The process of dealing with a child custody modification depends on whether the original custody plan is part of a separation agreement or a court order. In case of the former, either parent can request for modification in custody in writing to which the other parent may or may not agree. When the other parent does not agree, the parent seeking custody modification can then take the matter to court.
If, however, child custody is part of a court order, the parent seeking modification needs to file a motion to modify the custody order with the court. It is possible even if the custody plan is part of a court order that the parents can reach an agreement on their own and then go to the judge for final approval. This is known as a consent order and is often the best approach if the parties are on good enough terms to communicate with one another.
North Carolina courts will consider modification of a child custody order only if the parent requesting the custody modification is able to prove a substantial and material change in circumstances. Only after the court has been satisfied that the change in circumstances is both substantial and material, will it then move on to consider what is in the best interest of the child. The reason for this is to prevent constant back and forth motions to change custody which would be destabilizing for the children. It also helps prevent the court from becoming overburdened with frequent and repetitive modification requests.
One such substantial and material change would be if the custodial parent is relocating to another state and the move will impact the child’s life. The court is then empowered to modify custody and visitation with a view towards the child’s best interest. Some courts switch custody from one parent to the other, although the increasingly common approach is to ask the parents to work out a plan under which both parents may continue to have significant contacts with their children.
Another thing that can prompt a modification is if there is a significant change in the lifestyle of the custodial parent, which the other parent feels will adversely affect the child. For instance, if the custodial parent a new job that has longer working hours or the parent is leaving the child alone for long periods of time the court will consider modifying custody based on these factors. Also, if one parent begins drinking heavily or taking drugs, the other parent may file a request for modification of the visitation order. What amounts to a substantial enough change to warrant a revision can vary greatly depending on your jurisdiction and even your particular judge.
If you find yourself facing the prospect of divorce in Charlotte, contact the experienced modification of child custody lawyers in Charlotte, North Carolina like those at Arnold & Smith, PLLC who can help guide you through the sometimes-confusing process.
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