Court-issued custody orders are legally enforceable but not cast in stone. They can be modified if there has been a significant change in circumstances since they went into effect.
However, Washington courts are not quick to modify a child custody order, as it can disrupt the child’s life. Therefore, you must show how the modification is in the child’s best interests and demonstrate your reasons for seeking the changes. Here are a few things you need to know.
Common reasons for custody modification
As mentioned, there must be a material change of circumstances on the parents’ or child’s side that renders the current arrangement infective or detrimental to the child’s well-being.
Some of the reasons a judge may modify a custody order include the following:
- A planned out-of-state relocation of one parent with the child
- Changes in the parenting abilities of a parent that makes it impossible for them to care for the child
- Changes in the child’s needs and preferences
Other reasons may warrant a modification if the court establishes that the change is necessary to protect the child’s health, safety or best interests.
The custody modification process explained
The modification process in Washington begins with filing a court petition specifying the kind of custody changes you are seeking. You will also need to outline the reasons for the requested modification.
There will be a hearing where both parents are required to attend and, if necessary, present evidence supporting their position. A judge will assess the petition alongside other relevant factors to the case before making a determination.
Seek legal assistance
Modifying a custody order can be a complex and emotionally charged process. As such, seeking informed guidance when navigating the legal procedures, gathering evidence and presenting your case is highly advisable. It can improve the chances of a successful outcome.