For spouses who are obtaining a divorce, even the most minuscule disagreements can cause a couple to make a mountain out of a molehill. In divorces which include a determination of child custody, however, the battle between two parents can become extremely heated. When a divorce is finalized and a decree is issued, modifying child custody can be difficult. In some situations, though, a judge can make alterations to the custody agreement.
If you are a divorced parent in Illinois who believes that your child's custody arrangement should be modified, Dolci & Weiland's team of family law attorneys can help.
When Do You Need a Post-Decree Custody Modification?
In determining an initial award of child custody, a family court judge considers first and foremost what custody arrangement is in the best interest of the child. This standard of best interests provides the primary basis for a judge's decision for a custody arrangement.
When it comes to modifying a child custody arrangement after a divorce has been finalized, however, a court does not place a primary focus on what is in the best interest of the child, but whether a change in circumstances has occurred which would make one parent a better fit for to have custody child than the other.
A simple change of career or move across town doesn't provide grounds for a post-decree custody modification; rather, the change must be substantial. While the court must still take into account the best interest of the child in granting a custody modification, these changes are at the forefront of a judge's decision to make such a change.
Relocation of the Child by the Custodial Parent
One major event which can lead to a substantial change in circumstances is the custodial parent's decision to move away from the primary residence in which the child grew up. Depending on the county in which the custodial parent and child live, a relocation as little as 25 miles away can constitute a substantial change in circumstances which can trigger a need for a custody modification.
Change in Life Circumstance of Parent or Child
Drastic life changes can take a toll on a child and his or her parents--both custodial and non-custodial. Sometimes, these changes can be so severe that they warrant a change in a custody arrangement even after a divorce has been finalized. Changes in circumstances which can result in the need for a modification of child custody include:
- The custodial parent becomes seriously and permanently disabled or ill: if the parent who was originally granted custody of the child is involved in an accident or develops a medical condition which renders the parent unable to care for themselves or the child, a custody modification may be appropriate to protect the interests of the child.
- Either parent has a substantial decrease in salary or loses their job; following a loss of a job, a parent can find it extremely difficult to make ends meet and adequately take care of his or her child.
- Either parent gets a new job making substantially more than they were before: whether a parent is promoted or changes their career path, a large increase in salary can be grounds for a court to reconsider the child's current custody arrangement.
- A child becomes disabled or suffers a serious medical condition: if a child suffers a devastating injury or is diagnosed with a severe medical condition, a court may modify a custody arrangement after a divorce decree has been issued in order to place the child with the parent who can best care for the child.
Change in Relationship
Divorce, in and of itself, is proof that family relationships can change. Following a divorce, a parent may choose to remarry someone else. Oftentimes, remarried parents have additional children with their new spouse. Such changes in family dynamics can constitute grounds for a judge to grant a custody modification.
The Process of a Post-Decree Custody Modification
If both parents agree to a custody modification after a divorce has been finalized, a judge is much more likely to modify the custody arrangement to conform with the parents' wishes, so long as the decision is also in the best interest of the child. If one parent objects to a custody modification, however, the parent who wishes to have the custody modified will have to go through several steps to have a chance at the custody arrangement being modified.
- Wait two years: unless your child is in danger, a person wishing to modify a custody arrangement must wait two years in order to be able to fight for a custody modification.
- File a motion to modify custody: your family law attorney will file a motion for custody modification in the county in which the original custody arrangement was issued.
- Status conferences and mediation: before a judge will modify a custody arrangement, the parents of the child must attempt to come to an agreement on their own terms regarding the custody of the child. This can include mediation attempts, where the parents and their attorneys attempt to reconcile the parties' differences in opinion and work out an arrangement without the need for trial. Status conferences will often be held in order to update the judge on the parties' progress in reaching an agreement.
- Trial: if the parties are unable to come to an agreement, a trial will be held, after which a judge will make a decision on whether or not to grant a modification of the family's custody arrangement.
Need a Custody Modification After Your Divorce? We're Here for You
If you are a divorced parent who is subject to a custody agreement in Illinois, the family law attorneys at Dolci & Weiland are standing by to provide the legal assistance you deserve. Our attorneys have proudly built a reputation of compassion for our clients, and are dedicated to going the extra mile to ensure that you don't have to fight for a custody modification on your own. In a custody battle, one of the most important aspects of your life is at stake--your relationship with your child.
Don't wait any longer to get the help you need--to contact a member of our legal team, fill out an online contact form or call the office closest to you today. For our DuPage office, call (630) 238-9098, or for our downtown Chicago location, call (312) 238-9007.