black judicial gavelThis is the next post in a series of articles discussing modifications to existing child custody orders in Little Rock, Arkansas. The previous post reviewed the requirements that must be met in order to change a custody arrangement in Arkansas. It is not enough to simply be unhappy with the existing order. A requesting parent must demonstrate that there has been a material change in circumstances since the issuance of the original order and as a result, it is in the child’s best interest to modify custody. Assuming this burden can be met, a requesting parent must follow a specific process to seek a change. This post will review the process for initiating a formal modification request. If you need assistance, contact our office to speak with an attorney.

The process of changing child custody begins with the requesting parent filing a Motion with the Court. This document will set forth the reasons for the request, the proposed new custody arrangement, and the relevant facts and law supporting the request. The Court will schedule an initial hearing, which normally occurs within one to two months after the Motion is filed. If an emergency exists requiring an immediate custody change because the child is in danger, it is possible to request an expedited hearing. The requesting parent must demonstrate the nature of the emergency and why it would be detrimental to the child if the original request were not heard for several weeks. Courts quickly review requests for shortened time and, if the situation warrants it, they will hear the modification request at an earlier date. The opposing party will be served with a copy of the Motion and receive notice of the hearing date. In emergency situations, the notice period will be shortened. Failure to give the other side adequate notice of the hearing will result in the court rescheduling the hearing for a later date.

The initial hearing on your Motion will not be a trial with witness testimony and the presentation of evidence. The hearing will be relatively short and attorneys for each party will make an oral argument. After the Court has heard from each side, the Judge will issue a ruling resulting in one of the following outcomes. The Judge may deny the Motion entirely and keep the current custody order in place, issue a temporary change pending a formal trial, or make no immediate amendment but set a trial date to decide if a change is warranted. How the Court will rule in any given situation will depend on the specific facts of the case.

It is important to understand that modifications or decisions made at the initial hearing are temporary. The Judge will not make a final decision until the trial. An important point to understand is that you must comply with the Court’s orders in the interim period before the trial. Failing to do so will not be viewed favorably by the Court and could ultimately harm your case. If you need assistance with a custody matter, schedule a consultation with our Little Rock family lawyer today. I also handle matters in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Springdale, Jonesboro, North Little Rock, Conway, Rogers, Pine Bluff, and throughout the rest of Arkansas.