What is the Process for Child Custody Modification?

Child custody is probably the most fraught issue for divorcing parents. Reaching a consensus is not always possible, and in many cases, the court must weigh-in to determine what is in the best interest of the child or children involved. No matter how difficult ad hard-fought these resolutions may be, they are never considered permanent – a custody agreement can always be modified when circumstances change. The best-case scenario for these modifications is through mutual agreement, where both parents agree to an update. This is not only the solution that creates the least conflict and expense for the parents but generally results in less stress for the children as well. When the adults are not able to communicate or agree, custody can only be modified through a court order.

If you want to pursue child custody modification through a mutual agreement, the most important thing you can do is to be thorough. Make sure that you have spelled out all of the obligations and particulars, whether they are remaining the same or reflect the new arrangements. Parents who can truly work together will also expect the unexpected and include language that addresses emergencies, illnesses, and other circumstances that may require flexibility or changes to the written schedule.  Once the details have been ironed out, a document must be created, signed by both parties and submitted to the same court where your original custody documents were submitted and recorded.

When parents are unable to work together on a child custody modification and one parent needs or wants a change, the next step is to file a petition for modification with the court. Start by contacting the same court in which your existing child custody order was established and ask for a petition to modify child custody, then complete the petition with complete information and any documentation that it requires. Keep in mind that the state of Pennsylvania will always place what is in the child’s best interest as the highest priority and that the court is unlikely to make modifications that are driven by animosity towards the other parent or that reflect petty or minor changes. Child custody modification is generally reserved for substantive changes such as parental relocation or changes in job or marital status.

For information about making child custody modifications to your existing custody order, contact us today.