When the court rules on your child custody arrangement after a divorce, you’re obligated to abide by that ruling. It’s not a suggestion. It’s a legally binding document based on the best interests of the child.
That said, you may wonder if you have to follow it all the way until your child becomes an adult and leaves home. That may seem daunting and impractical. Are there other options?
There certainly are. In some cases, you may want to modify the arrangement. This needs to be done properly so that you don’t breach the standing order — i.e., you can’t just make the decision yourself and tell your ex that there are new terms — but it is absolutely possible.
Potential reasons for a modification
That said, the court isn’t just going to sign off on any modification that you want. You need to have a valid reason to request it. Examples include:
- You or your ex need to move, perhaps for a new job, and the realities of living farther apart mean that the old arrangement is no longer going to work.
- You worry that your child may be in danger with your ex and you want to request sole custody.
- The child is older now and his or her needs and preferences have changed. A custody arrangement that worked for a toddler is not necessarily functional for a teenager.
- The child’s best interests would be better served with a new schedule. As children grow up, they may make new friends, take up new hobbies, start at new schools and experience other changes that alter what is best for them.
- Your own circumstances have changed and the old arrangement no longer works. You may have a new job with new hours, for instance, or one of you may have suffered an injury that makes caring for the child difficult.
These are just a few of the potential reasons to alter a custody arrangement, but your biggest takeaway should be that you need to do this legally. Follow the proper steps. Never intentionally violate the court order. When you do everything by the book, it goes smoothly for everyone.