When you and your child’s other parent either separated or divorced, you likely drew up some sort of governing child custody arrangement. This arrangement may have been drawn up formally or informally, with or without the assistance of experienced family law attorneys. In the years since this arrangement was drawn up, your child has grown and your family life has almost certainly evolved. Because the needs of children tend to change over time, it is entirely possible that elements of your child custody arrangement no longer reflect your child’s best interests.
Courts are generally bound to honor the “best interests of the child” standard when approving child custody agreements and parenting plans. However, the legal system is far from perfect and these arrangements do not always reflect a child’s best interests. In addition, few courts insist upon the construction of parenting plans that evolve as the needs and interests of the child in question evolve. Thankfully, child custody agreements and parenting plans can be formally modified under numerous circumstances.
A few years ago, The New York Times published a controversial opinion piece authored by a marriage and family therapist. This piece explores the concept of “best interests” as they pertain to children whose lives are governed by child custody agreements. The author insists that the needs of divorced parents often eclipse the needs of their children when custody agreements are drafted. In addition, the author argues that parenting plans should be updated and modified regularly to ensure that, for example, a teenager’s life is not governed by an agreement penned when that teen was only a toddler.
Whether you agree or disagree with the idea that custody agreements should be automatically constructed with an “update schedule” attached, your child’s situation may be such that a custody modification could benefit him or her in significantly positive ways. Even if your child’s other parent opposes modification, there may be ways to modify your child’s custody agreement regardless. If you have any questions about child custody modifications, please speak with an attorney. If your child could sincerely benefit from an adjustment, a family law court may agree to enforce one.