Is the final child custody agreement forever binding? 21 Answers as of July 11, 2013

I am getting a divorce and my husband and I agreed on 50/50 custody. There is a good chance at some point I will need to move out of state. Is the likelihood of the court granting me more custody and allowing me to move out of state less likely if I have originally agreed to 50/50 and not moving out of the sate? Or will they look at all circumstances and reassess in an unbiased manner? Do I need to make sure I file how I want to be long term now?

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Seattle Divorce Services
Seattle Divorce Services | Michael V. Fancher
Under Washington law the parenting plan can be reviewed when you are going to be moving out of the state. Since at this point neither parent is a primary residential parent, the court will have to decide, based on the best interests of the child, which parent the child should live primarily with when the parents are going to be living in different areas (and so can no longer do 50/50). Absent other factors, the court may well decide that it would be better to keep the child in the area where the child has been living, going to school, etc.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 7/7/2011
Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser
Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser | Donald F. Conviser
If you and your ex-husband already have a final 50/50 agreed child custody order, you would have to prove to the Court that it would be in the children's best interest to allow you to move away with the children, a difficult burden for you to carry, since your ex-husband's time with the children would be drastically affected by the move. The burden would be significantly less if your ex-husband doesn't get joint custody - i.e., under 30% of the children's timeshare. If your agreement is not a written agreement, or if it wasn't made in open Court, you may not be bound by that agreement. You should at least consult, if not retain an experienced Family Law Attorney to represent you, under the circumstances you describe. Whereas a final child custody order may not be forever binding, it may be extremely difficult or impossible to change a joint custody order of 50/50 timeshare that you agreed to, and that may affect your ability to make the move with your child/children that you may want.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 7/6/2011
Vincent J. Bernabei LLC
Vincent J. Bernabei LLC | Vincent J. Bernabei
Custody can be changed if there is a substantial change of circumstance since the time of the original award of custody and it is in the child's best interests. To change custody, you must prove that the changed condition relates to your or father's capacity to properly care for the child. To qualify as a change of circumstances for custody modification purposes, events must be unanticipated and must have arisen since the last order. You should take your best shot at custody now. The more parenting time father gets now, the less likely the court will allow you to take the child out of state later.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 7/5/2011
Pontrello Law
Pontrello Law | William Pontrello
No, it can be modified upon substantial change in circumstances.
Answer Applies to: Florida
Replied: 7/4/2013
Horizons Law Group, LLC
Horizons Law Group, LLC | Michelle B. Fitzgerald
The answer to this is complicated. You are talking about 50/50 placement, correct? Custody is typically joint and involves decision making for the children. Placement is not set in stone forever, however, it is difficult to redo once a final order is in place. There are certain restrictions and standards involved in trying to redo the placement. Moving out of state could be negotiated as part of your divorce agreement - unless your plans are totally unknown.
Answer Applies to: Wisconsin
Replied: 7/5/2011
    Neville J. Bedford Attorney at Law
    Neville J. Bedford Attorney at Law | Neville J. Bedford
    They look at all circumstances.
    Answer Applies to: Rhode Island
    Replied: 7/11/2013
    John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law
    John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law | John Kirchner
    A parenting plan is always subject to modification based upon changes in circumstances that affect the best interests of the child. First, you should not "agree" to 50/50 parenting time unless both parents are convinced that that is what is best for the children AND both intend to honor that plan. Agreeing to a plan that doesn't get followed is an invitation to future dispute. But, if the plan is 50/50 and actually gets followed and the children get along will under that plan, future relocation that has the effect of destroying the good relationship that the 50/50 plan has created could be considered inappropriate unless a suitable alternate parenting time plan can be devised. Any planning you do now should be based on what is best for the children NOW. You will harm you children by trying to prevent a good relationship (i.e. limiting his time with them) with their father now, just so you can relocate later and thus limit his time even further. A court will look at all the circumstances fairly and without bias but the appearance that you consider your wishes more important than the interests of you children can be a negative.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Law Office of Michael W. Bugni
    Law Office of Michael W. Bugni | Jay W. Neff
    No, parenting plans or child custody agreements are not binding forever. However, they can be very difficult to change once they are in place. This is because our legislature determined that frequent significant changes to a parenting plan can be disruptive to the child's life and damaging to the child. For this reason, the legislature set up a number of barriers to changing a parenting plan. You mention that you may want to move out of state at some point in the future. Your description of your situation also seems to imply that the parenting plan has not yet been agreed to or entered by the court. Therefore, you may want to negotiate for provisions will make changing the parenting plan to accommodate a relocation out of state easier than it would otherwise be. You will probably want to have an attorney to help you with this.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Meriwether & Tharp LLC
    Meriwether & Tharp LLC | Patrick Meriwether
    The determination of custody is dependent on numerous factors. Without more information it would be difficult to answer this question in a single email. I would recommend that you consult with a local divorce lawyer to discuss the situation in more detail. As a general rule, if you have joint physical custody, it will be more difficult for you to move out of state with the children in the future.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    The Collaborative Law Group
    The Collaborative Law Group | Jac E. Knust
    The court must always do what is in the best interest of the child. What is in the best interest of a child will change over time. While a court will often look at the circumstances surrounding how custody and visitation was originally established, the court is not bound to follow a previous arrangement if it does meet the child's current needs.
    Answer Applies to: Maryland
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Willick Law Group
    Willick Law Group | Marshal S. Willick
    No. Child custody, visitation, and support are never "final" so long as the children are minors. Of course, your best bet is to hire qualified counsel to advise and assist you.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Ashman Law Office
    Ashman Law Office | Glen Edward Ashman
    First of all, if you do not have a lawyer, you have already messed up badly. Get one. Do not proceed without counsel. Mistakes you make now may never be fixable. If you plan to move it would be foolish for you not to tell your lawyer and work helpful language into the case. The wrong language could cost you custody later, and judges will be furious later when they realize you cut a deal you already planned to violate. You are playing a dangerous game that could lose you your child. Get a lawyer and protect yourself. Do not assume you can mislead the court now and cut a better deal later.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Law Office Of Jody A. Miller
    Law Office Of Jody A. Miller | Jody A. Miller
    Custody decisions are modifiable if there is a justification for the modification, so the decision is not necessarily set in stone. Also, you can not agree to remain in the state and a court cannot order that - that is unenforceable, as are self-executing custody modification provisions in a settlement agreement. Under any circumstances, whether custody is joint physical custody or one parent is the primary physical custodian, the original custody order can be modified upon one person moving out of State. Further, if it is a true joint physical custody situation, it is possible that the court could decide that the child should remain here in Georgia if you move. It would be a very fact specific case, but the judge would look at why you are are relocating and the consequences of the child being removed from one parent after they have had substantial custodial time.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Law Office of James Lentz
    Law Office of James Lentz | James Lentz
    The court will not prepare a parenting plan based upon a contingency of a possibility of a parental move. When you are certain you will be moving your attorney can file a motion to modify along with notice of intent to move. Hopefully you and your soon-to-be-ex will be on good enough terms that he will work with you regarding the move. Typically, when one parent moves, the parenting plan is changed so that the child(ren) stay with the parent who resides in state for the school year, and then spend the summer and part or all of the school vacations with the parent who moves out-of-state. Consult with your divorce attorney to confirm this information is correct in the county in which you reside.
    Answer Applies to: Ohio
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    ROWE LAW FIRM | Jeffrey S. Wittenbrink
    No custody agreement is ever "forever binding," but can be modified by a change in circumstances that have a material affect on the child. A judgment by the court after a contested hearing is another matter, and may be overcome only by overcoming a heavy burden of proof. Relocation to another state is very difficult under Louisiana law. You must prove that your request for relocation is in good faith, and that the move is in the best interest of the child. That may be difficult if the children have a close relationship with their father.
    Answer Applies to: Louisiana
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Law Office of L. Paul Zahn
    Law Office of L. Paul Zahn | Paul Zahn
    Custody and visitation orders are modifiable for the duration of the child's minority providing that there is a reasonable basis to do so.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/11/2013
    Beresford Booth PLLC
    Beresford Booth PLLC | S. Scott Burkhalter
    It is difficult to change a final parenting plan. To modify a final parenting plan, you must show a substantial change in circumstances. If you are going to move, with a 50/50 plan, neither one of you will be entitled to a legal presumption allowing the move. Finally, and most importantly, you should implement a plan now that is in your children's best interests.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Glenn E. Tanner
    Glenn E. Tanner | Glenn E. Tanner
    In Washington, if you have the children 50.00000001 percent of the time or more, you will be presumed to be allowed to move. If the ordered plan is trully 50/50, which is rare, there is debate in the appellate courts whether the presumption applies. In any case, if you know you will be moving, and want the kids to go with you, the more time they have with you the more likely you'll be allowed to move with them.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Petit & Dommershausen SC
    Petit & Dommershausen SC | Tajara Dommershausen
    It is very difficult to change in the first two years unless there is an agreement. After that it is presumed that the current arrangement is in the best interest of the child; however, if that is no longer able to occur (ie you are living too far away) the court with the help of a GAL will determine what is in the best interest of the child.
    Answer Applies to: Wisconsin
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    The Reed Law Firm, P.L.L.C.
    The Reed Law Firm, P.L.L.C. | Vanessa Reed
    Child custody, support and visitation provisions are always modifiable based upon a "material change in circumstances" since the entry of the last Order. In addressing a modification of child custody, support, or visitation, a court will apply the statutory factors set forth in In order to modify an existing child custody or visitation order, a change in circumstances since the date of entry of the last order must have occurred. A "change in circumstances" is required in order to have a court modify child custody and visitation orders. Once a change in circumstances is proven, the court then determines whether a child custody or visitation modification is necessary, using the factors set forth in Virginia Code 20-124.3. When the court is considering a child custody modification, or visitation modification, it applies the "best interests of the child" standard, as set forth in Virginia Code 20-124.2.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    The Davies Law Firm, P.A.
    The Davies Law Firm, P.A. | Robert F. Davies, Esq.
    You are right to be careful about this. Yes, agreeing to 50/50 custody could affect your ability to move out of state with the child or children (you do not say how many children or how old).
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 7/1/2011
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