November 15, 2020

How Can I Change a Custody Arrangement?

Once the divorce is final, the ex-spouses are free to move on with dreams of a new life, new relationships, and often new locations. According to the Census Bureau, most Americans move 12 times during their adult lives, and many of the re-locations happen before the age of 40.

When children are involved, the parents usually wish to keep some semblance of normalcy in their relationships with their children. The judge’s custody order finalizes the measures both sides have taken to hold onto their share of that normalcy. A sudden move across town, or the country, due to a job or career change can disrupt that fragile post-divorce balance, altering the future stability of any custody arrangement.

What is enforceable and what isn’t?

Circumstances involving carpooling, sudden schedule changes or unexpected, work-related trips can throw the bi-weekly visitations, and overnight or weekend custody arrangements into disarray. Many post-divorce couples try to foster a flexible co-parenting relationship for the sake of their children.

So, the actual arrangements created by these so-called “informal agreements” can be vague and change according to necessity. But when these understandings are reached and then breached by one parent, the parent left holding the bag has little recourse. In short, what the judge has ordered is all that is enforceable.

How does custody modification work in Michigan?

A judge will always factor in a list of guidelines that are in the best interest of the child when making custody and parenting time decisions. In order for a change in custody in Michigan to occur, the judge will have to sign a new order.

For the judge to determine if a custody modification is appropriate, the party filing the motion must show that the circumstances have changed enough that it will significantly affect the child’s well-being. There are a number of possible causes for the change:

  • The parent is absent from the home
  • The parent has been abusing drugs or alcohol
  • The parent is not providing for the emotional, physical or psychological needs of the child
  • There is evidence of child abuse

The judge will not consider factors such as:

  • A parent’s financial problems
  • The child’s request to change custody
  • The child’s normal changes in needs as they grow up

If a parent is having to relocate or is facing new job demands, or if there are substance abuse or other issues of concern that are adversely affecting the children, it is important to know where to go to get advice on modifying your current custody arrangement.