VICKIE LYNN COCHRAN attorney at law
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Points to consider when modifying your child custody agreement

When you were engaged in divorce proceedings, you had many concerns jostling for attention: your kids, your home, your career. Though a trying process, establishing a custody agreement that satisfied both you and your former spouse was finally developed. The document addressed all variables that you anticipated would enter your lives. Upon signing the forms in your attorney's office, you hoped that would not have to revisit the issue of child custody again.

Unfortunately, even the best planning cannot anticipate changes in the future. Due to unseen circumstances that are either positive or negative, the courts of Arkansas recognize that not all original child custody agreements are destined to remain unchanged. An increase in salary or benefits of the noncustodial parent provides ample reason to request an alteration of the original custody agreement. Also triggering a change in the child support contract are circumstances that could endanger the safety of the child: drug addiction, child abuse or child neglect.

The aforementioned situations are examples of a material change in circumstance, which is the guideline the Arkansas courts follow in order to determine whether child custody arrangements need to be revised. The court has created this standard to limit the number of modifications requested, recognizing that not all custody arraignments will remain as originally structured throughout the duration of child support.

As with the initial agreement, the modified child support contract will be drafted to reflect the best interests of the child. In many cases, if both parents agree that changes need to be made, court intervention will not be required. When there is a disagreement between parents, a contested situation arises, necessitating intervention. Court jurisdiction is determined by the state in which the child has primary residency. During a hearing for this contested matter, both parents will need to supply evidence supporting their positions.

Although the situation may be acrimonious, parents are asked to consider the needs of their child before their own desires. In seeking out mediation rather than litigation, both parents may discover a less contentious method to resolve a custody dispute. Regardless of the path taken to alter the parenting plan, however, it is recommended that parents seek out the advice of a knowledgeable attorney because the modification procedure can be complex.

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