Divorce doesn’t always work out the way you envision it, especially when children are involved. It can be heart wrenching to go from seeing your kids every day to having parenting time only on the weekends or once or twice a week. Or, you may feel that without a spouse to help you, you’re taking on the brunt of the parenting duties even though you have joint custody and you need more support from your ex. Or you may fear for the safety of your children when they are out of your care. Whatever the situation, if you’re unhappy with your child custody agreement, it’s time to find out if you can change it.
Modifying the Child Custody Agreement
First things first, until a court has decreed otherwise, you must adhere to the terms outlined in your divorce settlement regarding child custody. However, it is possible to request a change in the terms.
Amicably divorced couples are lucky. These pairs are often able to work out their desired changes on their own, agree on what’s best for themselves and the children, and file an agreement with the court. Unfortunately, many parents cannot come to a mutual agreement and, at that point, find it necessary to file a request for modification to make any changes to their custody agreement.
Identifying Changes in Circumstances
Courts typically make decisions that are in the best interests of the children. Because of that, it is necessary to show that there has been a change in circumstances that warrants a custody modification and will be for the good of the child.
Some accepted circumstances that may be honored by the court include:
- A parent is moving because of their job or other unchangeable circumstances.
- A parent does not follow the existing custody order or visitation schedule.
- A parent is not caring for the child properly, whether this is to take them to school, feed and clothe and bathe them, take them to the doctor, etc.
- A child has been put at risk or endangered by a parent.
Circumstances that are less likely to be accepted as a good reason for wanting to modify a child custody agreement include:
- Extreme animosity between you and your former spouse, unless the child’s welfare is in danger.
- Dislike of an ex’s new partner, unless that person is negatively impacting your child and negatively affecting their living environment.
Child Custody vs. Parenting Time
Remember that custody and parenting time are two very different considerations in a divorce. For example, parents may share joint custody of their children – meaning they make all the big decisions together about school and health and religion, etc. – but the custodial parent may have 70 percent of the parenting time while the non-custodial parent has 30 percent of the parenting time.
Every custody arrangement is unique, but circumstances will vary with every Michigan divorce. There is a standard formula to determine parenting time but child custody is an umbrella for parenting time. If it’s parenting time that you have an issue with, then this is a separate matter to discuss with your divorce attorney and the court. If it’s legal custody of your child that you want to have reconsidered, contact Femminineo Attorneys, PLLC in Macomb, Michigan to schedule your consultation.