What Is a Child Custody Modification and When Can You Get One?

Going through a divorce can be stressful, and there are many details to consider. If you have children from the marriage, it may feel like the number of details you must deal with increases exponentially. Matters such as child custody and child support can be daunting to approach, even in cases where the end of the marriage is civil. Having a family law attorney on your side throughout the process can provide peace of mind and reduce the burden on you so you can work on rebuilding your life.

It’s also important to note that child custody modification is possible. The decisions you make now about child custody are certainly important, but you don’t have to feel like they are written in stone and will govern everyone’s life forever. Find out more about what child custody modifications are below, including when you can get one.

What Is a Child Custody Modification?

A child custody modification is a formal modification to the order you have for child custody arrangements. To get this modification, you must go through the family court system in Indiana, which only allows modifications in certain circumstances.

Note that a formal child custody modification is a change to the agreement as a whole. The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines remind parents that there will be occasions when a custody agreement might need to be temporarily “modified” due to life situations. Specifically, it says:

  • Parents should use reasonable judgment. Consider a hypothetical case where the custody agreement says one parent gets the kids every other weekend and on Wednesday evenings. However, that parent has to have emergency surgery the weekend they would have had the kids. It’s reasonable for both parties to agree to swap weekends so the parent’s health can be addressed without impacting his or her ability to spend time with the kids.
  • Parents should be flexible in scheduling parenting time. Even in the face of a child custody agreement, parents have room to agree upon temporary modifications and seek flexible solutions to support their children.
  • Parents should consider the benefits of children having regular and meaningful contact with both parents.

This type of reasonable flexibility doesn’t require an official child custody modification. If it did, parents would be seeking intervention from the court multiple times a year!

Why Might Someone Seek a Child Custody Modification?

Unfortunately, not all situations allow for parents to work together amicably. There are also cases when the overall child custody agreement doesn’t work at all anymore. You might seek a child custody modification if:

  • You find that you are having to make changes constantly to the agreement to support everyone’s schedule and what’s best for your children. In this case, you might seek a modification so you have the legal protection of a new agreement.
  • You are worried about the safety or security of your child when they are with the other parent. You might want to seek a modification that puts added limitations on how and when the other parent can see the child.
  • A major life change has occurred and there is a desire or need to modify custody to best support the child.

When Can You Get a Child Custody Modification?

To get a formal modification through the court, you must show two things. First, there must be a significant change in circumstances that makes the modification necessary or preferable. Second, the change must support the child’s best interests.

Some things that might qualify for a “significant change in circumstances” include:

  • The parental wishes. If, for example, one parent no longer has the desire to care for and support a child to the degree they have been and that change is impacting the child’s welfare, a modification may be in order.
  • The child’s age. As children grow, they may be better served by living primarily with a different parent for many reasons.
  • The child’s preferences. When kids are 14 years of age or older, the court will consider their preferences for custody arrangements.
  • Issues related to school or community. For example, if the parents want to make a custody change to support a child’s ability to attend a certain school, it might be enough of a change for a modification.
  • Issues of safety or security. If there are issues of abuse or neglect or anything else that puts the child at risk, a modification may be granted.

How Do You Get a Child Custody Modification in Indiana??

If parents agree on a modification, they can create it and then go through the process of asking the court to approve it. The court may approve it without a hearing, but there are times that a hearing is scheduled because the court may have questions about the need for a modification.

If the other parent doesn’t agree to a modification but you feel it is in the best interest of your child, you may need to fight for it. That involves filing paperwork with the courts, allowing time for the other parent to respond, and making your case in court. Most people find this process is more effective when they work with an experienced family law attorney.

Child custody is a serious consideration in co-parenting situations. Whether you have a concern about the safety of your children when they’re with the other parent or you need to modify a custody order due to major life changes, having an experienced family lawyer at your side can provide peace of mind throughout the process. To find out how we can help, contact the Law Office of Deidre Haynes today by calling 317-647-1811.