When it comes to modifying your child custody order, there are a few things you will want to know. This includes what you will need to show the judge to receive the modification. One thing you should know from the very beginning is that requesting a modification is not an easy or fast process.
Part of the reason modification requests can be difficult is because North Carolina requires all custody disputes to go through mediation. This is the first option for resolving the dispute. If the issue cannot be resolved in mediation, then the issue can go to court. The process of mediation alone takes a lot of time, and then you have the added time of a trial when the issue is not resolved in mediation. Obviously, the mediation requirement and the potential need for a trial makes a modification request a difficult and lengthy process.
Now that we understand why requesting a modification is not simple or quick, we can look at the reasons for requesting a modification of your order. There are many reasons for requesting a modification, and those reasons will fall into one of two categories: something is harmful or beneficial to the child. Knowing which category your reasons falls into will help make sure you can communicate the right things to the court to explain why the modification should be given.
When filing a motion for modification, there are two requirements the court looks for: (1) You must show what is called a “substantial change in circumstances,” and (2) you must show that the modification is good for the child. But what does a “substantial change in circumstances” even mean? Well, this means you need to show that the current custody situation has changed so drastically since the first custody order that the first order must be modified. This can be very difficult to show, since oftentimes the circumstances of the parties have not changed enough to meet this requirement.
Substantial Change in Circumstances
For example, even when the other parent might be acting more rudely towards you, or saying mean or bad things to you, that does not usually mean there has been a “substantial change in circumstances.” Some examples of things that might meet the “substantial change in circumstances” requirement might be things like one parent using drugs, starting to drink a lot, or bringing home a partner that is abusive to the child. Whatever the case may be, that “substantial change in circumstances” requirement must be met otherwise you will not be able to get a modification of the custody order.
Child’s Best Interest
If you can show that there has been that “substantial change in circumstances,” then there is one final thing you need to explain: why the modification is going to be good or bad for the child. For example, if you wanted to relocate by moving to another town with the child and get primary custody, you need to explain why that move and change to primary custody is going to be good for the child. Ways to do that would be to talk about the friends the child has in the new area, the higher-rated schools in the area, or even how the new neighborhood is safer than the current neighborhood. These are just examples of how you can show a modification is good for the child.
If you want to oppose a modification, you need to show why that modification would be bad for the child. Let’s use the example from above of one parent wanting to move the child to another town and get primary custody. If you want to try and stop the other parent from modifying the custody order to get primary custody, you would want to explain the different ways that the move would hurt the child. For example, you could explain how the new neighborhood would not be as safe for the child, or that the move would take the child away from the only friends and family the child has, or even that the longer traveling distance would put more stress on the child.
The Big Picture
While none of the above examples are definite ways to show how the modification could help or harm the child, they are all examples of the kinds of things you want to be explaining when requesting or opposing a modification. No matter the reason for the modification request, you need to make sure that reason shows the “substantial change in circumstances” the court requires. You then want to make sure you can give specific reasons why the modification itself will be good for the child. Both requirements for the modification are very difficult to meet. It is important to consult with an attorney to see if your current Child Custody order can be modified. King Law’s team of attorneys in North and South Carolina are here to help you. Call us today at 888-748-5464 to schedule a consultation.