As a family law attorney, I am often asked if child custody and child support provisions in prior court orders can be modified.
The answer is yes. Unlike most court orders that are final once the time to appeal has expired, Arizona Law has specifically made child support and child custody modifiable up until the children are emancipated. The law requires that custody provisions be in the best interest of the child involved.
The logic behind this exception is that the lives of the parents and the children are continually changing and it is impossible at the time of a divorce or paternity case to know what will be in the children’s best interest at a future date, sometimes years into the future. Accordingly, the Court retains jurisdiction to modify child custody and child support provisions as required by the change in circumstances.
Except through the appellate process and other procedural avenues in which a party can ask the court to reconsider recent decisions, a party cannot ask the court to revisit a custody decision shortly after the decision is rendered. Permitting the Court to revisit these decisions without limit would allow a disgruntled party to continuously involve the family and the Court in litigation. Accordingly, in order to avoid abuse, a parent seeking modification must show a substantial change in circumstances. Additionally, Arizona Statute imposes a waiting period before a custody case can be brought back to the Court. This waiting period can be waived in cases where the child is in substantial danger.
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