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Can a Consent Order Be Changed?

Father and daughter with a strong consent order attorney Raleigh

In North Carolina, when a married couple has children together and is divorcing, before the divorce is finalized, there must be an agreement on custody. In cases where the couple can't agree, the judge will determine custody and issue a court order. However, as mediation becomes more common for divorcing couples who are seeking to avoid litigation, they are choosing a consent order. If you currently have a custody agreement that was settled through a consent order and would like to change it, our child custody lawyers in Raleigh are sharing a closer look at how this can be done.

What Is a Consent Order?

Let's look at consent orders compared to separation agreements and court orders. If two people have a separation agreement during the one-year waiting period between separating and divorcing, this is a signed contract, but it's not enforceable by the courts and can only be enforced by suing for breach of contract. On the other hand, when a judge settles child custody between two divorcing parents, they issue a court order that is legally binding and enforceable through family court.

Think of a consent order as the midway point between the two. It's an agreement between two parents who have negotiated and drafted their own custody arrangement, like those in a separation agreement. Then the agreement is signed by both parties and submitted to the judge who reads it and signs it. Once the agreement is signed by a judge, it carries the same weight as a court order and is also legally binding and enforceable.

How Long Do Child Custody Consent Orders Last?

Just like court ordered custody, a consent order is considered permanent. There's no date of expiration or a date when an updated agreement is needed. However, permanent doesn't mean set in stone, so it can be changed if one or both parties need it to be.

How Do I Change a Consent Order?

Consent orders can be much easier to change than court-ordered custody. With a court order, both parties need to go back before a judge and request a post-judgement modification, even if they agree on the terms, and they have to show "substantial and material change in circumstances." This could include one parent relocating, showing an inability to care for the child, or a child's significant healthcare needs.

Consent orders are a bit different. For example, let's say that a current consent order lays out alternating weeks, Sunday to Saturday, with each parent. Then, one parent's work schedule changes, so they agree to one parent having the child from Wednesday afternoons to Saturday mornings. If both parents agree to this, they can change the order, sign it then have their attorneys file the signed document.

On the other hand, if one party refuses to change the consent agreement, modifying it follows a similar structure to modifying a court order. The judge will require seeing significant changes in circumstances or to determine if the agreement is no longer in the best interests of the child. Then they will rule to either keep the existing agreement or modify it.

Schedule a Consultation with Our Child Custody Consent Order Lawyers in Raleigh Today

If you currently have a consent order that determines child custody or child support, and you need modifications, we can help. Our experienced team of family law attorneys can help mediate or represent you before a judge. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, reach out to us today at (919) 301-8843 or fill out the form below to get started.

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