Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

How can I modify my child custody arrangement?

When you first get divorced in Utah, the court will likely approve a child custody plan to ensure that your children are properly taken care of. The plan will specify physical custody and legal custody issues so that both parents know where the child will stay primarily, and who will be able to be make various decisions regarding the child, such as decisions regarding schooling, activities and health care. The plan will specify parenting time, when and how often each parent will see the child and how the child will be transported from one parent to the other. A child support payment schedule will also be implemented.

However, many changes can occur in your life, and your ex-spouse's life. Medical issues, getting remarried, job loss, job relocation and other major life changes may warrant a change in the child custody arrangement.

If you have a joint legal or physical custody order in place, the order may specify various methods of dispute resolution you must go through with your ex-spouse before petitioning the court for a child custody modification. Typically, you must involve a third party, professional moderator to hear both sides and resolve the issue outside of court. If you can come to an agreement on the new arrangement, you may file a petition to modify with the court, along with a few other forms. The court will then enter judgment approving the new order.

If you and your ex cannot agree on a new arrangement, the court will evaluate whether there has been a significant change in circumstances to warrant the modification and whether the child would benefit from this modification. If the court finds that the modification is necessary and beneficial to the child, a modification will be implemented and the new order will go into effect. In these cases, parenting time and child support will also likely require modification. Once the new order is in effect, both parents are required to abide by the terms of the modified order.

Source: Utah Courts, "Modifying Custody," accessed on June 12, 2017

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