Modification of Existing Child Custody or Support Order

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Solutions reached during the divorce process, especially regarding child custody and child support, may not be the appropriate solution as those children get older, parents get new jobs or raises, or parents decide to move to new places.

“Modification” means a child custody determination that changes, replaces, supersedes, or is otherwise made after a previous determination concerning the same child, whether or not it is made by the court that made the previous determination.

The changes can, and likely will, affect existing orders. As a result, parties might sometimes reach their own solutions out of court. While this is generally a good idea and can lead to a quick, and maybe peaceful, outcome, these changes won’t be recognized by the court, rendering the agreement useless for future enforcement once parties no longer agree to follow them.

These orders must be approved by the court to be effective.

To change an existing order, some states require that there be a “material change in circumstances,” or significant changes. Either parent can request a change but must show that the living circumstances for the child or income have materially changed.

Examples of material changes of circumstances for child custody include geographic moves or lifestyle changes. If the custodial parent moves somewhere, either in- or out-of-state, that will make the existing order impractical, that could be a material change of circumstances. So might a parent moving somewhere that may seriously disrupt the stability of the child’s life. In these cases, the court will use the best interest of the child standard to determine how to award custody, to include awarding the non-custodial parent custodial custody.

A lifestyle change that threatens or harms the child could be a material change of circumstances. For example, one parent might be charged with drug or alcohol charges or simply get a new job and have to leave the child home alone at night.

A loss of a job or the ability to work, a significant raise, or a change in custody are all examples of material changes of circumstances that might warrant a modification of a child support order.

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act and modification

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) governs child custody and visitation across the nation. The child’s home state must be established during the divorce or original custody order. This is usually the state where the child has lived for the six months prior to the original filing. Modifications to these orders must be filed in the same court and state as the original order, unless the children have lived in a new state for six months and sufficient connections to the home state no longer exist.

As long as a parent still resides in the original state where the child support order was issued, it must be modified in that state. If both parents have moved, then the parent seeking the modification of child support must file in the other parent’s state, where jurisdiction will remain until no parents no longer reside in that state. A modifications attorney from Taylor Law & Mediation PLLC can help with this process 

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