Contrary to what many divorced or separated parents believe, a change to a custody agreement is possible. Lives and circumstances change, and sometimes an agreement that made sense in the past no longer serves the parents or children. Informal custody changes are not considered an order of the court so a parent may have trouble with schools, doctors, or others recognizing the changed custody or authority of the custodial parent. To ensure you protect your rights, and those of your children, you must follow the legal process to make a change.
How to Change a Custody Agreement
The first step to a change in custody agreement is to submit a petition to the family court. Most of the time, the petition, or complaint, will be filed in the same county that initially had jurisdiction over the first agreement. If both parents agree to the changes, the process is straightforward, but there are still formal steps which must be taken to get your new agreement before a judge for his or her approval, and ultimately obtaining the new court order.
If the parents are not in agreement, the parent requesting the change must submit the petition and include a compelling reason why the change should be ordered, including the substantial and material change in circumstances that occurred since the initial agreement. The family courts will evaluate whether substantial changes have occurred, and determine what is in the children’s best interest. There is no specific time one must wait to seek a change in custody; rather, the crux is what circumstances have changed since the original agreement was approved by the court.
Child Support Formula
Modifications to a custody agreement many times also require reconsideration of child support. The formula used in South Carolina considers, among other things, the gross income of each parent and the amount of overnights the child spends with each parent. Support obligations would also change if the custody modifications included a change to the amount of time spent with one or the other parent.
In every custody change request considered by the courts, the child’s best interest is a top priority. As a parent, you know what’s best for your child, and as family law attorneys, we know how to help. Contact McCutchen and McLean LLC to find out how we can help you navigate these important legal modifications.