In order to successfully change a Child Custody Agreement or Order, the party seeking the modification must prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances warranting a hearing or trial. There are a few different situations in which a change in circumstances may occur. Below are two examples of such situations: Relocation and Change in Child’s Circumstances.
Situation #1: Relocation
Jack and Jill have a six-year-old child together. The parents do not live together. The two share joint physical custody of the child, alternating every five days (so the child would be with Jill Monday through Friday, then Jack Saturday through Wednesday, etc.). This arrangement works for them because they live in the same school district only two miles from each other. Both parents work full-time, but Jack earns about $40,000 per year more than Jill. Recently, Jill was chosen for a promotion at her job and the company has asked her to move. The relocation would mean she would now live over 5 hours away by car, but she would be earning a significantly higher salary and her medical, dental and optical benefits would far surpass those she is currently receiving.
Obviously Jack and Jill have a big problem. The two, as well as their child, have been very happy with their current custody arrangement. With the relocation, however, there is simply no way that the alternate five day schedule is feasible for Jill. She believes that she should take the child with her, as the school districts near her new home are much better than where the child is currently enrolled. Jack believes that the child should remain with him, as all of the child’s family and friends live within close proximity.
Jack and Jill now find themselves in court seeking a Modification to their Child Custody Agreement, with both parents asking the court to grant them sole physical custody.
In this case, Jill brought the Petition, so she has the burden of showing the court the move is in the child’s best interest, with some of her strongest arguments an improved standard of living and better schools.
If Jack had brought the Petition, the burden would be on him to prove that the move is not in the child’s best interests. Among his strongest arguments are the child’s ties to the community, i.e. the child’s school, friends, family, doctors, and the reduced access Jack would have with his child.
The court had to decide what it believes to be in the best interest of the child. If the court believed that relocating was in the child’s best interest, then the child would relocate with Jill. Jack would still be entitled to visitation, but it would certainly be less than the five out of every ten days to which he was previously entitled.
In the end, while Jill presented evidence showing that her relocation would improve her financial situation, the court found her justification for uprooting the child from the only home he or she has ever known (and where the child has been thriving socially and academically) unsatisfactory. Jill failed to justify such a move that would qualitatively affect the child’s relationship with Jack. Given the lack of sufficient evidence proving to the court that the relocation would be in the child’s best interests, the court did not allow the relocation, and granted residential custody to Jack.
Situation #2: Change in the Child’s Needs
Jack and Jill have a young child together. The parents do not live together, but share joint physical custody of their child. Jill works full-time and Jack works part-time. Jack has the child every Wednesday through Saturday afternoon and Jill has the child Saturday night through Tuesday. The child is a perfectly healthy, well-adjusted child with no major medical problems.
Unfortunately, the child is involved in an accident that causes severe brain injuries. The child needs around-the-clock medical care and supervision. With Jill working full-time she is not able to meet the multiple needs of her child during the week. Jack feels that he is in a better situation to care for their child and petitions the court for a Modification of Custody.
Jack asks the court to adjust the parent’s custody arrangement to better provide for the child’s needs. If Jill will pay child support and her share of medical expenses for the child, Jack believes he can adjust his work schedule to accommodate caring for his child. Jack makes his argument to the court and the court finds that he is better situated to meet the demanding needs of his child. The court, finding that the Modification is in the child’s best interests, modifies custody so that Jack has the child Monday through Friday and Jill has the child Saturday and Sunday.
Other Reasons for a Child Custody Modification on Long Island
There are certainly other situations that may qualify as a change in circumstances warranting a hearing or trial on a modification. This may include a change in the relationship between the parents, such as the inability to effectively communicate with each other, or it may be an abusive situation has made it unsafe for the child to continue living in a certain household. There is simply no “one size fits all” when it comes to Custody Agreements and seeking modifications.
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Jack brought the Petition, so the burden is on him to prove that the move would not be in the child’s best interests. Among his strongest arguments would be the child’s ties to the community ….
If Jill had brought the Petition, she would have had the burden of showing the court the move was in the child’s best interest, with some of her strongest arguments being an improved standard of living and better schools.
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