The Weight to be given to the Existing Order in a Modification Proceeding
A court will order the modification of a custody order only upon a showing of sufficient change in circumstances reflecting a real need for modification of the existing order to insure the continued best interest of the child. An existing custody arrangement is but one factor to be considered.
An Existing Custody OrderAn existing custody arrangement or order is a factor to be considered by a court when considering a modification of a custody order. A custody order that is the product of a stipulation between the parties will be given less weight than one that is the result of a full hearing and a decision by a judge. Hence, an order that is the product of an agreement is easier to modify than one that is the result of a judge having made a decision after a hearing or trial.
The Age of the OrderA Court also will consider the length of time that the present custody order or arrangement has been in place. This cuts both ways. If an order is relatively new, a court may be reluctant to modify it because not much may have changed in that period of time. While at the other end of the spectrum, an order than has been in place for many years and has worked well also may be given a lot of weight. There is no hard and fast rule in either regard. Practice has shown this depends on the facts of the case and the particular judge that is hearing the case.