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Child custody orders: I need a change

Child custody is often one of the biggest points of contention during a divorce proceeding in Washington. Once you finally have your divorce decree, spelling out all of the details of your family’s child custody arrangements, you may understandably breathe a sigh of relief. However, just because one has finalized a divorce does not mean child custody issues will no longer be a concern.

If either your ex-spouse or you have encountered a change in your financial situation, you may need to modify your existing child custody arrangements. Child custody orders are essentially court orders, meaning that a judge is the only one who can change the original orders. A modification in child custody generally requires a substantial alteration of your circumstances before a judge will agree to it.

What are examples of some substantial changes in circumstances?

If you or your ex has suffered an illness or injury, this can have a dramatic impact on your ability to provide care to your child. The same is true if your child is the one who is suffering from a new medical condition.

One substantial change is that of alcohol and drug abuse, as such abuse can make it impossible for a parent to provide appropriate care to his or her child.

If there has been an unofficial change in whom the child has been living with, this can call for a modification to make this change official. For instance, perhaps the child has been staying for a while now with the parent who has secondary physical custody.


The main reason behind many modifications of child custody is relocation is a move. The need to move often stems from a change at work or other situations that are beyond the control of the parent. Unfortunately, dealing with relocations can be complicated and often leads to conflict between the two parents.

In this situation, the court must decide whether a child’s relocation with the custodial parent is truly in the best interest of the child. If a judge feels that the relocation of the child would ultimately be contrary to his or her best interest, the judge may make it mandatory for the custodial parent to stay in the state. If the two parents, however, produce an agreement that features an express consent to the relocation, along with a potential visitation schedule, the court will likely allow child custody relocation.

If you need a change in your child support order, an attorney in Washington who has experience with child custody orders can review your case and help you to achieve the modification you and your child need.