Pennsylvania custody orders provide guidance for the division of parenting time and parental authority. Typically, parents do their best to abide by the terms outlined in their custody orders. Sometimes, the terms are general enough that parents can continue using a final, unmodified custody order until their children turn 18.
However, not all families can rely on a generic custody order indefinitely. Situations can change very quickly after parents divorce or break up, and they may need to make adjustments to their parenting arrangements. When is it sometimes necessary to go back to family court and request a custody modification if one can’t be agreed on and formalized without judicial intervention?
If children experience abuse or neglect
Adults co-parenting with one another should strive to always put their children’s best interests first, which usually means working together. However, some people simply cannot handle the stress of parenting without a spouse to manage much of the process on their behalf. Children may come home without having eaten for days or with physical injuries that resulted from a parent’s frustrated outburst or inappropriate discipline. When there is evidence supporting one parent’s claim of abuse or neglect by the other, the Pennsylvania family courts will potentially modify the custody order for the protection of the children.
When jobs or schedules change
A parent trying to support their children without a second parental income may need to focus more on their career than they did during the marriage. Eventually, they may decide to change jobs or switch to an entirely different profession. Other times, it may be changes to the children’s schedules that necessitate a modification. Children moving on to high school, starting sports or getting part-time jobs can put a lot of strain on the parenting schedule and may force a modification to ensure the order properly reflects the family’s schedules.
If one parent wants to move
Some people will need to leave the area where they currently live or even state of Pennsylvania to pursue educational or career opportunities. They may also move because of a new romantic relationship. If either parent intends to relocate a significant distance, that move may justify seeking a modification to change the division of parenting time and the overall schedule for the family.
Generally speaking, the courts expect there to have been a significant change in circumstances to warrant a modification. Parents can either cooperate for an uncontested modification where they set their own terms or litigate if they disagree about what is appropriate. Understanding that it is possible to modify a final custody order can help parents to better ensure their custody order reflects the family’s evolving needs.