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What Constitutes a Change in Circumstances for a Child Custody Modification?

Court orders concerning a child rarely remain the same over a child’s 18 years of life. As life circumstances for each parent and child change, custody orders also may need to change. Once a court issues a child custody order about a child, it can only be changed when one party files a petition with the court for modification. If the parties agree to change the current custody order, they can file a joint petition to change custody, which the judge is likely to approve. However, the more common scenario is that one parent is seeking to change the existing custody order over the objection of the other parent.

In order to merit a modification, the parent seeking custody must prove that there has been a change in the child’s life and/or in the parents’ lives that materially or substantially affects the child’s welfare. If the proposed change in custody is based on a change in a parent’s life, then the petitioning parent must prove that the change also affects the child, not just the parent. This change typically must have occurred since the court last issued a custody order in the parties’ case. If the condition in question existed at the time of the last custody order, then the parent must show that the condition has improved or worsened substantially since the last custody order. The change that supports a custody modification can be either positive or negative, depending on the circumstances.

Some changes in life situations that might justify a child custody modification include the following:

  • The child is not being adequately cared for because one parent has developed a drug or alcohol problem
  • One parent relocates to another state or a considerable distance away
  • A parent remarries or develops a relationship with a new significant other

The court will base its decision on a petition to modify child custody on the best interest of the child. Among the factors that the court considers in determining the child’s best interest are the child’s welfare, the child’s physical needs, the child’s emotional needs, the fitness of each parent to care for the child, and the fitness of each parent to retain a parental relationship.

If you wish to explore the possibility of modifying your child custody order, the Shaw Law Firm, LLC, can assist you. We will evaluate your situation and advise you about your available options in terms of filing a petition to modify custody in your case. Contact us or call today to learn how Shaw Law can work with you to achieve the best outcome possible for you and your children.

Scott Shaw is founder and principle of Shaw Law Firm LLC, founded in 1995 and dedicated solely to divorce, family law and child custody matters that must be addressed and decided in the state of Georgia. Shaw Law Firm serves the greater Metro Atlanta area, particularly the counties of Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb, Cherokee, Forsyth, Paulding, Henry, Fayette, Coweta, Newton, Walton, Bartow and Douglas. Schedule a consultation today at 770-594-8309.