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Situations where child custody arrangements may be modified

There are a number of reasons why family law judges in Massachusetts and around the country may modify child custody arrangements. Judges award custody and visitation based on what they consider to be in the child's best interests, and they may revisit and revise these decisions when the situations of custodial or noncustodial parents have changed. Custodial parents may also lose primary physical custody when police notify the courts of incidents of domestic violence or reports from teachers or social workers suggest that children may be living in dangerous environments.

Child custody arrangements are sometimes modified when custodial parents plan to relocate. However, judges may decline to issue a modification order if they believe that doing so would be in the best interests of the child. When weighing these arguments, judges will consider the reason for the move and whether or not the distance involved would make agreed-upon visitation impractical. Judges will also expect parents to have tried to settle these matters amicably before involving the courts.

The courts may also step in when child custody orders are being willfully ignored by custodial parents. However, parents should make every effort to resolve their disagreements between themselves before taking legal action. Custodial and noncustodial parents are expected to act reasonably, and judges may be unhappy if they feel that the courts are being used as a venue to referee disputes or air uncorroborated allegations.

In addition to possibly irritating judges, contentious custody and visitation disputes can have a damaging effect on children. Experienced family law attorneys could seek to avoid prolonged legal battles and engender an atmosphere of cooperation by reminding parents that they both want their children to be happy and thrive. However, they may urgently seek child custody modification orders when vulnerable children have been placed in situations that could cause them physical or psychological harm.

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