The original child custody arrangement that was ordered at the time of your divorce or separation may simply not be working. One parent, both parents, or the children, may have had a change in life circumstances that require changes the parenting orders to reflect what is best for the children. Life is never static, and the law in Colorado does sometimes allow for modification of a child custody orders or child support depending on the circumstances. It should be noted that the courts don’t order modifications easily, as it is generally believed that children should live in a stable and predictable environment – which is why hiring a Fort Collins child custody attorney can help increase your chances of successfully modifying your child custody arrangement.
Why Hire a Child Custody Modification Attorney
When one parent requests a change in custody arrangements, the situation may potentially become highly emotional and extremely stressful for parents and children alike. Having a family law attorney as your advocate and represent you in court can not only ensure that your interests are being represented, but can also provide a buffer between the parties, which can reduce the rancor and stress that often occur. It is strongly suggested that you consider having a custody attorney with experience in custody matters who can guide you through this process, who can discuss and develop strategies with you, and can help place you in the best possible position to accomplish your goals.
If you are going through a divorce in Fort Collins and children are involved, do not wait until this important decision is entirely in a judge’s hands. Contact us or call the Fort Collins child custody modification lawyers at The Law Office of Stephen Vertucci at (970) 900-1800 today and arrange for a consultation.
Court Considerations When a Custody Modification is Requested
Unless there has been a change in circumstances, which affect the child, it will be difficult to obtain a legal custody modification. There are certain specific situations in which the court may change the primary parent, for example:
When the child has moved into the other parent’s home and established him/herself as part of that family, with the consent of the custodial parent.
When the parents have both agreed to a change in the child’s primary residence.
When one parent routinely defers to the other on decisions concerning the child.
When the home in which the child is residing becomes dangerous to the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health, and the benefits of making a change outweigh the potential harm.
When the parent with whom the child primarily lives wants to move to a place that significantly changes the geographic ties between the children and the opposing parent.
When one parent is significantly behind on child support payments
How Does the Court Determine that the Residential Environment is Unstable or Unsuitable?
What are some of the factors that will be considered in determining the suitability of a new arrangement relative to the one that is in place? As said previously, stability is a primary consideration in child custody, because living in a stable environment is extremely important to a child’s emotional health. If the primary parenting time parent is failing to provide that stability, it may be a reason to change the arrangement. For example, if the primary parenting time parent:
Moves from place to place frequently
Changes jobs often
Marries and divorces repeatedly or has a constantly changing array of domestic partners
Has an unpredictable work schedule or works long hours and is seldom home supervising the children
Abuses drugs or alcohol
Is emotionally unstable
Is physically or emotionally abusive
Does not make the child available for visitation (parenting time) with the other parent
If a child’s general well-being or behavior seems to be taking a downward spiral, that may be a red flag that something is not as it should be. Failing grades, trouble with the law, frequent illnesses, social withdrawal, or excessive rebelliousness at home are often indications that a change should be considered.
Physical or Emotional Abuse or a Violent Environment
If you discover that your child is being physically, sexually, or emotionally abused in the home of the primary parenting time parent, you must take action immediately and speak with a Fort Collins family law attorney. Whether the opposing party or someone close to them is the abuser, you should report the abuse to law enforcement and ask your custody attorney to file an emergency motion to modify custody without delay. If there is violence or abuse of others in the home, even if it is not directed at your child, you need to have the child removed. Having to observe violence in the home is emotionally damaging to a child. And when violence is directed at one family member, it may just be a matter of time before it is directed at your child.
Similarly, if you learn that there is overt substance abuse in the home or that the primary parenting time parent has suffered a serious deterioration in mental health, this may be a sufficient reason to make a change to ensure the child’s safety.
What Are the Rights of the Non-Custodial Parent?
If you are the primary parenting time parent and believe that your child has or is being endangered―either physically or emotionally― during the other parent’s court-ordered parenting time, you can file an emergency motion requesting that restrictions be placed on the other parent. The judge’s order will usually require that visitation be supervised during the next 14 day period, during which time a court hearing on the matter must be held where it will be determined whether a permanent restriction is in order. If the Court determines there is no grounds to find the child is in imminent danger, the restriction will be lifted. If parent who has been temporarily restricted fails to appear, the order will be extended indefinitely.
One caveat: Sometimes a parent makes baseless allegations and hauls the other into court maliciously, without any credible reason other than as an expression of their personal animosity. Do not be tempted to use the court system as a tool against the opposing party by means of frivolous charges, or you may be ordered to pay his or her legal fees. Talk to a Fort Collins child custody modification attorney, who will advise you if a motion for a restriction on the other parent’s visitation time might be in order.
What Happens When the Custodial Parent Moves Away?
When the primary parenting time parent wants to move to a distant location, it may become extremely difficult for the other parent to spend time with the children; or children in the sole custody of the parent who is moving may lose the opportunity to spend much time interacting with half siblings who live with the other parent, full brothers or sisters in cases of joint custody, or extended family members who live nearby. In this case, the non-custodial parent may seek a modification of custody.
Damage to the relationship with the non-custodial parent and other family members resulting from the move may sometimes be deemed sufficiently harmful that a judge will find that a change in custody is in order. The bottom line is, how will it affect the child?
Consideration of the Child’s Best Interests
Sometimes the child’s best interests will be taken into account. For example, a child may ask for a change in living arrangements. A bright and mature teenager or sometimes even a younger child may have a logical reason for wanting a change in custody; on the other hand, children can be manipulative and are known to sometimes use the issue of custody to play parents against each other. Courts are loath to involve themselves in custody fights where the kids are either drawn in to a fight by the parents or are manipulating them.
The bottom line: a child’s wishes regarding which parent they will live may be taken into account if the child is sufficiently intelligent and mature to articulate a good reason for the change. As in the example above, the teenager wanting to attend an advanced academic program near the other parent will have more input than a six-year-old who objects to his early bed time or limitations on his television viewing.
Call a Fort Collins Child Custody Modification Attorney
When your child’s well-being is at stake, requiring you to request the court to modify the custody arrangements that are in place, engage a Fort Collins child custody modification lawyer who understands how the family courts work and the criteria a judge will apply in making a determination. Stephen Vertucci has years of experience dealing with family law matters such as divorce, child custody, child support, and alimony. You can find the compassionate and experienced assistance you need by calling The Law Office of Stephen Vertucci, LLC at (970) 900-1800 to discuss the situation and prepare a case strategy on your behalf.