Modifications to Your Child's Custody Order

It is important to understand how modification of child custody works in Utah, and create a parenting plan that makes these modifications straightforward and convenient

A divorce can be an unsettling time. Your life is reordered and if you have joint or shared custody with your child's other parent, this reordering will last until they reach adulthood. With joint physical custody, your child or children will spend time with you and time with their other parent.

Much of this will be controlled by the parenting plan that was part of your divorce settlement. It will contain the residential schedule, including holidays, vacations, school breaks and birthdays. It will also detail the decision-making authority of each parent, on matters of healthcare and religious upbringing and other elements relevant to raising a child.

Modifications

It will contain the rules for settling disputes that unavoidably will occur between you and your children's other parent and the methods for modifying the plan. If your children are young, you will likely focus on creating a parenting plan that is appropriate and in the best interests of your children at their current age.

The reality of any parenting plan is that change is inevitable. A plan that is in the children's best interests at ages 4 and 7, when they are in pre-school and elementary school may no longer work as well at ages 11 and 14, when they may have sports or other extracurricular activities and have more complex lives.

Courts are busy

The Family Courts of Utah, like those of most states, are very busy. It is in your best interests if you can minimize any need to resort to court hearings for changing elements of your parenting plan. You will also save time and money, as delays are common and hearings and attorneys cost money.

While it may seem difficult to imagine your toddlers or elementary-aged children as teenagers, that day will come sooner than you expect. By planning early and devising a parenting plan with your attorney that is easy to modify and contains a robust procedure to minimize conflict and that facilitates a cooperative working environment with your children's other parent, you can make life easier for your future self.

Job changes?

You may also need a more fundamental change to your parenting plan and your custody order if you should need to change jobs or even if your receive a substantial promotion. If your job responsibilities change and you now need to work longer hours or travel regularly for work, having a residential schedule that has the children moving between homes every week or multiple times a week may no longer be feasible.

If you are forced to relocate beyond the geographical area contemplated within your custody order, you will likely need to obtain a formal modification to your custody. If you expect to move your children with you, away from their other parent, remember that the best interests of the child standard will be used to evaluate the effect of the move on them. Because of this, you may have to accept a significant change to your custody, including leaving them with the other parent and dealing with covering their transportation costs when they visit you in your new home.

Substantial change

Whatever the reason, if their other parent does not agree to the changes (stipulate) the change will need to be a substantial or material change in your circumstance to receive the approval of a court. Additionally, this change needs to generally make for an improvement in the children's life for it to be in their best interests. There is a long list of factors a court will review to make this determination of what qualifies as being in their best interests.

Modification of child custody orders and parenting plans can be very complex. Speaking with an attorney from the Atticus Legal Group, LLC is a good idea, as they can help explain the law, answer your questions, suggests changes and build the arguments you may need to obtain the approval of a court.