Seasons change. People change. And circumstances change. And what worked previously may not work so well anymore. That can apply to anything in life, from our job or place to live to a marriage or child custody arrangement. But some changes aren't so easy to make.
So, if it's time to change a child custody agreement or modify a custody order, when is it too late?
Court orders may appear permanent -- and some are -- but when it comes to child custody, those orders can be modified. Family courts and judges are bound to make custody determinations based the child's best interests. That means the goal of custody and visitation decisions will be to foster and encourage the child's happiness, security, mental health, and emotional development. That generally includes maintaining a close and loving relationship with both parents, and consistency in their day-to-day routines.
But as life circumstances change for both children and parents, so too can the means of serving a child's best interests. So courts can be flexible when modifying a child custody order to allow for more or less visitation time, a shift in the primary custodian, or sole custody. And while there is no deadline for courts to reconsider a custody determination, judges will generally want to give any decision time to play out to determine whether it was the right decision. That said, if there is a major life change for either parent that will significantly affect the child's wellbeing, it's best to alert the court as soon as possible.
Out-of-Court Due Dates
But court orders aren't the only way to come to a child custody arrangement. Parents can create their own agreements, which, although they may require judicial approval, can be changed without having to go back to court. The child's best interests will still be the overriding factor in creating any parenting and visitation agreement, and, like court orders, there is no deadline to modifying the arrangement so long as that requirement is met.
Custody issues can be emotionally and legally complex. Make sure you have an experienced child custody attorney on your side.