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Can a Child Custody Order be Modified?

Posted On September 1, 2023 In Child Custody

A child custody order is an inflexible agreement. One parent cannot choose not to allow the other parent their court-ordered parenting time in Arizona. Fortunately, Arizona courts acknowledge that circumstances sometimes change, and when it comes to court orders regarding children, a legal process exists allowing them to make changes when circumstances warrant them. In Arizona, either parent in a custody agreement can request a modification of their child support order under certain circumstances. When a parent seeks a change to their child custody agreement, their Chandler family law attorney can help them navigate the child custody order modification process in Arizona.

Modifying a Custody Order When One Parent is Moving

When one parent in a court-ordered child custody agreement is relocating, it may be a significant enough circumstance to warrant a change in a custody agreement, especially under the following circumstances:

  • The custodial parent plans to move a substantial distance away from the non-custodial parent, placing an unfair burden on the parent with visitation
  • If the proposed relocation of a custodial or non-custodial parent would negatively affect the child’s life in some way

When one parent must move, the court considers the impact of the move on the child and whether or not a change in the custody agreement is in the child’s best interests. If a non-custodial parent moves away, the judge may consider a modification of the parenting schedule so that the parent may have less frequent visits but for larger amounts of time.

Courts May Approve a Custody Order Modification if Both Parents Agree to the Change

When both parents agree to make a change in their existing child custody order, the judge is likely to review the change and sign off on the parents’ joint wishes.

Failing to Follow the Order and/or Parental Alienation

When courts determine child custody, they consider continued frequent contact with both parents as in the child’s best interests. Each parent’s willingness to foster and facilitate their child’s relationship with the other parent plays a significant role in how the courts determine custody. If one parent consistently fails to follow the existing order and/or engages in behaviors meant to alienate the child from the other parent, the judge may modify the court order, potentially reducing the child’s time with the parent who isn’t cooperating or who is attempting to alienate the child against the other parent.

Changing a Court Custody Agreement Due to Abuse or Neglect

If a parent believes the other parent is abusing or neglecting the child during their court-ordered custody time, they can file an emergency modification request and present their evidence in court. When a child’s safety and well-being are at risk, a judge is likely to modify an existing order and may order supervised visitation only for the parent who is guilty of neglect or abuse or may deny visitation completely.

A Significant Change in Either Parent’s Circumstances May Warrant a Modification

When a significant and long-term change occurs in either parent’s life, the court may consider a request for modification. For example, a parent who has become cognitively impaired may no longer be able to care for their children for extended periods so the court will consider the other parent’s request for modification. Conversely, a parent who had limited parenting time due to addiction may request a modification if they’ve undergone treatment and are secure in sobriety.

A Change in a Child’s Needs or Preference

In some circumstances, a substantial change in a child’s needs could warrant a modification. For example, if a child becomes chronically ill or disabled, the parent whose work schedule allows them to better care for the child may gain primary custody.

When children reach an age where they are better able to express a preference—typically around age 13—the court may be willing to consider the child’s preference as part of their decision for dividing parenting time.