Susan Rossi Cook, Attorney and Mediator

Understanding the child custody process and options for parents

The subject of negotiating a child custody arrangement can be difficult for both divorcing parents. The good news is that the family law process provides options to help guide parents through the process, while allowing them to remain focused on the best interests of the child.

The court uses the best interest of the child standard to help it make child custody decisions. The family law court will evaluate a number of factors to determine what is in the best interests of the child. Parents are also encouraged to work together to reach a child custody agreement that involves both parents in the child's life. After a child custody arrangement is negotiated, agreed upon and finalized, life may change for the parents and child following the divorce.

In some circumstances, parents may need to a seek a child custody modification. The family law system also provides parents with resources to help them modify a child custody arrangement if needed. Whether or not a request for a child custody modification will be granted depends on if there has been a substantial change in circumstances. What the court considers a substantial change in circumstances can include if a parent is relocating to a different city or state; if a change is needed to accommodate the child's schedule or extracurricular activities; if a parent becomes unable to care for a child; and whether the age of the child has any impact on the agreement.

In any of these circumstances, however, the proposed modification will have to be in the best interests of the child. Because child custody can be an issue close to the hearts of both parents, it is helpful for them to be familiar with what the process looks like and the family law resources available to them.

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Susan Rossi Cook, Attorney and Mediator

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