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There are two major types of child custody. The first is legal custody, which involves the ability to make decisions about the rearing of a child. This can include medical care, education, and other important decisions. The other is physical custody, which is the right to have a child living with you. In cases where one parent is granted sole physical custody, the other parent’s right to visit that child is defined in a custody and visitation order. When circumstances make it necessary to change visitation, the custody order must be revised.
While a number of circumstances may require modification of a visitation order, courts usually only modify an order if it is is the child's best interest. The convenience of the parents is generally considered less important than the welfare of the child, but may also be a factor.
Here are some of the common reasons for modification:
Changes in circumstances of a child. As children grow older, they can become involved in new and different activities, which may require a modification of the visitation roder. For instance, a visitation order made when a child is a toddler may not still be appropriate as the child grows into grade school, middle school, or high school and gets involved in extracurricular activities.
Emergencies concerning the child. Emergencies can be a compelling reason to modify a visitation order. Child abuse and the risk of physical or emotional harm creates an urgent need to change visitation rights. Other emergencies, such as hospitalization, can also require modification of visitation rights.
Positive improvements for the child. These generally follow from changes in circumstance. If one parent is able to show that they would provide a better education or living environment than the other parent, they can argue that custody or visitation should be modified.
Child's need for a stable home environment. Courts consider stability to be one of the most important parts of a child’s best interest. A stable environment that provides better living conditions or circumstances is always an important factor.
Changes in circumstances of a parent. If either the custodial or the noncustodial parent moves, particularly if out of state, the move may render an existing visitation order impractical or impossible. In these cases, the court may need to modify the custody order accordingly.
Requests to modify visitation must be filed with the court that last handled any orders regarding the children. Any person affected by the visitation order may request a modification.
For more information on visitation orders, contact a local child custody attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.