How to Change Child Custody

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Where Do I Start if I Need to Know How to Change Child Custody?

It’s important that you understand how to change child custody.  Even if you don’t need to do so right now, circumstances in the future might make it necessary to make adjustments to your child custody arrangements.

What is a Child Custody Order?

First of all, changing child custody depends largely on whether you have a formal custody court order, or if you’re informally sharing custody with the other parent. 

If you do have a child custody order, you’ll probably need to file with the court to modify the existing child custody order.  You’ll need to present your reasons why the child custody order needs to be changed (for example, a change in jobs, relocating to a different residence, etc.).  Also, understand that child custody almost always involves child visitation issues, so be prepared to discuss that topic as well.

If you don’t have a court order, it may be possible to change child custody simply by discussing it with the other parent.  However, it’s generally advisable for the child’s interests to have a formal court custody order in place.  That way, your child won’t be subject to instability and constant changes between the parents.  Also, a child custody order makes the arrangement enforceable under family laws.

Are There Different Types of Child Custody?

Understanding how to change child custody also involves knowing the different types of child custody.   There are two basic categories when it comes to child custody:

Thus, you’ll want to arrange make any changes to child custody with these two categories in mind.

In addition, there are also many different combinations of child custody, such as shared custody, joint custody, etc.  These mostly have to do with the amount of time that each parent is entitled to spend with the child.  They can involve a mix of both legal and physical custody principles.  Most child custody modifications deal with whether the parents will be having joint or shared custody.  

What if my Partner Doesn’t Agree to the Changes?

Again, this highlights the importance of having a court-approved child custody order.  If the custody arrangement is approved by the court, it is enforceable under law.  This means that if either parent violates the court order, legal action can be taken against the parent. 

Violating a child custody order can result in legal consequences- a parent who disregards an order can even face criminal sanctions.  In severe cases, a restraining order can be obtained if a parent repeatedly disobeys the child custody order. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Guidance on How to Change Child Custody?

Changing child custody can be challenging, but sometimes it’s necessary for the child’s best interests.  If you think you need help understanding child custody laws in your state or assistance with any other family law matter, you may wish to hire a family law attorney for help.  Your lawyer will be able to inform you of the child custody laws in your area, and can represent you in court during formal hearings. 

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Last Modified: 07-16-2014 07:59 AM PDT

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