When Sam and Shelby got divorced, everything was pretty much cut and dried: They had shared custody–more or less a fifty/fifty split–with each parent getting half the week.

This scenario worked well for the first couple of years; but this year, their twins are starting kindergarten. Suddenly living a city away from each other is going to make splitting each week problematic—the twins are registered for school in Shelby’s district. Do they need to modify their decree?

When should you modify your schedule?

There are many factors that go into custody decisions. Nowadays, most parents try to divide time as equally as possible. If, however, one parent lives in a different school district, or moves closer to a job or a relative who helps with the kids, how can custody changes be resolved?

As children grow, so, too, do custody modifications. As with anything in life, something that worked for a few years may not work as time goes by. Children get involved in extra-curricular activities, make friends that live closer to one parent than another, or get a job that may mean Mom’s house is less convenient than Dad’s.

Does a modification mean more cost?

One thing parents might fear is that modifications necessarily mean a trip back to their attorneys, along with another court appearance and court-filing fee.

The good news is that, if both parents agree, a modification can just happen. Yes, you can simply agree to a new schedule without it being codified in a new court order. The bad news is that if either party later changes their mind, the current court order takes precedence.

What is the best course of action?

There is no one course of action that is best for everyone. Generally, it is best to consult your attorney before making a modification, then assess the situation based on his/her advice.

Even in the most amicable divorces, it is wise to seek counsel before making or agreeing to anything that is not outlined in the current decree. If you do decide to formalize your new schedule, it can often be accomplished without great time or expense.