There are situations in which a current child custody order is not appropriate. However, the courts generally modify an order only in certain circumstances.
According to the Washington Courts, modification falls into three categories: modification, adjustment to nonresidential provisions and adjustment to residential provisions. A modification may be substantial or minor.
Substantial change in circumstances
A court considers a modification if there are substantial changes for either parent. This may include a new job with different hours or more responsibilities in a position. When examining a change in circumstances, there is usually the involvement of other factors, such as agreement by both parents and if the child’s schedule will be drastically different from the original order.
Relocation of a parent
Another factor involved in modification is if the main custodial parent wants to relocate the child. In this case, the parent does not need to show a substantial change in circumstances.
Best interests of the child
With all modification requests, the courts consider what is in the best interests of the child. Even when shown substantial change, a judge may not grant a modification if it would have a negative impact on the child’s emotional, mental or physical health. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, additional factors considered include:
- Physical and mental health of each parent
- The child’s relationships with other family members
- The presence of domestic violence or abuse
- The age and specific needs of the child
- Parental misconduct
If both parents agree on the proposed modification order, there is a simplified process to petition for the modification.