When parents divorce, a parenting plan becomes part of their court-ordered divorce decree. The parenting plan governs where the children will live, how often they spend time with the non-residential parent, how the parents resolve disputes, and other practical matters.
It could emerge over time that some aspect of the plan is not working well, or the children’s needs and desires change as they mature. In such cases, either parent or both can ask the court to modify a custody agreement and parenting plan.
Talk to a Junction City child custody modification lawyer if altering a parenting plan has become an issue for you. Whether you want to change a plan, keep it as is, or work with your co-parent to form a new parenting plan, an experienced child custody attorney could provide valuable assistance.
Modification Through a Consent Decree
Sometimes both parents agree that changing custody arrangements would be beneficial. Perhaps one child is having behavioral issues that the non-residential parent is better able to manage. A parent may have a health crisis or personal issue that requires the children to live with the other parent temporarily or permanently. Perhaps a child prefers to live with the other parent, and the parents agree to allow it.
In any case, when the parents agree to change a parenting plan, they can do so by mutual consent. They must create a new parenting plan and submit it to the court for review. If the judge approves the modified plan, the court will incorporate it into an enforceable court order.
Sometimes parents agree a change is necessary but have difficulty agreeing on specifics. Mediation often can help parents focus on practical issues and reach agreements that benefit all parties.
Modifications Due to Altered Circumstances
If the parents disagree on modifying the parenting plan, the parent who seeks a change must file a legal motion to modify it with the court. The parent must assert that the change is necessary because of a substantial change in circumstances.
Convenience or preference is usually not sufficient to merit a custody order modification over the other parent’s objection. A court will consider a change substantial if it impacts the parent’s ability to adequately parent the child, or if the child needs a change for a specific reason. Circumstances that could merit changing a custody order include:
- Parent wishes to relocate
- Parent experiences a health crisis
- Child develops a particular skill or talent the other parent is better able to nurture
- Child develops a mental or physical health condition the other parent is better able to manage
- Parent remarries or has another child
- Parent suffers a severe financial setback or loses a home
- Parent recovers from an addiction or other situation that limited their parenting time
- Parent changes jobs and has more or less time to care for the children
A court might consider one parent’s consistent failure to comply with an existing parenting plan a good reason to modify a custody agreement.
When courts evaluate situations involving children, they must consider the children’s best interests in making their determinations. The child’s best interests always trump the parents’ preferences when courts decide custody. A seasoned attorney in Junction City could focus arguments for or against modifying custody on the proposed change’s impact on the children.
Emergency Orders for Change in Custody
Sometimes a parent’s conduct puts a child at risk of harm. In such cases, Kansas Statute §23-3219 allows a parent to seek an emergency order to change custody or visitation.
The parent must present sworn testimony explaining why the order is necessary. The situation must be a true emergency, such as a parent being hospitalized, in jail, or engaging in child abuse or neglect. If the judge issues an emergency order, the court will schedule a hearing within 15 days to allow the other parent to contest it.
Seeking an emergency order is only appropriate in dire circumstances, and a court might punish a parent who misuses the process. A child custody modification lawyer in Junction City could advise a parent whether to seek an emergency order or pursue other means to resolve a custody issue.
Seek Help with Child Custody Modification from a Junction City Attorney
As situations change, child custody arrangements might need to change as well. Although a custody and visitation agreement are legally enforceable, they are also modifiable if circumstances warrant it.
If you believe you should update your custody agreement, or if your co-parent wants to modify it and you object, get in touch with a legal professional immediately. A Junction City child custody modification lawyer could steer you toward your custody goals. Call today.