Can I have the custody arrangement changed if I feel my ex is not providing proper care?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Aug 21, 2012

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When a court makes a custody arrangement, the terms will not be changed unless there is a good reason to make the adjustment. If you believe your ex is not providing proper care for the child, this could constitute a good reason. Much will depend on what you can prove and what the court believes is in the best interests of the child. 

Changing a Child Custody Arrangement

A custody arrangement that is in place cannot be changed unless:

  • Both parties agree to the change;
  • The court believes that it is in the best interests of the child to make a change.

If your ex does not agree to modifying the child custody arrangement, this means you will need to convince a court that the arrangement you have now is not working and/or is not right for your kids. 

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Presenting Your Case

Every state has different rules regarding when and why it will amend a child custody arrangement. As a general matter, however:

  • There is generally a waiting period after the first custody arrangement is made, during which time the court will not alter the custody agreement unless there is evidence to indicate the child is in danger of harm. This waiting period may range from a few months to two years after the agreement is formed. If you do not believe the child is actually in danger or being harmed by being dropped off at your ex’s mothers, then you won’t be able to get the custody order changed during this time. 
  • A change will generally only be made if the court believes that there has been a material change in circumstances or that the current arrangement is not what is best for the child. 

For example, if your ex is dropping off your child at his mothers every day from early morning to 10 PM, this does not necessarily mean that it is dangerous for the child to visit him. It also isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since this allows the child to spend time with his or her grandmother. However, if your spouse is not supervising your child and is keeping her up until 10 PM, this may indicate a problem that could convince the court the child custody arrangement isn’t working. 

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