When Can I Change Child Custody in Pennsylvania?

When parents first get a divorce, they agree on a child custody arrangement. Often, parents don’t realize that as time goes by, they may need to change the existing child custody arrangement. In fact, this is quite common.

Essentially, it all comes down to the fact that life circumstances change. Some of the factors that lead to child custody modifications (an official court-ordered change in a child custody agreement) include job relocations, moves closer to family, remarriage, illness or disability on behalf of the custodial parent, and so on. Even a change in the child’s relationship with one parent can lead to a child custody modification.

Best Interests of the Child

Often, a circumstance will change and the parents will enter into a casual agreement to change custody. However, this is not the best way to go about it, especially if child support is being automatically deducted from one parent’s paycheck and the child moves in with him or her and now they’re the custodial parent.

Whenever child custody is changed, it should be memorialized in writing. This means, one of the parents are going to have to petition the court for a child custody modification. If the change is significant, child support will probably be affected as well. If one parent wants to modify the existing custody arrangement and the other parent doesn’t agree, the parent seeking the change will have to take their ex to court so a judge can decide.

Judges are very interested in the best interests of the child. If the reason for the change is more parent-focused than child-focused, the judge will be less likely to make a change. However, if the change is in the child’s best interests, the judge will be more inclined to grant a modification. In any case, the judge will weigh several factors, all based on the “best interests of the child doctrine.” Here are some examples:

  • Which parent is more likely to encourage frequent contact between the child and other parent.
  • Any history of domestic violence.
  • The parental duties each party has been performing for their child.
  • The availability of the child’s extended family.
  • The child’s relationships with siblings.
  • The need to keep stability in regard to the child’s education, their family, and their community life.
  • The child’s preference, based on their maturity and sound judgment.

If you are getting a no-fault divorce, you can contact Cairns Law Offices to have it done affordably. We can answer all of your questions about child custody and under what circumstances you may need to ask the court for a child custody modification in the future.

Next: Can Substance Abuse Impact Child Custody?

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