The circumstances surrounding a family separating in divorce are bound to change over time. As a result, one or both parties to the divorce may later seek to change the orders that set custody and visitation. Both child custody and visitation can get modified in a child’s best interest when a party requesting modification can show that circumstances have changed significantly since the initial order was entered.
Former spouses may initially seek to try to come to a mutually agreeable agreement with regards to custody in order to avoid the courts. This may be a good approach, especially if the parents are on good terms. Any agreements the parties finalize are entered with the court to solidify it as the new custody or visitation agreement.
Generally, orders affecting child custody and visitation are not modified until two years from the order setting the custody and visitation. However, a parent who can show that keeping the order in place would negatively affect the mental, emotional, and physical health of the child may be able to get modification of an order in a shorter amount of time. Parents can also mutually agree to seek modification in less time. When seeking modification after the two-year period, the parent seeking the modification also has to prove that there are changes in circumstances, and that these changes affect the best interests of the child.
If a parent with primary custody of a child plans to relocate, this is considered a changed circumstance that may give rise to a motion for custody modification, especially if the relocation is out of state. In addition, under Illinois law, a parent who knowingly plans to marry or reside with a registered sex offender is required to inform the other parent of this. The notified parent may choose to seek modification based on these facts at any time, even less than two years from the order granting custody.
Examples of additional changed circumstances may be the parent with primary custody remarries and their new partner is abusive to the child, the parent with primary custody declines in health in a way that prevents him or her for properly caring for the child, or even that the parent with primary custody takes steps to alienate the children from the other parent. If the parent who is seeking modification has made changes to his or her own life that would change how a court would determine custody or visitation, such as getting stable employment and a residence, he or she may seek to get joint custody or more visitation time.
While modification presents a good way for a parent to keep their child well protected, a parent who misuses it by seeking modification to harass or get back at the other parent can face sanctions from the court, including a requirement that he or she pays the other party’s attorney’s fees.
Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney
If you would like to modify a child custody or visitation order based on changed circumstances, you need an experienced family law attorney to guide you through the process. Contact our passionate and dedicated DuPage County family law attorneys at our firm for a consultation.