Child custody is not always set in stone. When parents separate or divorce, you may get an initial child custody order that outlines the custody arrangement. However, if circumstances change, the court can modify the order at any point until the child turns 18.
All it takes is for one parent to request modification with the court and for the judge to agree. The parent who wants to modify will typically make their request with the help of their family law attorney.
The court can modify the child custody order if a judge finds two facts are true:
- there has been a substantial change of circumstances affecting the welfare of the child; and
- that modification is in the best interest of the child.
If the judge makes these findings, they can issue the modification.
In this article, we’ll talk about five of the most common reasons a judge in North Carolina will change a custody order.
1. Physical Relocation
The noncustodial parent can reach out to the court to modify custody if the custodial parent moves. Moving isn’t automatically considered a substantial reason to change child custody. So, it’s not guaranteed that this type of petition will succeed, but the court should factor relocation into the decision.
Usually, the court will consider a move as a valid reason to modify the child custody arrangement when one of the following is true:
- The move would place a major burden on the noncustodial parent and make it difficult for the current custody schedule to keep working.
- The relocation would have a significant negative or positive effect on the child’s life in some other way.
As part of a custody agreement or order, the parents or the court can limit the custodial parent’s ability to relocate with the child. For example, an agreement might say that the custodial parent has to provide notice a set amount of time before moving, or it could forbid the custodial parent from moving out of state.
2. One Parent Refuses to Follow the Custody Terms
When you and the other parent initially went to court, you ended up with a custody order, either through agreement or the judge’s decision. Both of you are supposed to follow this order.
Now, the other parent isn’t holding to it. Perhaps they’re not returning your child to your home on time every week, or they’re refusing to tell you when they take your child on road trips out of town.
If this is the case, you can file a petition to modify the child custody order. You’ll have to provide proper notice to the other parent and present evidence in court that demonstrates the violations are a substantial change of circumstances affecting the welfare of the child. Besides filing for a custody modification, you can also ask that the other parent be held in contempt of court.
Since you’ll need to present evidence in court, it’s always best to work with an experienced family law attorney to modify child custody based on violations of the existing agreement or order.
3. The Child’s Needs Have Changed
What works for a baby may not work for a toddler or a high school student. A child may need different environments in order to thrive at various stages in their life, making one home more suitable than another. If you can demonstrate to the court that the child’s needs have changed, you may have grounds for a custody modification.
If a child develops a mental, emotional, or physical disorder, and one parent is better suited to care for the child, that could also provide a reason for a judge to change custody. The parent who wants a modification will have to file the motion to modify and prove the changes are substantial and affect the child, and the judge will determine how to proceed.
4. A Parent’s Situation Has Changed
Courts recognize that parents’ circumstances change over time, which is why child custody orders aren’t written in stone. However, if you want to request a custody modification based on a parent’s change in circumstances, you’ll need to prove that the change is substantial and will affect the child’s life and well-being in some notable way.
Negative changes in circumstance can justify a custody modification, but positive changes can, too. For example, if the noncustodial parent had an issue with substance abuse but now can show that they’ve been two years sober and are holding a steady job, that parent may be able to get a modification that will allow them to spend more time with their child.
5. The Child Is in Danger
Since the child’s best interests are always the most important consideration, endangerment is one of the most compelling reasons a judge will change custody. If one of the parents is engaging in behaviors that could endanger the child, the court could modify the order and remove or substantially limit that parent’s rights to physical custody.
Behaviors that could justify a child custody modification due to endangerment may include:
- Physical, emotional, sexual, or psychological abuse (including verbal abuse)
- Placing the child in circumstances, either through action or failure to act, that put them in danger of abuse by others
- Drug and alcohol abuse that places the child at risk of harm or creates a negative influence
- Serious mental health concerns (psychotic breaks, hospitalizations, unstable or erratic behavior)
In the meantime, if your child is in urgent danger, you should call the police. Then, you can work with your attorney and file a motion to modify your custody agreement and protect your child.
Contact Myers Law Firm if You Need Help With Child Custody in Charlotte, North Carolina
At Myers Law Firm, we know how important family is. That’s why we fight to protect families just like yours. If you’re fighting for custody of a child and you need help, contact us today. We can meet with you to answer your questions, help you understand your options, and create a plan for what comes next.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.