When a court enters an order governing child custody it is always after hearing the presentation of evidence. The court will consider each of the facts and circumstances inherent to the particular situation of the family. This aids in making the orders accordingly.
That custody order becomes the governing and controlling schedule of custody unless and until a court modifies the order. Because the custody order is dependent on a particular set of facts, that order is the law of the case and will not be modified unless there is a showing of a “material and substantial change in circumstances.” See Hogge v. Hogge, 649 P.2d 51 (UTAH 1982).
Why Is “Best Interests of the Children” so Important?
In short, if one parent wishes to modify a custody award after a divorce decree or custody order has been entered, that party must be prepared to demonstrate a material and substantial change in circumstances. However, the question of whether there are such changes is only the first question to be asked. Only if there are such changes, the court will move on to the oft-quoted next question. Is it in the (let’s all say it together) “best interests of the children?”
Some common examples of changes in circumstances include parents remarrying, moving a significant distance away from the other parent, changing schools, among others. While these changes may constitute material changes in circumstances, they may not warrant a change in custody.
From the Court’s Point of View
The court will then consider if a change of custody is in the best interest of the child. If the court decides that the child’s friends, extended family, and school are so vital to their well-being that a change in custody would be worse for the child, the court won’t order it.
If the primary custodial parent moves and wishes to take the child with them, the court will consider several factors. They’ll look at the reasons for the move, the impact upon the child, and may order a change in custody to keep the child in his or her location in spite of primary parent’s relocation.
Each of these scenarios is fact sensitive. Anyone considering whether a modification of custody is appropriate should consult an attorney.