better your chances of keeping your current custody arrangement.
For more information, contact a child custody lawyer near you.