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When can I modify my custody and visitation plan?

Determining child custody and visitation is typically one of the most contentious, emotional parts of any divorce. No parent wants to give up having their child spend every night under their roof. Because of the raw feelings surrounding the divorce, parents also typically do not want to give their ex the satisfaction of getting to spend more time with the children.

However, even if you feel like you were on the “losing” end of a custody and visitation determination, it is important to remember that the custody order issued by the judge is not necessarily permanent. If your children are quite young as well, a lot is likely to change in the coming years until the children turn 18. Their needs, your needs and your ex’s needs and circumstances are all likely to change at some point.

This is why you may be able to seek a modification of the custody order. If you and the child’s ex do not agree on modifying the plan, however, it may be necessary to file a petition in court. Family court judges do not grant modification requests easily. They will want to see a substantial change in circumstances that affect the child’s best interests. These can include if your ex:

  • Wants to move out of state with the child
  • Is abusing drugs or alcohol and failing to provide a safe environment for the child
  • Is subjecting the child to emotional, physical or sexual abuse
  • Is denying you visitation
  • Changes his or her work schedule, which will affect pickup and drop-off times or leave the child home along for too long

If your child is old enough, he or she may express a wish to spend more time at your home. His or her school’s location or schedule could also affect when they spend time with you.

Even if you and your ex agree on the need to modify your plans, do not try to do this on an ad-hoc or handshake agreement basis. Your ex may decide to change his or her mind at any point, and you will have no legal recourse.

You should always work with a family law attorney to discuss your options. At the Quinn Firm, our family law attorneys can thoroughly evaluate your case and your options to help you decide whether you will have a chance at successfully modifying your child custody arrangements. Please contact us at 814-833-2222 to discuss how we can help.

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