When parents first separate or negotiate terms for a divorce, they will have to reach an agreement about the parenting plan or attend contested custody proceedings where a judge makes some of those decisions.

Once the courts enter a custody order, both parents have an obligation to follow the order to the best of their ability. Even if you and your ex have successfully cooperated following your divorce, your family may eventually need to update its custody arrangements because your family situation continues to change.

In Arizona, either parent has the right to request a modification of the existing custody order when there are substantial changes to family circumstances. What are some examples of reasons to change custody orders with formal modifications?

Changes to family schedules

When children get older, they may spend more time in school, start jobs or join extracurricular activities. These obligations can reduce how much time they have to spend with parents and require that the family reassess the division of parenting time.

Sometimes, it will be a parent’s schedule that changes. If you take a new job or even accept a different position at the same company, your work schedule and therefore time when you are available for the children will change.

Improvements in circumstances

It is common for people to struggle financially and emotionally during a divorce or a breakup, and those difficulties might influence how a judge decides to divide your parenting time.

If you have obtained a better place to live or addressed the issues that limited your parenting rights at first, you can always go back to court to ask for a more even division of parenting time and decision-making authority.

Concern for the children

Does it seem like your ex has started drinking too much, and you worry that they can’t meet the needs of the children while under the influence? Have they started using their abusive parents or their violent new romantic partner as a babysitter?

If you have reason to suspect neglect or abuse, you can request a modification so that you have more time with the children or at the very least so that your ex cannot leave the children in the care of dangerous child care providers.

Typically, the parent requesting the modification will have the option of cooperating with their ex for an uncontested modification or litigating matters again. If your ex does not cooperate with you, then you will need evidence of the family changes that you believe justify your request for adjustments to your existing custody order.

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