Divorce decrees are generally considered final once they are issued by the court. However, child custody and visitation orders can be modified. Here’s what divorced parents in Suwanee, GA need to know about modifying custody or child visitation.
Parents can modify custody and visitation arrangements with or without court approval.
Arrangements made outside of court are voluntary, but are not enforceable in a Court of Law. Temporary modifications to a parenting time schedule may be made anytime the parties agree.
However, if one parent later fails to abide by the ‘new terms’ or reneges on the new agreement, the other parent most likely will not be able to enforce it. This makes it preferable to seek a modification from the court in the first place.
If the parties are in complete agreement, you can filed a proper modification with the Court which will protect both parties and make the new arrangement ‘official’. Child Support is never temporarily modifiable unless done properly through the Court!
CHANGE IN CUSTODIAL PARENT’S RESIDENCE
Courts typically approve modifications so long as it is in the best interests of the child.
Courts also require that you demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances. This is to discourage frivolous, frequent or incessant modification requests.
Examples of a substantial change in circumstances include changes in residence or lifestyle.
A geographical move can significantly impact the child by disrupting the child’s routine and the visitation schedule of the noncustodial parent, and by changing the child’s school. Also, the noncustodial parent may have to travel further to see their child.
Most courts ask the parents to work out a plan that allows both of them to maintain significant involvement in their child’s life. Other times a court will evaluate what is in the best interests of the child and switch custody from one parent to the other when necessary.
CHANGE IN DIVORCED PARENT’S LIFESTYLE
Another substantial change in circumstances could involve the lifestyle of the parent. Again, the court is most concerned with the well-being of the child.
The court may modify custody or visitation arrangements if a parent begins engaging in behavior that could jeopardize the safety of the child. For example, if one parent’s employment schedule changes and causes the child to be left unattended, the other parent can petition the court for a modification.
Another example would be if a parent begins abusing alcohol or drugs. In situations like this, a judge may require supervised visitation.
CONTESTED V. UNCONTESTED MODIFICATION:
You can modify the terms of your parenting plan and custodial arrangement either in an uncontested manner (where the parties agree to the new arrangement and the Court approves, adopts, and executes the new plan); or in a contested manner, where one parent believes a change is necessary but the other disagrees.
In order to file a contested modification of custody or parenting time, you will need to show the court that you can meet the legal burden of proof that there has been a substantial change in the material circumstances of the current arrangement.
An experienced attorney can help you determine if your circumstances meet that legal standard.