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As a Long Island child custody lawyer I see many clients who wish to modify their child custody orders for one reason or another. Modification of a child custody agreement is possible, although in Nassau County and Suffolk County it is no simple task.

Long Island, New York courts have a highly limited set of circumstances under which a child custody order can be modified. Because child custody orders were made upon careful consideration of all circumstances, including the best interests of the child, courts are hesitant to modify these agreements unless there is some convincing reason to do so.

A child custody modification order is obtained by first filing a petition with the court that issued your child custody order – most likely, the Family Court or the Supreme Court in Suffolk County or Nassau County. In the petition, you will provide information about your existing order, your current circumstances, and the reason for requesting a modification. If the petition does not contain an assertion that there has been a substantial change in circumstances, the petition will likely be dismissed. You may be asked to submit an affidavit in support of your petition, depending on the allegations you set forth. After that, a court will likely hold a hearing before making its determination.

There Must Be a Substantial Change In Circumstances

Specifically, courts look to:

  1. whether there has been a substantial change in circumstances that will have a profound effect on the original agreement
  2. whether a modification is in the best interests of the child.

There is no “hard and fast rule” about what constitutes a substantial change in circumstances, and the court can use its discretion in making the determination. However, past cases have shown that certain changes do qualify as substantial changes in circumstances. Conditions that have shown may constitute grounds for modification include:

  • Remarriage
  • Health conditions
  • Job loss
  • Relocation
  • Criminal or Dangerous behavior

The Best Interests of the Child Are Always the #1 Factor

Courts will also consider the request of a child 12 years of age or older. Depending on the age and maturity of the child, more weight is given to the child’s wishes. In addition, the age of the parents, the availability of parents, and the home environment can also play a role in the court’s decision. Overall, the court considers the totality of the circumstances in weighing whether a modification should be issued, and places great emphasis on the best interests of the child.

Can You Work Out An Agreement With Your Spouse?

Child custody modifications are most easily effectuated when the parents can work together and arrive at an agreement. However, it is often the case that one or both parents are less than willing to work together or make compromises.

Questions About Child Custody and Visitation on Long Island?

See this page to learn everything you need to know about Child Custody and Visitation on Long Island.

To learn more about what you need to know about Child Custody on Long Island, visit this page on Child Custody or contact us at 631-923-1910 for a complimentary consultation.

Long Island Child Custody Lawyer Can Help With Free Consultation

If you wish to change your current custody agreement, it is important that you consult with an experienced Long Island child custody lawyer. The child custody and family law attorneys at the Office of Robert E. Hornberger, Esq., PC, are experienced in all areas of law involving Child Custody and Visitation in Nassau County and Suffolk County, and can assist you with your decision to pursue a modification. Contact us at 631-923-1910 today for a free consultation.

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