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Custody & Visitation Law

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Modifying a Visitation Order

As a divorced parent, you could one day find yourself seeking a child custody or visitation order modification. What might you need to know about the process?

The process for child custody order modification depends on state law. Modifications may be different when parents live in different states. This is why it is important to contact a child custody lawyer in your area to answer your specific questions about modifying visitation orders in your individual situation. 

Common Reasons for a Modification

Family courts usually only modify child custody or child visitation orders when they see a significant change in circumstances and believe the modification would be in the child's best interests. In states such as Pennsylvania, child custody can be modified by a mutual agreement or court order.

Common reasons for child custody modification requests include:

  • Changes in circumstances: As kids grow, their schedules change, too. That child custody order detailing visitation rights might have worked when your child was still a preschooler but isn't working now that they are in middle school.
  • Emergencies: Unexpected emergencies - such as a hospital stay - might necessitate a request to modify a child custody order. This can include physical, emotional, and mental health crises.
  • Moves out of state: An existing order outlining visitation may become unworkable if either parent moves out of state. In that case, the courts may modify a current custody order to better accommodate the family's changed circumstances.

Don't Make Your Own Modification

All child custody or visitation modification requests must be filed with the same court that handled any previous orders for the children. Having the modifications outlined in an enforceable and clear order with a parenting time or visitation schedule can save parents a lot of headaches.

If your ex has not made a court-ordered child support payment in months, you should contact a family law attorney for help instead of blocking them from visitation as payback. If you take matters into your own hands, it is likely to backfire on you in court.

It's usually best for you and your children if you stick to working with the courts while seeking your requested child custody modification. Remember that any attempts to keep your child from the other parent could result in negative legal consequences, including an arrest in extreme cases.

Keep in mind, child custody orders generally have to be in place for a while before you can change them. For example, in Texas, parents typically must wait a year before modifying their current child custody order (unless there is an emergency).

Consider a Family Law Attorney

You may be tempted to save on attorney fees by representing yourself in court. But when it comes to presenting your best case for a child custody modification, you may want to reconsider.

There are many reasons why working with an experienced child custody attorney may help you secure a court decision that is truly in your child's best interests. It is hard to remain objective when the subject is personal. Your attorney can be objective and will help guide you. If your relationship with the other parent has strained to the point where communication is no longer possible, having an objective third party to act as a go-between is critical.

An experienced family law attorney knows the system and is likely knowledgeable of the other attorneys and judges involved. A reputable family law attorney will serve as your ally in working to secure a child custody modification that makes the most sense for your family and the needs of your children.