You and your family are bound to experience many major life changes after your divorce decree or custody order has been entered by the court. You or the other parent may get remarried, relocate, lose a job, etc. Hopefully, your decree contemplates most of these occurrences, but it is impossible to anticipate all that life has to throw at you. It may become necessary to petition the court to modify or change the order establishing legal and physical custody.
If you would like to ask the court to modify or change a previous custody or parent-time order, Utah law states that you must file a verified petition to modify which alleges the following:
- Admissible evidence will show that the circumstances of the child(ren) or one or both parents have materially and substantially changed since the entry of the previous custody order;
- A modification of the terms and conditions of the previous custody order would be an improvement for and in the best interests of the child(ren); and
- Both parents have complied in good faith with the dispute resolution procedure (usually mediation) to resolve their dispute prior to petitioning the court.
It is likely that your current decree or custody order contains a dispute resolution or mediation provision which states that, before you can petition the court to modify your decree or custody order, parents must first attempt to resolve the dispute at mediation. If so, you will have to attempt to mediate the matter before you petition the court for a modification of the current order. Mediation is a process wherein, an agreed upon third party acts as mediator. The mediator facilitates settlement negotiations between the parties. Although the mediator is not there to render a decision, the mediator should be familiar with family law and have enough experience with custody and family law issues to anticipate how a court would treat a particular case. Our firm likes to employ the services of a retired family law judge who has many years of experience dealing with the very issues your family is facing. This provides our clients with the opportunity of asking a judge how he would treat a specific issue, without the risks and expenses associated with trial.
Even if your decree does not have a mediation provision, our firm encourages clients to participate in mediation before, or shortly after, you petition the court. Mediation is a great and inexpensive way to try to resolve problems without subjecting you and your family to time-consuming and costly litigation. It may also be a way to address unfavorable provisions in the decree that you would not otherwise be able to tie to a change of circumstance.
In any case, if you feel that it is time to change a provision of your decree of divorce or child custody order, you should talk to an experienced and trusted family law attorney. Our firm will provide you with a free case review and let you know how best to deal with the unanticipated changes that are bound to occur after your divorce. Schedule your free consultation with an experienced family law attorney today by calling 435-656-6156.