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Why can you change a child custody order?

You have a 2-year-old child, and you and your ex split custody. You've been doing this for about a year now, ever since your divorce.

While it's worked out fairly well, you're wondering how you could get the order changed. Perhaps you want full custody. Maybe you do not like the custody schedule and the way your time gets divided.

Can you change the order? How hard is it?

Altering court orders

The first thing you should know is that changing a court order after divorce is very hard and it's very important to follow the proper legal steps. Never make a change yourself. Never tell your ex he or she has to go along with your new schedule. Never take things into your own hands. If you do, you violate the standing court order. It stays in place until it is officially changed by the court.

Reasons for alterations

Some reasons you may be able to get that alteration include:

  • Your child really benefits from the change. Remember, the child's best interests are the most important thing to the court. For instance, perhaps you got a job offer for double your annual salary. You need to move and change the custody agreement to take the job. The court typically frowns on a relocation, but the child's life may significantly improve if you take that job.
  • Your ex is ignoring the standing court order. This happens repeatedly. Maybe your ex never picks the child up or drops him or her off on time. Perhaps your ex keeps the child far too long -- extra days and weeks, in some cases -- and violates your rights. One missed deadline will not trigger a change, but repeated violations may.
  • Your child faces serious danger. It goes beyond you simply not liking the way your ex parents. You believe your child is at risk. Maybe your child cried and asked not to go back to your ex's house, using his or her limited vocabulary to tell that physical abuse took place. Or, perhaps you went to your ex's home and saw evidence of criminal activity.
  • Your ex passes away. Obviously, this is a fairly easy transition, as the old court order will no longer apply. However, it is still important to consider your legal position. Who else may have a claim? For instance, are your ex's parents still alive, and do they want to stay involved with their grandchild? What rights do they have to keep that relationship going?

Again, the biggest takeaway from all of this is that you must follow the proper legal steps, even when using one of these reasons to alter the agreement. Do not violate your ex's rights and put your own parental rights at risk.

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