Child custody can be a contentious topic for many parents. That said, many parents are also able to arrive at a custody agreement together. Once a custody or visitation order has been issued, it is enforceable. Not fulfilling each parent's respective obligations can result in both criminal and civil action, depending on the facts and circumstances.
Child custody orders, however, are not static and aren't intended to be. If a parent needs to modify it, they may be able to do so. But there are rules that must be followed and requirements that must be satisfied. At Ritchey Legal, PLLC, our child custody lawyer properly follows the rules and strategically crafts legal arguments to ensure child custody modification goes in your favor. This is true regardless of whether you are the parent who needs the modification or the parent subject to the modification. So contact us online or at 205-225-9225 to schedule a consultation.
How to Modify a Child Custody Order in Alabama
Co-parents can agree to modify their court-ordered child custody arrangements on their own. While this is the best and easiest solution, it's always best to file the changes with the court to safeguard your rights and avoid future problems.
In lieu of a mutual agreement, two things must happen to modify a custody order:
- You must file a petition to modify a custody or visitation order in family court; and
- Your petition must identify a substantial change of circumstances and that the modification due to the latter is in the best interests of the child.
Once the petition is filed, a custody modification hearing will be put on the calendar. At that hearing, the parent who filed the petition must explain and lay out the evidence for the substantial change in circumstances.
What Constitutes a Substantial Change in Circumstances in Birmingham and throughout Alabama?
Because child custody revolves around the best interests of the child, getting a modification to a custody order means showing that the current order is so unworkable that it is no longer in the child's best interests. Thus, modification is necessary.
Some circumstances that can support a modification include:
- Abuse or neglect
- Health condition
- Substance abuse
- Loss of a job
- Reduction in pay/salary
Some circumstances that typically won't support a modification on their own include:
- Birth of another child
To change visitation, you may not have to prove a substantial change in circumstances, but you will have to show the modification is also in the child's best interest.
Other Circumstances Where a Modification to Custody May Be Sought
There are times when a parent may want to modify a child custody order but not for a substantial change in circumstances. Situations where this might be approved by the courts include:
- The child is of a certain age and can say where they want to live.
- The non-custodial parent can prove that they have been rehabilitated, i.e., the non-custodial parent may have had a substance abuse problem and had only visitation rights but is now recovering and capable of custody.
- What's considered de jure custody is not the same as de facto custody, e.g., one parent is the primary custodian but the child stays with the non-custodial parent more and, as such, the non-custodial parent wants to change the custody order to reflect reality.
- One parent can prove the other parent is unfit, i.e., this often involves abuse and neglect but can also include things like the parent's mental health or overall bad behavior that can detrimentally impact the child's wellbeing.
- One parent can show that the child is having serious problems at the home of the custodial parent and that the latter cannot be remedied easily, e.g., maybe there are concerns with a step-parent or step-siblings that cause great harm to the child.
Contact a Child Custody Modification Lawyer in Alabama Today
Modifying a child custody order takes a little thought and solid supporting evidence. A court is typically willing to approve it if it's in the best interests of the child. We, at Ritchey Legal, PLLC, will advise you of your best options, draft a well-documented petition for modification, and steadfastly represent your interests before the court. Complete the online for or call us at 205-225-9225 today.