Freedom Law – North Carolina

Modification of Child Custody and Child Support

Child custody and child support are determined at the time the order is entered. All too often, they do not grow with the family and become undesirable or altogether ineffective. It is important to know that as your circumstances change, so can your order.

Child custody may be modified upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances that affect the minor child(ren) either positively or negatively. Typically, an order will be unmodifiable prior to three (3) years and a showing of only one or two changes in circumstances. However, as with the initial custody determination, motions to modify custody are determined on a case-by-case basis.

Child support orders, like custody modifications, are often generally modifiable after three (3) years. The court will examine any increase or decrease in the incomes of the parties as well as any increase or decrease in the needs of the child(ren).  Other factors the court will consider include the development of special medical needs of a child or if a child turns eighteen (18).

Reasons to Request Child Custody or Child Support Modifications

In North Carolina, child custody documents are legally binding agreements that all involved parties must adhere to. However, these orders can be modified if there’s a reason to do so. To change a child custody or child support order, you must first show proof that circumstances have changed so that the judge will see your case in court.

Examples of reasons the court allows for modifying child custody agreements include:

  • Reasonable suspicion or proof of domestic violence
  • New restraining orders for either spouse or the children
  • Evidence of changes in the physical or emotional health of the parents or children
  • Evidence that one parent has demeaned the other in front of the children
  • Hindrance of the existing child custody order
  • The child’s wishes (if the minor child is of an appropriate age and maturity level)

Examples of reasons the court allows for modifying child support orders include the following:

  • Changes in how parenting time is shared
  • Either parent has lost their job
  • Either parent now earns significantly more than when the order was created

Factors That Determine Whether Child Custody or Modification of Child Support Will Be Granted

Child custody is determined based on the best interests of the child. This means the courts weigh several factors to see whether:

  • The requested custody modification is in the child’s best interest
  • The current parenting plan is still the best option, or
  • A third option, created by the court, is a better fit

The courts consider things such as the child’s stability and how a change in parenting time might affect that. In addition, they consider each parent’s financial, emotional and physical abilities to care for the child on a daily basis and the child’s relationships with the parents and existing siblings. Finally, the existence of domestic violence and other hardships that threaten the child’s well-being are also examined. 

Why It’s Important to Hire a Family Law Attorney When Requesting Child Custody or Support Modifications 

When you request a child custody or support modification, you have the burden of proof. A burden of proof means it’s up to you to prove that a change in circumstance adversely affects your minor child. Family law issues are complicated, and the other parent will be given the benefit of the doubt against any claims you make initially. 

You can develop a burden of proof by:

  • Getting witness testimony 
  • Providing your child’s physical or mental health records
  • Providing video or audio evidence (where appropriate)
  • Providing written evidence, including emails and text messages
  • Having your lawyer subpoena key experts, such as your child’s doctor, therapist or teacher

A family law attorney or divorce lawyer can help you present your burden of proof in a way the courts will accept. They can also provide legal advice on whether the modifications in physical custody, living arrangements or child support you hope to request are likely to be made before you go to court. But, most importantly, an experienced North Carolina family law attorney can answer any questions and help ensure your child’s well-being is placed first and foremost during all proceedings. 

If you have questions about whether your child custody or child support order is modifiable, let Freedom Law | North Carolina answer them. We are here to listen and advise you on your best path forward.

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