Child custody may be modified in certain situations. When parents initially have joint custody and the co-parenting relationship has broken down, either parent may return to court and request that a judge makes a determination of which parent should have sole custody. To modify a determination of sole custody, a parent must prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances as to a parent’s ability to parent. Further, the change of custody must be in the children’s best interests. This is when you will need an experienced child custody modification attorney.
As a general rule, judges do not like to change custody of a child once it has already been decided. Changing custody can be disruptive to the child and is often perceived to not be in the child’s best interest. Further, unlike when custody is first decided, there is a higher burden to change custody once it has already been determined. Nonetheless, there are certainly legitimate circumstances under which courts can and will modify child custody. Some examples where a change of custody might be appropriate include:
The custodial parent is moving away. If a court determines the child should not relocate with the moving parent, then this circumstance could necessitate a change in custody.
The custodial parent is not performing the duties of a custodial parent. For example, if the custodial parent is not getting the child adequate medical care or not attending to the child’s educational needs, this could form the basis for a change of custody.
Neglect or abuse by a custodial parent undoubtedly could cause the court to change custody. Note that “neglect” or “abuse” are serious circumstances. Simply allowing the child to watch too much TV, eat too much sugar, or not enforcing a strict bedtime are not the types of parenting that rise to the level of “abuse” or “neglect.”
For whatever reason, the child is not thriving with the present custodial parent. Constant conflict, an unstable living environment, or other factors that are causing the child unusual physical, educational, or emotional turmoil may be considered by the court. This could include excessive conflict with a new spouse, partner, or step-sibling.
Note that a parent losing a job is not necessarily a substantial change of circumstance sufficient to modify custody of a child. As a general rule, a parent’s financial hardship will not be used against that parent to cause them to lose custody. If for some reason the financial circumstance becomes so dire that the child is being adversely harmed, this may be considered by the court (i.e. malnutrition, houselessness, lack of access to adequate medical care).
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but are examples of the types of circumstances that might constitute a “substantial change in circumstance.” Custody modification cases are very challenging. A good child custody modification attorney can help guide you through the process. Call us today to discuss the facts of your case.
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