Pennsylvania parents often find that their or their children’s needs change after judges issue final custody orders. Because few families’ situations stay the same forever, judges may determine that it is in the best interests of the children of divorced parents to change a custody order. Parents may seek modifications of custody to accommodate significant changes that occur in children’s or parents’ lives.
Parents must generally be able to prove substantial changes in circumstances for a judge to agree to modify a final custody order. Substantial changes may occur naturally as younger children age and want to spend more time with a non-custodial parent during extended breaks from school. One parent may get a new job that prevents them from complying with the visitation schedule in the original custody order. A non-custodial parent may become concerned about their young children’s safety if a custodial parent starts working at night and might be forced to leave the children alone because they cannot find childcare. Significant changes like these may be incompatible with the original custody order, and a judge may determine a modification is in the best interest of the children.
A parent who wants to get a custody order changed must file a petition for modification with the court that issued the original custody order. It may be difficult to have a case transferred to an out-of-state court, even if one parent has moved. Parents seeking a transfer to another state must ask a judge to allow another state’s court to hear the case.
While parents may work out permanent changes to a child custody or visitation schedule between themselves, these changes are not enforceable unless the original order is modified. Family law attorneys may be able to help parents with their petitions for modifications and other custody issues.