It is normal for both of the adults in a family to feel somewhat disappointed with the terms of a custody order after a divorce or separation. Both adults need to make some concessions regarding how much time they spend with the children.
Oftentimes, people would like to go back to court and seek more favorable custody terms. A custody modification could give someone more time with their children or possibly resolve disputes related to decision-making authority for medical, religious and educational matters.
There is no standard review process for custody orders the way there is for a support order. When is a custody modification potentially an option in Washington state?
When the parents agree
Minor custody modifications are possible at any time if both adults in the family agree on the details. Uncontested custody modifications could be necessary when family schedules change or other factors render an existing custody order ineffective at meeting the needs of the family. For the most part, modifications that the parents agree on are a simple and straightforward process as long as the judge agrees that the changes would be in the best interests of the children.
When there has been a significant change
Not all modifications are amicable. Sometimes, the adults in a family disagree about the need for a modification or what new terms would be best for the family. When there is a dispute about a modification request, either parent can file a request for a hearing.
The courts will need to agree that the circumstances warrant a modification request to grant a hearing. Significant schedule changes and factors that influence the well-being of the children, such as evidence of substance abuse or neglect, could help convince the courts that a modification is necessary. Both parents seeking custody modifications and those opposing them need evidence supporting their perspective. A judge typically wants to set terms that they believe are in the best interests of the children in the family. Exactly what would benefit the children can be very different depending on a variety of family factors.
Recognizing when it may be time to go back to court, and seeking legal guidance accordingly, can potentially help parents maintain custody arrangements that work well for all members of the family.