Situations change and what was in the best interest of a child years ago may not be feasible today, which is why child custody orders can be amended as life moves forward. When a substantial change in circumstances occurs, the courts will consider modifying child custody orders to protect the physical and emotional health, safety, and financial interests of the child.
Material Change of Circumstances
Material change of circumstances is a broad term and judges have significant discretion in determining what it means in regard to changing child custody orders. Significant changes that occur, like relocation to a new community, the loss or acceptance of a job, or the financial capacity of a parent may be enough to modify custody orders. Problems that the child is encountering in school, the physical health of a parent, or a parent not properly supervising the child or complying with existing court orders may also justify an amendment.
The Child’s Request
Custody orders can be modified at the request of the child in some cases. If the child is significantly older than he or she was when the orders were signed, or if the child requests to live with the other parent, the court can consider and act upon these requests.
Physical, Sexual, or Emotional Abuse
The courts take claims of abuse very seriously and they thoroughly investigate these allegations. If the investigation determines that abuse is taking place, the courts will seek to remove the child from the home as quickly as possible.
Filing for a Modification
Modifications for a material change in circumstances require presenting evidence that was not present prior to the implementation of the last custody order. For example, if a parent had a drinking problem, the continuation of that drinking problem doesn’t constitute a material change. However, if that drinking problem leads to neglect, abuse, physical injury, that does constitute a material change. Once filed, modifications can be agreed to by both parents. However, it’s not always possible to reach an amicable solution and modifications may be ordered by the court if only one parent approves of the petition to modify the child custody orders.
In Illinois, it is very rare for the courts to modify child custody orders that are less than two years old. Doing so requires establishing that there is an immediate threat of harm or injury to the child if the orders remain unchanged.