Circumstances change after the child custody agreement and at some point, you want to change this agreement. However, a New York child custody attorney knows that winning a custody modification case is not easy.
You must present solid evidence proving that this change is in the best interest of your child. Showing that the change would benefit you and your interests is not enough and the court will disregard such arguments.
Let us examine how to proceed and what you need to prove in order to successfully modify a custody agreement. Our experienced attorneys at the Douglas Family Law Group are ready to help you.
Factors that Justify a Petition to Change Custody Arrangements
Following the guidelines of New York Domestic Relations Law Section 240, the reasons for demanding custody modification must focus on the child’s safety and well-being. Thus, courts will take a petition into consideration if it is based on the following arguments.
Your lawyer must bring evidence that the current custodial parent is no longer fit to fulfill this role as a result of:
- Mental illness
- Substance abuse.
The evidence must be clear and consistent and obtained in a lawful manner.
If the custodial parent wishes to relocate at a significant distance, you may prove that this would have a significant negative impact on the child’s ability to maintain a relationship with you.
However, your attorney must be able to prove that the relocation would be detrimental to the child, not merely inconvenience you because you have to travel some distance to visit the child.
In the landmark case of Tropea vs. Tropea, 1996, the Appellate Division reversed a Family Court decision preventing the custodial parent from relocating with the children. The Appellate Court determined that the relocation would be in the best interests of the children, even if the non-custodial parent would have to travel more than 35 miles in order to visit them.
Drastic Changes in Lifestyle
When filing for custody modification, you must prove that the custodial parent’s new lifestyle choices have a negative impact on the child. Some examples in this respect are:
- A new romantic partner moving into the house where the children live
- Change of domicile which provides unfit living conditions for the child
- Change of jobs keeping the custodial parent from performing their parental duties adequately.
The Child Is Diagnosed With Special Needs or a Serious Chronic Disorder
If the child develops a disability or a severe chronic disorder and the custodial parent is unable to offer proper care, you may file for custody modification. However, your New York child custody attorney must also prove that you are able to provide the required standard of care for the child.
The Custodial Parent Violates the Original Custody Arrangement
You may seek a change in the custody arrangements after repeated violations. You must document these violations in order to prove to the court that:
- You are refused visitation
- The custodial parent constantly speaks about you to the child in a negative manner
- The custodial parent does not involve you in important decisions regarding the child (choosing the school, for example).
The Child’s Preference
In this instance, it is important to remember that the child must be old enough to be able to express a preference in court. The accepted age for this is 12. Also, even in this situation, the judge may not take into account the child’s preference.
In many cases, children’s preferences are ignored if the court feels that their choice goes against their best interests.
How to File for Custody Modification
Your lawyer will file your petition seeking child custody modification with the Family Court. If the situation occurs after your divorce is finalized, you may file the petition either with the Family Court or the Supreme Court.
The petition must contain the following details:
- The current custody arrangements as described in the court order
- The reasons for seeking modification
- Relevant information and evidence.
The evidence your lawyer will rely on to prove your case are:
- Police reports
- Medical records
- Witness statements
- Photos and videos
- Emails, texts, and voice messages
- Journals documenting specific events.
Get Help From an Experienced New York Child Custody Attorney
When it comes to modifying a court order relating to child custody, it is essential to bring clear and convincing evidence that this change is in the child’s best interests. This is all that matters to the court when judging your petition.
An experienced New York child custody attorney at the Douglas Family Law Group will examine the reasons for seeking custody modification and give you reliable legal advice and guidance during the entire process.