The Process of Altering or Amending a Child Custody Order
While divorces in Pennsylvania have been on a steady decline since the early 1990s, they still happen and can be tough on families. During the course of divorce proceedings, one of the most contentious areas involves child custody, and after the end of a marriage is finalized, child custody oftentimes remains a contentious issue between the former spouses. If you’ve found yourself in a dispute surrounding altering or amending an existing child custody order, you undoubtedly have an array of questions and concerns, so you need to understand some of the basics associated with changing an existing child custody order.
Legal Standard to Change a Child Custody Order
In the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a specific standard is applied when it comes to altering or amending an existing child custody order. In Pennsylvania, what is known as the “best interests of the child” standard is utilized in a situation in which a change in child custody is at issue.
A change of custody is nearly always raised by one of the parents. People do have an interest in the custodial arrangements pertaining to their children. However, in the final analysis, the paramount consideration in Pennsylvania is whether altering an existing custodial arrangement will serve the best interests of the child.
When considering a requested change of custody in light of what is in the best interests of the child, a court considers the specific facts and circumstances that are unique to a particular case. The factors that the court will consider commonly include the:
- Physical, psychological and emotional health of the parents
- Physical, psychological and emotional health of the child
- Living situation of the parents
- Historic and current involvement of each parent in the life of the child
The court will also look at how long the existing custody order has been in place as well as the underlying reasons why the request for the change was made. For example, a noncustodial parent might seek a change of custody in a situation in which the custodial parent begins to suffer severe health problems that directly impact his or her ability to provide primary care for his or her child.
Material Change of Circumstances
In Pennsylvania, maintaining a stable environment for children following divorce is a primary consideration. As a result, a custodial arrangement will not be changed willy-nilly. Rather, the underlying reason for a change of custody needs to be significant. The significance of the reasons underpinning the desire to alter custody must rise to the level of a material change of circumstances. Stated another way, the best interests of the child can only be satisfied if custody is changed.
Agreement to Change Custody
In some situations, parents agree to change an existing custody arrangement. It is preferable for parents to be able to resolve issues between themselves without the need for further litigation. Nonetheless, even when both parents agree to a change to the original custody agreement, that alteration must be in the best interests of the child. A judge must approve the proposed custody change and then issue a new custody order. A judge nearly always approves an agreed-upon change in custody unless the proposal clearly does not serve the best interests of the child.
Protect Your Legal Interests in a Child Custody Case With a Jenkintown Divorce Lawyer
Not only is a child custody case emotionally charged, but it can also be legally complex. Thus, if you are dealing with child custody issues after a divorce, you are wise to seek the advice and assistance of a skilled, experienced Jenkintown divorce lawyer, like a member of the tenacious legal team at the Law Office of Joanne Kleiner. Schedule an initial consultation with a child custody lawyer by calling our firm in Jenkintown at (215) 886-1266. Bear in mind that one of the best ways you can protect your interests is by seeking legal counsel whether you want a change of custody or are attempting to prevent an alteration in a custodial arrangement.