Sometimes, a court may issue a custody order that looks fine on paper, but that does not necessarily work in reality. Even if you and your child’s other parent agreed to a specific custody arrangement that worked at the time, we all know that things can change and the arrangement may no longer be practical or even possible. Instead of constantly making adjustments or stressing trying to adhere to the schedule, you should look into the possibility of changing your custody agreement.
At the Law Offices of Piazza, Simmons & Grant, LLC, we not only help clients during a divorce or initial custody determinations, but we also assist with many types of post-divorce issues. We can evaluate whether seeking a custody modification is right for you and can represent you throughout the process. Contact our Stamford family law attorneys today if you want to change your custody agreement.
Agreeing on Changes
Often, both parents will realize that the current arrangement is simply not working. Maybe the child’s schedule changed and both parents are struggling to accommodate the changes during their parenting time. Perhaps one parent got a new work schedule and the other understands this requires adjusted scheduling. Some parents choose to verbally agree to changes without ever going to court.
While a cooperative parenting relationship is great, verbal agreements are not binding like a court order. The other parent could suddenly change their mind or even claim that you are in violation of the custody order. For this reason, it is usually wise to ensure any modifications are official with the court.
If you are in agreement about the needed changes, your attorney can write up the proposed agreement and submit it to the court. As long as the court believes the modification is in the child’s best interests, it will approve the modification. The changed agreement then has all the weight and authority of the original custody order, and you can enforce the changed agreement if necessary in the future.
Not every parental relationship is amicable. Sometimes, you need a change of schedule, but the other parent refuses to agree. Other times, the parent may try to impose changes on you that would be unfavorable for you and your child. If one parent contests a modification and you cannot agree despite negotiation or even mediation, the parent seeking the changes will need to petition the court.
You cannot simply walk into court and request a custody modification whenever you want. Children should not be subjected to constantly changing arrangement at any whim of a parent. Instead, there are certain requirements for a court to grant a modification.
Significant change of circumstances – A parent must demonstrate there was a significant change in circumstances that warrants the modification. The change in circumstances must be material and permanent. You cannot seek a modification if your work schedule changed for the next couple of weeks or if you are leaving town for a month.
While many situations may qualify as a significant change in circumstances, the following are some common reasons for modifications:
- A parent moves to a different location
- Either the parent or child experiences mental or physical health changes
- A parent remarries
- A parent shows that the child is at risk of mental or physical harm with the other parent
- The initial custody agreement was based on fraudulent information
- A parent experiences changes in a job or income
- The child’s school or activity schedule changes
- The child’s preferences change (for older children)
Because no two situations are the same, the court will review each change in circumstances on a case-by-case basis to see if it qualifies for a modification. It is important to have a skilled custody lawyer representing you to help prove that a modification is justified.
Best interests of the child – Nearly every child-related decision in Connecticut courts is based on the same standard—what is in the best interests of the child? The law sets out many factors that courts must consider when making this determination, including:
- The needs of the child and each parent’s ability to provide for them
- Each parent’s willingness to properly care for the child
- Each parent’s willingness to encourage a relationship with the other parent (when appropriate)
- The child’s connection to other family members, the neighborhood and community, church, or school
- Whether either parent has abandoned the child
- Whether either parent has substance abuse or mental health issues that may affect the child
- Whether either parent engaged in domestic violence involving the child
- Cultural or religious needs of the child and each parent’s willingness to foster them
- Any other factors the court finds relevant to the situation
After reviewing all of these factors, the court will only grant a modification if it is in the best interests of the child.
When parents cannot agree, they will each have the opportunity to present their case to the court with the help of their attorneys. You want to ensure you present the strongest case possible in favor of your position. If you want to make changes and the other parent contests, you can be certain they will try to prove that there is no significant change in circumstances or that the modification is not in the child’s best interests.
On the other hand, the other parent may want to modify the custody agreement when it is not necessary or in a manner that would make life difficult for your child. You want to make sure you have a custody lawyer who can defend against a modification when needed.
Contact a Child Custody Attorney in Stamford, Connecticut, for More Information
The good news is that it is possible to change a custody agreement in Connecticut under the right circumstances. However, this is not always an easy process if two parents do not fully agree to the changes. In any situation, you should consult with an experienced Stamford child custody lawyer who can guide you through the process. The Law Offices of Piazza, Simmons & Grant, LLC handles modifications on a regular basis, so please call 203-348-2465 or contact us online to learn more today.