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How to File a Child Custody Modification Order in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania estate planning lawyer

For married couples negotiating a divorce settlement, developing a child custody agreement can be one of the biggest hurdles.  Ideally, both parents should  compromise to develop a plan for custody based upon what is best for the child or children involved.  However, this is not always the case.  In less amicable divorce cases, a judge can grant one parent sole custody or order joint custody, based upon what he or she thinks is best for the child.

According to Petrelli Law, Pennsylvania and New Jersey courts more often than not grant joint legal and physical custody.   Some couples may opt for a six month split allowing the child to live with one parent for six months and then the other for six months. Other options for custody agreements include split weekend/weekday arrangements.  Parents should also take holidays into consideration when developing a custody agreement.

For a joint custody agreement to work properly, parents may need to reevaluate their lives and their schedules to maximize quality time with their children. However, sometime unforeseen situations occur that make it difficult to adhere to the agreement once it is in place. Parents in this situation can petition the court for a modification of orders.

Common reasons to file a modification of custody orders include a new job, a layoff, or a pay cut.  One can also petition a modification order based upon the former spouses situation, such as a promotion with a big raise, or if he or she feels the other spouse is endangering the child.

Sometimes ex-spouses may verbally update the agreement and informally change days that a child spends with either parent, such as weekends or holidays. However, there is nothing to stop the other party from changing their mind.  To ensure that any desired changes are enforced, parents are urged to petition a modification order.

Petitions must be filed with the court that granted the original order. This court has “continuing jurisdiction” which allows it to oversee the orders and make any necessary updates. The court will schedule a conciliation conference with both parents and their respective attorneys. If an agreement is not reached between both parties another conference or hearing before a judge will be scheduled.

Pennsylvania courts also require parents filing a modification for custody to attend a court approved parenting program.

To learn more about modification orders or how to file a petition, contact a family law attorney.

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