Sharing custody in Massachusetts often means compromising. Everything from when parents schedule their vacations to whether they can pick up overtime at work may depend on their parenting schedule and their relationship with their co-parent. Occasionally, parents who are frustrated by the challenges of a shared custody will need to go back to the Massachusetts family courts to request a modification of their original custody arrangements.
Many parents would love to change their arrangements, but not everyone meets the necessary standard to do so. When is it possible for a parent to formally adjust or modify their custody order?
There must be proof of a change in circumstances
Typically, for one parent to ask the courts to review and change the custody order, they will need documentation of a substantial change in family circumstances. An example of a substantial change might include one parent moving in with a romantic partner who has a criminal record of domestic violence or a child in the family suffering a medical emergency that requires intensive support.
In addition to proof of a major change, a parent requesting a modification will typically also need grounds to claim that the change their family has undergone means that the current custody order is not in the children’s best interests. Perhaps their needs go unmet, or maybe it is clear that a different situation would be better for them.
Provided that there is a noteworthy change and that the change affects the needs of the children or how well the family needs those needs, then a judge may agree to grant a hearing and review the family’s situation. In a modification hearing, judges try to focus on the best interests of the children, just like they would during any other custody hearing.
They will look at the current family situation when they decide what would be the best outcome for the children in the family. Those who want more parenting time with their children or to keep their kids out of an unsafe situation typically need to gather evidence to support their claims and then file the appropriate paperwork with the courts.
It is worth noting, however, that uncontested modifications are also possible if parents can agree to the changes that they want to make to their parenting plans. Learning more about the permissible Massachusetts approaches to updating parenting plans can help those who are adjusting to a shared custody arrangement.