Circumstances evolve. People move, lose jobs, change living situations, and more. Divorce settlements and parenting plans are based on your situation at a particular moment in time. But what happens when things shift? What if you want to modify a child custody order after the final judgment has already come down?
Can You Modify A Parenting Plan After The Final Judgment?
For people in these situations, it can be frustrating. Fortunately, there are options available to adjust parenting schedules and increase your time with your kids. Even after the final judgment.
Modifications and appeals provide opportunities for amending custody orders.
That said, though it is possible, it’s usually an uphill battle. In the best scenarios, it’s a long, often expensive struggle. And even if you convincingly make your case, sometimes it’s just not enough to lead to a change.
Related Reading: Custody: The Best Interests of the Child
What is child custody modification?
You can use the child custody modification process to change an order after the final judgment.
This can amend where the child lives, the frequency and duration of visits, the amount of financial support, and other elements of the original parenting plan.
Depending on what you want to change, modifications fall into one of two categories: major or minor.
As the name implies, major modification requests significant changes to the parenting plan. Think of these as titanic shifts in the existing arrangement.
A good example of a major change would be to request physical custody from your ex. Meaning your child lived with your ex, but now you want them to live with you.
Minor modification, on the other hand, includes things like adjusting pickup times or switching drop-off locations for weekend visits.
Related Reading: Dealing With Parental Alienation
What Is The Process for Custody Modification?
In many situations, especially when it comes to small things, parents often agree to changes on their own. We’re talking about small things, like swapping visitation weekends or pushing a pickup back a few hours to go to a Trailblazers game.
Schedules change, things come up, and people need to adjust on the fly. This is a regular part of life.
However, to make any permanent modifications to the parenting plan, major or minor, the court must evaluate them first.
Before the court grants a modification, the person requesting the change must demonstrate a substantial reason. If you can’t show adequate cause, the court will most likely dismiss your case.
Related Reading: Parental Evaluations In Oregon
How Do You Qualify for a Custody Modification?
Here’s where things get tricky. As we said, though child custody modification is possible, it’s a difficult proposition.
However, if both parents agree on a new custody arrangement without the courts having to step in, that makes things much easier. It’s when the other parent contests the proposed alterations that things get messy.
When it comes to custody, the courts place the child’s best interests above all other concerns. They aim to keep the child’s life as steady and consistent as possible. Because of this, they’re often hesitant to make substantial changes to an existing parenting plan. Like swapping living situations. The biggest exceptions are in cases of abuse or neglect, or where a child’s health or safety may be in danger.
To achieve a modification, you have to demonstrate a significant change in circumstances. The courts are much less likely to consider requests that are more for parental convenience than other reasons.
Examples of significant changes include:
- One parent moving to another city or state, such that it would make it logistically difficult to abide by the parenting plan.
- A drastic shift in the work schedule of one or both parents.
- The primary parent being negligent, mentally or physically abusive, or unreliable.
- The child wants to spend more time with the parent who was not awarded primary custody.
To achieve a child custody modification, consulting an experienced family law attorney will help your case and increase your odds. A professional who has been through these situations before can be invaluable. They’ll be able to assess your case, give you a better idea of your chances of being successful, and offer advice about the best way to proceed.
Because modifying a parenting plan after the final judgment is often so difficult, it’s best to do things right the first time. Custody cases are notoriously emotional and difficult. Still, taking the time and putting in the work upfront only benefits you and, most importantly, your kids.
Related Reading: Can You Modify A Child Support Order?