Even after a custody order is in place, you can change it if you and the other parent agree, and you can also ask a judge to make a change. In addition, you can ask the judge to enforce an order. That means that if one parent doesn’t comply with the order—for example, by not bringing the child home at the right time or failing to tell the other parent about a medical appointment—the other parent can go back to court and ask the judge to force the other parent to do what’s required.
Trying to enforce custody orders can be challenging. Some of the ways that parents typically fail to comply with orders, like being chronically late to pick up or drop off the kids, aren’t things that a court is likely to get involved in. Most often, the judge will require the parents to go to mediation and try to work out the dispute. If the violations are more severe, though, the judge can hold the offending parent “in contempt of court” and require the parent to pay a fine.
You can only change a custody order if there’s been a significant change in the circumstances that existed when the first order was entered. In some states, you can ask for a change even without a change of circumstances if enough time has passed. A significant change means something more than a minor adjustment in your child’s school schedule or activities—it must be something like one parent planning a move to another state or changing jobs so that there is more (or less) time available to spend with the child. One parent wanting to relocate is the most common issue that comes before judges in custody modification cases.