A child custody order is not set in stone forever, and parents have the right to petition the courts to change their order if their circumstances make it untenable. However, a judge must agree that your situation warrants a change in custody for your petition to be approved. If you would like to change your child-sharing arrangement or modify your parenting plan, speak with our qualified team of lawyers about Gwinnett County child custody modifications.
As part of a child custody case or a divorce involving children, a judge would decide whether the parents should have sole or joint custody based on their caring capacities, regardless of gender. A judge can award one or both parents legal custody of their children.
Having legal custody allows a parent to make major decisions for their children regarding medical, educational, or religious issues. Parents who share legal custody must consider both points of view, but only one of them would have final decision-making authority.
A parent with primary physical custody of a child, on the other hand, would be that child’s caretaker for a majority of the time. While parents may share physical custody, one person is generally designated as the primary custodian. Additionally, the amounts of time that both parents spend with their children typically affect the amount of child support that they receive and pay.
Once a judge enters an order defining each person’s custody rights and parenting obligations, a parent can only change these responsibilities through another court order. Additionally, parents in Gwinnett may request child custody modification generally only once every two years.
Parents can file a petition for modification of custody and ask a judge to change their current order if they have experienced a material change in circumstances. As long as the change directly impacts their children’s wellbeing, a judge may agree to a subsequent modification.
A material change in circumstances can be difficult to define and prove. Generally, if something happens or changes in a parent or child’s life that affects the child’s welfare, the courts may grant a motion for modification.
For example, a parent who receives a job offer in another state may have to file for a child custody modification to move with their children. If the move is in their children’s best interests, their petition may be granted. A material change could also involve a parent whose new significant other abuses drugs or alcohol around the children.
However, disputes between divorced parents are not usually enough to move a judge to modify custody. Additionally, if the reason for a requested post-divorce modification existed when the initial order was finalized, then their petition may not be granted. For example, if one parent was an alcoholic at the time of an original child custody agreement and their behavior was already considered, then their continued substance abuse may not warrant material justification for a Gwinnett County post-divorce modification.
Children who are at least 14 years old may also present an affidavit of election through a modification petition. A judge would consider their testimony when deciding whether to grant formal changes to a child custody arrangement.
Modifying a child custody order requires you to show that you have a good reason for the change and that the change would serve your children better than the original order. Because a material change in circumstances can be challenging to prove, you may want to enlist the help of a skilled attorney from our team. Call today to learn more about how we can help you pursue a Gwinnett County child custody modification.