How to Modify an Existing Child Custody or Visitation Order
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There are two major types of child custody arrangements: legal and physical.
- Legal Custody is the right and responsibility to make decisions regarding the rearing of the child, including medical care, education, religion, etc.
- Physical Custody is the right of a parent to have the child physically living with him/her. Physical custody can be either sole or joint.
What is a Child Visitation Order?
If sole physical custody is granted to one parent, the other parent (non-custodial parent) is usually entitled to reasonable visitation rights. These rights give the parent not living with the child the opportunity to spend time with the child. The type (supervised or unsupervised) and frequency of the visitation order can be determined by either the court or the parents themselves.
Can I Modify Child Custody and Visitation Orders?
Yes, the allocation of parental rights can be modified if the non-custodial parent's circumstances significantly change. There are two ways in which this can happen:
- The Court has continuing power to modify custody orders at any point in time, and
- The Parents can both consent to modification at any time.
Under What Circumstances Will a Court Modify a Child Custody or Visitation Order?
The court's primary concern when dealing with children is doing what is in their best interest; a stable environment is always in the child's best interest.
In the area of child custody, laws differ from state to state. However, stability is a common theme throughout. Changed circumstances that typically effect a court's decision in whether to modify a custody or visitation order include:
- The importance of rearing a child in a "traditional" family environment
- A substantial increase in the child's age
- A dramatic change to one of parent's income level
- One parent relocating to another state
- A showing that the current living arrangement puts the child at risk of physical or emotional harm
- The custodial parent refusing visitation by the non-custodial parent
Do I Need a Family Attorney?
If you are looking to modify child custody or visitation arrangements, it is generally wise to consult with an attorney. A lawyer has experience dealing with the complicated court system and can work to protect your relationship with the child. See these articles for additional information about Child Custody Laws and Child Custody Guidelines.
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Last Modified: 04-08-2014 02:46 PM PDT
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