Getting through a child custody case the first time is hard enough. More often than not emotions have run high, feelings have been hurt, and a family begins to adjust to the new normal. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon that those same families will return to seek legal assistance. In such situations a child custody arrangement can be modified. The guiding principal in such situations is whether there has been a substantial change in circumstances not contemplated at the time of the original decree. There are some instances which are easy to point out like moving across the county, but in most instances it is difficult to say with certainty whether such a substantial change exists. Is a move to a new town sufficient? Or what about constantly not following one or two of the provisions of the decree? Or what about an OWI when the kids weren’t with that person? Or, commonly, the child is saying she doesn’t want to live with one of the parents anymore, what then?
Of course, to make a determination of viability for modification you should speak to an attorney, but the first step should be to simply attempt to speak to the other person and try to resolve the issue. Entering round 2 of a custody battle that could have been resolved with a five-minute conversation will suit everyone better. Further, there are alternatives or precursors to seeking a modification such as filing contempt. Contempt charges can be filed when one party is willfully violating the terms of the decree. Contempt is a viable option when one party just won’t hold up his/her end of the deal. In this case, you can ask the court to require him/her to follow through or impose sanctions. Sanctions can range from make-up visitation time to monetary fines or payment of attorney fees or even jail time. Modification of a custody arrangement can also follow from a contempt action.
Since there were reasons custody needed to be decided in court in the first place, it’s likely you will need to speak to an attorney. He or she will be well versed in what would or would not amount to a viable case for modification. Even if you have come to an agreement with the other party it will not be legally enforceable unless presented and approved by the court. Because each situation is different, it is important to speak to an attorney to determine what the best course of action would be to resolve the matter in the most efficient and effective manner.
If you have questions regarding a child custody case, please contact Kyle A. Sounhein at Lynch Dallas, P.C. at firstname.lastname@example.org or 319-365-9101.