Getting divorced is never easy, especially when you have children. While you may not want to live with your spouse anymore, that doesn’t mean you don’t want to live with your children. If you are like most people, you probably want to spend as much time with your children as possible.

Divorce courts in Maryland understand this and do their best to help parents and children maintain strong relationships after a divorce. They also encourage parents to work together when parenting issues arise rather than to call upon the power of the courts.

Balancing all of these factors is challenging and doesn’t always result in perfect decisions. Eventually, the court has to make a child custody order that hopefully protects the interests of the children. 

Unfortunately, even a good child custody order can become burdensome when circumstances change. When this happens, you need to know how to modify an existing child custody order.

Filing for Modification of a Custody Order

On paper, filing for modification of a custody order is relatively easy. You fill out a form, pay the appropriate fees, give the form to the court, inform your ex-spouse of your petition, and attend a hearing. If the judge agrees with your reasons for modifying the order, typically, the changes will be made swiftly.

However, the proceedings rarely go that smoothly, which is why you should hire a divorce lawyer to represent you in court. The following are some common scenarios when attempting to modify an existing custody order.

Mutually Agreed Upon Modification

Most people would say that the easiest way to modify a custody order is for both parents to agree to any changes. However, just because you both agree, that doesn’t mean you should ignore the custody order.

While this approach will save legal fees, it can also put you in legal limbo. In the worst-case scenario, your ex-spouse will change their mind. 

This means that you were violating the custody order, and now they can petition the court to assign penalties. The court might accept your excuse that they agreed, but you will need to prove that. There is no reason to put yourself in that situation.

Similarly, your children might object. It isn’t common, but they could hire a lawyer and petition the court to enforce an order that both parents mutually agreed to violate.

While there is a cost involved in modifying an order, it is relatively minor when both parents agree. You can even potentially split legal fees.

Contested Modification

Modifications are difficult when the other party doesn’t agree. They could refuse because they don’t think a modification is in the best interests of the children or just because the divorce was ugly and they are still angry at you.

Regardless, when your ex-spouse fights a modification, you will need to present your case to a judge. Typically, to get a modification, you will need to prove that circumstances have changed significantly since the order was made and that a change will be in the best interests of your children.

Consider a simple example. You and your spouse have shared custody of your children. They live with you every other week. Since you both live near each other and near children’s schools, this is convenient.

However, you recently received a job offer that would involve a significant increase in income but also moving an hour away. That is close enough that you could easily see your children on weekends and have them live with you in the summer, but if they lived with you every other week, it would interfere with their education.

In this situation, you would have to show the court evidence that you got a new job offer and that the current order would not be feasible if you took it. You would present the new plan (some weekend visitation plus your kids living with you during the summer) as a reasonable compromise. 

If your ex-spouse wanted to contest the arrangement, they would have to show why it was a hardship that would not be in the best interests of your children.

Contact Our Law Firm to Modify a Child Custody Order

Modifying a child custody order doesn’t have to be painful. In many situations, it can be accomplished with a brief conversation with your ex-spouse and a single hearing. Whether it is easy or not, though, it is best done legally. Contact JMB | Blattner Family Law Group to ensure your modification petition goes smoothly and is court-approved.