A custody order carries the full weight of the Pennsylvania family courts and is an enforceable legal document. Whether parents agree on specific custody terms or a judge sets them for the family, both parents will generally need to abide by the terms of the custody order. They will regularly exchange custody, share decision-making authority and work together for the children’s benefit.
However, even when parents have an existing custody order, they may find that the terms of the order no longer meets their family’s needs. It is possible for parents to go back to family court and pursue a modification or formal adjustment of the existing custody order under certain circumstances.
When do parents potentially need to seek a modification of a Pennsylvania custody order?
When they have changes to their schedules
A new job, the children starting a new grade in school or even new relationships can drastically alter the schedule for the family and how much time each parent can spend with the children. Families may need to go back to court and update their custody orders when the scheduling needs of the family have shifted significantly.
When one parent wants to move
Relocation requests or move-away scenarios are common reasons to change or modify a custody order. When one parent wants to move closer to their extended family or accept a job offer, they may need to make significant adjustments to the existing custody order to facilitate that relocation.
When one parent won’t uphold the custody order
Modifications are sometimes necessary because one parent consistently fails to show up for their parenting time or to meet the needs of the children. In situations where one parent believes that the custody order does not accurately reflect family circumstances based on what the other parent does or when they worry about the well-being of their children while with the other parent, it may be necessary to pursue a modification.
When an alternative better serves their children’s needs
In theory, modifications are possible whenever there has been a significant shift in family circumstances that raises questions about whether the existing arrangements are truly in the best interests of the children. Parents can either cooperate in re: uncontested modifications (and work with an attorney to formalize them so that they’re enforceable) or go back to family court and ask a judge to rule on their requested modifications based on the current circumstances.
Understanding when modifying a custody order may be necessary or appropriate may help parents better meet the needs of their children in a shared custody scenario.