As many schools re-open and offices and other businesses begin bringing employees back onsite, custody arrangements for divorced parents may need a second look.
Fortunately, existing custody plans can be modified and re-established by family courts.
However, successfully seeking a court-ordered modification to an existing plan that had worked for a period of time does require that certain circumstances be met. The foundational objective of family courts is to act in the best interests of children, and most courts view stability – especially with regard to custody plans – as the bedrock of that foundation.
Circumstances For Custody Modification Eligibility
Courts throughout Missouri and in many other states limit the acceptable circumstance for ordering a custody modification to a few, specific situations:
A change in a child’s needs, especially with regard to education
With the pandemic abating to some degree in many areas, schools have brought many students back onsite. This can present a change to a parent being needed to prepare children to leave home to go to school, to provide transportation back and forth or to provide after school care for children. These demands may or may not work with a parent’s work schedule, so in some cases a modification to which parent is responsible for getting children ready for and to school and back each day may need to change.
Relocation for work or a significant move
While the job market has exploded since the spring of this year, with nearly 10 million open jobs needing to be filled across the U.S. at this writing, the right job isn’t always available near a parent. In cases in which a parent has had to move to a relatively distant market either to live or to work, many custody arrangements have become unworkable. In these cases courts will consider, and often order, a modification to a previously workable custody plan.
Changes to a parent’s work schedule
Parents who have been forced to seek new employment – even in today’s comparatively robust job market – may end up with a job that while in-market, has a vastly different or even unpredictable schedule. Courts recognize the challenges inherent to the pandemic-affected economy and will work with parents to modify custody plans as they deal with changing job demands.
While it may be difficult for some divorced couples, it’s important to cooperate and communicate to objectively determine if an existing custody plan is not meeting a child’s needs or no longer serves the child’s best interests.
Documenting Needs for Modification
Parents who believe a modification is necessary and who plan to seek an updated order from a family court should expect to provide documentation supporting the need.
This documentation can include proof of a parent’s new work location or schedule; any written communications between parents documenting scheduling conflicts; custody logs or journals documenting which parent was caring for children on specific times and dates; statements from teachers, caregivers or work supervisors documenting conflicts with an existing custody plan.
Work with Each Other and with Experienced Counsel
Before the need for a modification becomes necessary, parents should do their best to make an existing plan work. Cooperation and communication are key, as is putting the needs and interests of children first.
Should a modification become unavoidable however, it’s important to work with an attorney who has deep experience in family law, custody issues and the family courts.
The Family Law attorneys of Marler Law Partners have a wealth of experience in these matters and are ready to assist parents, advocating strongly but with compassion as families work through these issues.
Contact us today for more information!
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