7 Surprising Reasons Why a Judge Will Change Custody Arrangements

reasons a judge will change custody

Custody battles can be incredibly difficult and emotionally charged, directly impacting the lives of the children involved. Because of this, judges must consider the child’s well-being and best interests first when making these decisions.

While custody arrangements aim to create stability, there are many reasons why a judge would change a child custody arrangement, some of which may surprise you.

From changes in living situations to concerns about parental fitness, these grounds for modification can significantly impact the well-being of children involved in family law cases. If you’re in the midst of a custody modification battle, you will need to know these seven reasons why a judge may change custody.

Here Are 7 Grounds for Child Custody Modification in North Carolina

  1. Altered Living Situations

    If you’re going through a divorce, it’s important to understand that alterations to your living situation could potentially impact the custody agreement for your child. A judge will change custody arrangements for several reasons, and an altered living situation is one of them.

    Here are some examples of how changes in your living situation could affect your child custody arrangement:

    • If you move into an unsafe neighborhood or one with a high crime rate (when you have safer options), this could be seen as putting your child at risk unnecessarily.
    • If you move into a smaller home or apartment that cannot accommodate your child, this could create concerns about whether your child is comfortable and properly cared for in your home.
    • If you move in with someone new who has not been properly vetted by the court or who has a criminal record, this could raise concerns about their fitness as a caregiver – and yours, by extension.

    Any significant changes to where either parent lives can impact the child’s well-being and may require modifications to their current custody arrangement.

  2. Employment and Income Changes

    Major alterations to your employment and income may affect the stability and security of your child’s life. If you’re not careful, these changes could result in a modification of custody arrangements. Grounds for modification of custody include changes in circumstances that impact the best interests of the child. This can include employment and income changes that make it difficult or impossible for a parent to properly care for their child.

    A judge will consider many factors when deciding whether to modify a custody agreement, including the financial situation of each parent and how it affects their ability to meet their child’s needs.

  3. Relocation

    If you or your ex-spouse is planning to move out of state, you should notify the court and request a modification of the custody arrangement. However, keep in mind that judges won’t always grant relocation requests.

    Here are three reasons a judge might deny a relocation request:

    1. Disrupts visitation schedule: If the move significantly disrupts the non-custodial parent’s visitation rights or makes them less frequent, a judge may deny the request.
    2. Negative impact on the child: If the relocation negatively impacts your child’s education, social life, or health, it may not be granted.
    3. No good faith reason: Judges want to know if there is any good faith reason for moving, such as better employment opportunities or medical treatment for the child.

    Before you decide about moving with your child or denying your ex-spouse’s request to relocate with them, consult an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through this process.

  4. Violation of the Terms of the Custody Agreement

    Violating the terms of a custody agreement can have serious consequences, and it’s important to understand the potential legal implications. If one parent consistently denies parenting time or refuses to follow the agreed-upon schedule, a judge may consider modifying the custody order.

    When considering a child custody modification based on a violation of terms, it’s crucial to gather evidence and present a compelling case in court. Any proof of noncompliance should be documented and presented during the modification hearing.

  5. Child’s Needs and Preferences

    As children grow and mature, their interests and desires may shift, and it’s essential for parents to listen to their children’s input when making decisions about custody arrangements. In North Carolina, a child over the age of 18 can legally decide which parent they want to live with. Additionally, a judge may consider the child’s preference starting at age 12.

  6. Death in the Family

    If a family member who provided frequent care for the child passes away, this can significantly impact the child’s living situation and routine. A judge may consider modifying custody arrangements if it’s deemed necessary to protect the best interests of the child.

    It’s crucial for parents to understand that even though they may be going through their own grieving process, they need to prioritize their child’s well-being during this time.

  7. Safety Concerns

    Ensuring the safety and well-being of a child is of utmost importance in any custody arrangement, and if there are safety concerns, such as evidence of abuse or neglect, it may be necessary to modify the existing plan.

    Here are three examples of when a judge may change custody arrangements due to safety concerns:

    1. Evidence of physical or emotional abuse: If one parent has been physically or emotionally abusing the child, a judge may decide to modify the custody arrangement to protect the child from further harm.

    2. Neglect: If one parent regularly neglects their responsibilities towards the child, such as failing to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care, this can also be grounds for modifying custody arrangements.

    3. Domestic violence: If there has been any history or evidence of domestic violence between parents or other household members that could endanger the child’s safety and well-being, this can also lead to a modification in custody arrangements.

    If you have concerns about your child’s safety while under their current custody arrangement, it’s important to take action as soon as possible.

When to Seek Modification

If your child’s needs have dramatically shifted or if their safety is at risk, it may be time to modify your custody agreement.

A significant change in circumstances might include a new diagnosis that requires medical attention, a shift in school requirements or extracurricular activities, or other changes that affect the child’s well-being.

Additionally, any evidence of abuse or neglect by one parent can be grounds for modification. It’s important to note that you shouldn’t seek modification without sufficient cause. A judge will only agree to make adjustments if there are substantial and material changes present.

Make sure to consult with a family law attorney who can help you evaluate your situation and prepare the necessary documentation for court.

Can You Modify a Parenting Plan Without Going to Court?

Are you looking for a simpler and less costly way to modify your parenting plan without going through the court system? It’s possible to change your custody agreement without going to court, but it requires cooperation from both parents.

Here are three ways you may be able to modify your parenting plan outside of court:

  1. Negotiate with the other parent: If both parents can agree on a modification, they can create a written agreement that outlines the new terms. If the prior agreement was a court order, you would then present it to a judge for signature as a new consent order.
  2. Use mediation: A mediator can help both parties come up with an acceptable modification by facilitating negotiations.
  3. Hire a lawyer: A family law attorney can review your situation and help you determine whether modifying your custody agreement outside of court is feasible.

While these methods may work for some families, they may not be appropriate for everyone. If one party refuses to cooperate or there are significant disagreements about what should change in the agreement, it may be necessary to file a motion for modification and seek intervention from a judge.

How to Win a Custody Modification Case

To modify your parenting plan, you must prove a material change in circumstances. This could be due to living situations, employment, health, or safety concerns. It’s important to work with an experienced child custody lawyer who can help you navigate the legal system and present a strong case.

They can assist you in understanding your rights, negotiating with the co-parent, and filing a request with the court for custody modification. With their help, you can gather evidence and present a compelling case to the judge, advocating for your child’s best interests.

For dedicated support in achieving what’s best for your child, choose Apple Payne Law. Contact us now for guidance.

Author Bio

Ronald D. Payne II
Ronald D. Payne II is the CEO and Managing Attorney of Apple Payne Law, a North Carolina law firm he founded in 2018. With more than 11 years of experience practicing law, he is dedicated to representing clients in a wide range of legal matters, including business law, estate planning, family law, probate, and traffic law.

Ronald received his Juris Doctor from the Wake Forest University School of Law and is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being awarded the 2020 Client’s Choice Award by Avvo and multiple Rising Star awards from Super Lawyers.

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