After a family court judge has determined the custody of a child, either parent can petition the court to modify that custody arrangement if there have been significant changes since the court order. For example, one parent may petition for a modification if they believe that the other parent poses a threat to their child. As another example, one parent can petition for a modification if the other parent is planning on relocating a long distance away. The important thing to remember is that a judge will always take into account the best interests of a child when making a decision about modifying child custody.
For a family court judge to modify custody, the parent who files the petition must show that there has been a substantial unforeseen change in the circumstances surrounding the child, and that modifying the custody arrangements would be in that child’s best interest. There are some common reasons that parents may petition for a change, including:
Common Reasons Parents Ask for Modification of Custody
- A Parent Is Physically or Sexually Abusive – Either parent would have to present evidence to prove this allegation.
- Child No Longer Wants to Live with A Parent – The other parent would have to show that remaining in the care of the parent that their child is currently residing with, would place that child in danger, or would not be in the child’s best interests.
- A Parent Has Issues with Drugs or Alcohol – The parent making this allegation would have to provide evidence to prove that this is true.
- A Parent Does Not Abide by Visitation Schedule – A parent who repeatedly fails to follow the visitation schedule of the other parent is in violation of a legal order, which may compel a judge to modify the arrangement. But before making a modification, the judge would need to determine whether the parent’s interference with the visitation schedule had an adverse effect on the welfare of a child. If so, that would meet the standard of a ‘substantial change of circumstances’ necessitating a change in custody or time-sharing.
- A Parent Relocates – By itself, the desire of a parent to relocate due to a job transfer, a new job, or a move with a new domestic partner may not be enough for a judge to modify custody. But if this parent is moving so far away that it would make it impossible for the other parent to visit the child, a judge could rule that the move would not be in the bests interests of the child.
- Change in the Lifestyle A Parent – A judge may modify a custody arrangement if a change in either parent’s lifestyle creates an environment that is harmful to a child. For example, if a parent joins a gang and engages in illegal activities, the other parent could request custody based on a substantial change in circumstances that puts the child at risk.
Protect Your Rights in Modification of Custody or Time-sharing
If you are thinking about filing a petition for modification of custody, you must first understand the challenges and complications that often arise in these types of cases. Judges are not likely to modify a child custody order unless they are convinced that this modification would benefit the child. For a judge to make that determination, you must present compelling evidence that a substantial change in your former spouse’s circumstances is not in the best interest of your child.
Hiring an experienced family law attorney can help you mount the strongest case possible, because a reputable firm has the investigators and support staff necessary to uncover evidence, find witnesses, and navigate through the complexities of these petitions. Please contact The Law Office of Eric C. Cheshire, P.A. at 561-655-8844 for a legal consultation.