Most Vermont residents view a child custody order as the final word on the subject. But life proceeds in unexpected directions, and divorced parents sometimes realize that the terms of the court’s order for child custody and visitation is unworkable.
The natural question is whether such orders can be changed or revised. The answer is yes, under some circumstances.
Every divorced parent should understand those circumstances because life may present them with a situation that demands that the conditions of child custody and visitation be modified to suit the changed circumstances.
Vermont statutes specify the situations under which a court may modify an existing order for child custody. The party seeking the modification must demonstrate “real, substantial, and unanticipated change of circumstances” in order to present the motion for modification to a judge.
If the judge finds that such a showing has been made, a hearing on the motion will be scheduled for the court’s regular calendar.
The court then conducts a second inquiry based upon the evidence presented at the hearing. The purpose of this inquiry is to determine whether the proposed modification would serve the best interests of the child.
This inquiry is much like the inquiry that occurs during the original divorce proceeding. The court compares the best interest factors listed in the statutes with the evidence presented by the parties.
Pursue a legal solution
It is not uncommon for the divorced couple to attempt to make modifications on their own. They try to reach a compromise and assume that both parties will act in accordance with the new agreement. Unfortunately, these types of verbal agreements are not legally binding and therefore generally not enforceable by a court of law.
No matter the scope of the requested change, it is wise to work directly through the legal system to ensure the modifications adhere to the statutes and are enforceable should one party fail to uphold their obligations.