Life rarely unfolds the way we plan. In some cases, changes can be difficult. This particularly true if a change would impact the time you spend with your children. Many people in Louisiana have experienced this first-hand when flooding and other natural disasters have forced people from their homes. If the time you spend with your children is governed by a child custody arrangement, such a dramatic change can cause significant uncertainties.
It is possible to modify a custody arrangement with a significant change in circumstances
In certain situations, a child custody order can be modified. Those who need a change can benefit from a basic understanding of how the process works. Although the exact process will be different for each situation, the following steps apply for most child custody modifications in Louisiana:
- Petition. The first step involves filling out a form with the court. The form is the called the Petition to Modify Custody. This includes case information and an explanation of how the circumstances have changed and why the changes warrant a modification in the custody order. A Verification form must also be included. This form requires a notary and is used to ensure the person filling out the form swears that everything contained within the application is true.
- Service. This the legal term that refers to actually giving the other parent notice that you are requesting a change. In order to be fulfilled, the other parent must receive a copy of the petition. If the other parent lives outside of Louisiana and you would like the Sherriff’s office to make service, “long arm” service must be used.
- Filing. Once all the paperwork is completed, it must be filed with the court. Generally a fee is required; these fees vary depending on the types of documents that are filed.
- Scheduling. After filing, wait about two weeks before contacting the court. At this time, the judge should have had enough time to review the documents and would have sent them back to the Clerk of Court’s office. Contact the Clerk’s office to schedule a court date.
- Court. Generally, the judge will give you one opportunity to make your case for a modification. In some cases, a second date may be scheduled to provide more time to persuade the judge to agree to a modification. It is important to remember that it is the petitioning parent’s responsibility to make a case to change the custody order. In order to support your case, it may be wise to bring in evidence and witnesses.
Speak to an attorney
The above is just a basic overview of the process, and should not be taken as legal advice. Every family is different, and so too can be the exact nature of the process.
As such, it is wise for those considering a modification to seek the legal counsel of an experienced family law attorney. This legal professional will guide you through the process and better ensure a more favorable outcome.