Child custody matters can be frustrating and frightening. If you and your co-parent don't agree on visitation and shared custody, the court will decide the matter for you. But sometimes circumstances change in your child's life or the life of your co-parent. When this happens, it may be possible to petition to modify your permanent child custody order.
When determining custody, North Carolina courts must consider the best interests of the child. The court shouldn't express a preference for either parent unless there's a compelling reason to do so. Once a custody order is in place, the process to modify it will differ depending on how the court issued the original order.
- The parents can agree to a custody modification and submit it to the judge as a consent order.
- If the original custody arrangement was part of a separation agreement, either parent can request modification, and the other parent can agree or disagree. If the parent disagrees, the original requester can approach the court for modification.
- If the original custody agreement was by court order, then the parent seeking modification must file a motion with the court.
Grounds for Custody Modification
Once a custody order is in place, the court will typically only modify it if there has been a substantial and material change in the child's circumstances since the original order. North Carolina courts want to discourage frequent custody modifications because they can uproot and unsettle a child's life, school, and community.
Examples of substantial and material changes might include:
- One parent relocating to another state,
- A new job leaves the child alone for long hours,
- A significant change in finances, or
- An arrest.
While a parent usually files a motion to modify a child custody order, interested third parties like grandparents or other close relatives may request custody modification from the court.
Hire a Family Law Firm You Can Trust
Child custody disputes can be stressful. You want the best for your child and, whether you're fighting a custody modification or requesting one, the process can be overwhelming if you try to handle it alone. You need the help of an experienced family lawyer. At Caulder & Valentine, our skilled family law attorneys are well versed in helping families through custody matters. If you live near the Shelby or Gastonia areas of North Carolina, give us a call at 704-470-2440 or contact us online. We can review your options and help you find the best path forward for your family.