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Can You Modify Child Custody in PA?

child custody

Petition to Modify Custody in PA

Divorces can quickly become complicated and overwhelming, especially when children are involved. One of the most important decisions that must be made during a divorce involves child custody arrangements. In some cases, the initial arrangements may not work out in the long run, or unexpected circumstances may arise that make it necessary for those arrangements to be modified.

This is where knowing your rights in regard to modifying child custody in Pennsylvania can make a significant difference. In this blog post, we will discuss the process of modifying child custody in PA, the circumstances in which modification is possible, and the requirements that must be met for a modification to be granted.

Reasons for Custody Modification in PA

The circumstances under which child custody arrangements can be modified in Pennsylvania are limited. The most common reason for modification is a change in circumstances. For example, one parent may move out of state, one parent may become ill, or a child may develop new health concerns that require a different living arrangement.

It is important to note that not all changes in circumstances will result in a modification being granted. The change in circumstances must be significant, and the changes to the child custody order should be in the best interest of the child.

Other changes in circumstances that may warrant a modification of custody include:

  • A parent changing jobs
  • A change in either parent’s behavior or lifestyle (that endangers the child)
  • A parent’s arrest or conviction for a criminal offense
  • A change in the needs of the child (because of age or other factors)

Before continuing, it is important to note that modifying custody is different than petitioning to relocate with your child. If a parent wishes to relocate with their child, even if they have primary physical custody, they must adhere to Pennsylvania relocation laws and provide a notification to their co-parent and court before moving.

It is also important to note that if you fear for your child’s immediate safety, you should contact emergency services. For instance, if you believe they are being abused or neglected or are in immediate physical danger, you can call the police. In Pennsylvania, parents can also file for emergency custody orders, which allow them to obtain custody and remove their child from their co-parent’s care while waiting for a modification hearing.

Petition for Modification of a Custody Order

If parents mutually agree on a modification of custody orders, they can both sign and submit the new custody agreement. However, if parents do not agree on a modification, either party may file a motion with the court that granted the initial custody order.

In addition to the motion, the parent must provide evidence supporting the need for the modification. This evidence may include school records, medical records, or testimony from witnesses who can provide relevant information. The other parent will be given the opportunity to respond to the motion and provide their own evidence supporting their position.

If the court determines that a modification is necessary, they will consider various factors such as the child's age, the child's relationship with each parent, and the child's preferences. The court's primary concern is always the best interests of the child. The court may choose to modify the custody arrangement, or they may modify other aspects such as visitation rights and parenting time.

It is important to note that modifications to child custody arrangements can be stressful and emotional. It is important to work with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the process and help you understand your options. An attorney can help you to gather the evidence necessary to support your motion and can advise you on the best course of action to take.

Can You Modify a Parenting Plan Without Going to Court?

No, you need to petition the court to modify child custody arrangements. Even if you and your co-parent agree on the modifications, you should still file a petition.

Going through the court to modify your parenting plan or custody arrangement is in your best interest. Let’s say that you get promoted and have to travel one weekend per month, which would affect your current parenting time. Even if your co-parent agrees to modify your plan to accommodate your new work schedule, you should file for modification.

In this scenario, your co-parent can claim that you are not adhering to your court-ordered child custody arrangement if you only verbally agree to change your plan. You can then face enforcement actions, which can include being held in contempt of court.

Consult with Our Firm

At William Kirby Law, Family Law Attorneys, our firm can help you with a post-judgment modification case. If you have experienced a change in circumstances, our attorney is equipped to help you navigate your case. With over 20 years of legal experience, we are known for providing high-quality, compassionate legal counsel.

Learn more about we can help with child custody modification by scheduling an initial consultation today. Call (215) 515-9901.