Child Custody Frequently Asked Question #2
I want to change my child custody agreement due to illness, a move out of State, etc. How do I do this?
Generally speaking, only the court has the power to modify child custody arrangements to meet the needs of the child and to respond to changes in the parents’ lives due to illness, a job change, etc. Usually a parent who is seeking a change through the court must be able to show that conditions have changed substantially since the last custody order. Any changes to the existing custody agreement will need to be presented to the court; a decision will be rendered based on what the court determines to be in the best interests of the child.
In regards to a parent’s desire to move out of State, some States place restrictions on the right of one parent to move out of State unless there is a very good reason for the move. Other States require that the parent wishing to move must obtain the permission of the other parent or the permission of the court. Often the parent wishing to move must give notice (usually a specified timeframe) before the proposed move.
With the mobility of today’s families, many States are shifting their view and setting new standards for determining when a parent can move with a child. In making these decisions, many factors are considered. The factors may include the reason for the move, the reason(s) that the other parent may be opposing the move, the advantages to the child from the move, how the move will impact the visitation with the other parent, etc. And, finally, some courts consider this situation to be equal to the original custody determination. In other words, the court will look at which parent will best meet the needs of the child. In addition to looking at all of the factors noted above, the court will look at the child’s attachment to the current home, school, family, community, etc.
Laws, policies and procedures around child custody matters vary from State to State. You may want to consult with and/or obtain the services of an attorney who practices in the area of family law in your State. If you need assistance in locating and/or paying for an attorney, the American Bar Association (ABA) provides a lawyer referral service at http://www.abanet.org/legalservices/lris/directory/home.html (scroll to the bottom of the page for a map of the U.S. which links to local resources) and the Consumers’ Guide to Legal Help at http://www.abanet.org/legalservices/findlegalhelp/home.cfm provides pro bono attorney referrals and more. In addition, the following ABA website may also be of assistance, especially to anyone needing free legal help: http://apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/findlegalhelp/faq_freehelp..... This site provides links to: free, State legal hotlines for individuals to call and speak to a lawyer; pro bono services for special populations; “unbundled" legal services (which means that individuals can handle part of the legal work themselves to save costs); and links to legal forms. In addition, many local courthouses offer guidance to parents regarding the process; you may wish to visit your local courthouse to see if assistance is available.