Child custody orders are never set it stone. Any one of an almost infinite number of changes of circumstances may necessitate one parent to initiate litigation that is required for a change in custody. In high-conflict situations, sometimes a parent doesn’t even need a legitimate reason to initiate new child custody litigation. Yes, believe it or not, there are jurisdictions where a mere filing of a petition will generate child custody conferences and/or a child custody hearing and no justifiable circumstances need to be demonstrated. Accusations need only be put to paper and filed with the family court.
What if you do have a reasonable change in circumstances that are prompting you to pursue a custodial change? What would you need to do in order for the court to consider a change? In many locations you have to file a motion to “show cause.” Something of significance has changed suddenly or perhaps something changed gradually over time. In any case, you presume to have justification for the court to recognize a change in the parenting arrangement is worthy of consideration.
There are innumerable reasons that would justify an effort to show cause, some more obvious than others, such as:
- A parent is incarcerated. Whatever the reason, if it requires an incarceration, chances are the circumstances would be detrimental to the children. Living in jail isn’t very good for custodial purposes.
- An abusive situation. If one parent, that parent’s romantic partner, a family member or friend is shown to be abusive towards the child – that would necessitate trying to get the custodial arrangement changes.
- Unstable home situation. If one parent cannot keep a stable homestead and is required to move frequently and those relocations risk upsetting consistency with schools, religion, friends, family, etc. – this could prompt a change in the child custody arrangements.
- Substantial improvement in the child’s quality of life. This one is a difficult one and usually involves a move-away potential, even from a very loving, stable parent. Sometimes a job situation in conjunction with a support system structure, and other considerations might prompt a parent to consider petitioning for a change in the parenting arrangement, whether taking the child with them or leaving the children behind with the other parent.
- Children are older and more independent. In such situations, teenage friendships, extracurricular activities, even a job may necessitate a change in the child custody order to allow for such life changes where the parents aren’t flexible and cooperative enough to just let it happen naturally.
- Substance abuse issues. When a parent is struggling with demonstrable substance abuse problems, it directly impacts the health, welfare, and safety of the children within the household.
This list is certainly not all-inclusive, but represent some of the more common situations where a child custody situation may require revisiting and a motion to show cause filed to initiate proceedings.