Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

When can a court modify an existing child custody order?

Changes occur in the lives of all Salt Lake City residents over time. This includes changes at work, school and, most importantly, at home. As discussed previously in this blog, these changes in family circumstances can affect many issues stemming from a divorce, including support orders entered by a court in the divorce proceedings.

By the same token, changes over time might also impact child custody arrangements. During the divorce itself, the parties will either agree on custody or the court will award custody in a certain manner after examining the facts of the case and applying the law.

On occasion, one or both of the parents wishes to change a custody order that was previously entered by the court. Utah law provides a procedure for the parent to request such a change, although certain factors must be met before the court will go forward with changing custody.

One primary consideration the court will examine is whether a material and substantial change has occurred since the entry of the first custody order. If an order or agreement modification is sought based on a minor change, it may not be enough for the court to reexamine the issue.

Even if there have been substantial and material changes of circumstances, the court must still find that the modification that is sought would be in the best interests of the child. This is similar to the determination made by the court at the time of the divorce, as the court will focus on what is best for the child under the current circumstances. Upon considering these and other factors, the court can then modify the earlier custody order.

Source: Utah State Legislature, "30-3-10.4 Modification or termination of order," accessed on May 29, 2015

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