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What Will the Court Look at to Modify Custody?

When it comes to custody battles, and modifying a custody agreement for any reason, what the court is looking for above all else is what is in the best interest of the child. The situation is a little different the second time around, however, when a parent is petitioning for a change in the custody agreement that was originally arrived at during the divorce.

If the court believes that the current living situation for the child is adequate, then they will be hesitant to make any changes to the custody agreement. Unless there are some circumstances that prove that the child may be in danger of some sort of physical or emotional harm, most courts will prefer that the child stay in their current situation for the sake of stability and consistency. This means that attempting to modify a custody agreement can be tricky, because the parent petitioning for the modification has a great burden of proof that must be provided, showing that the proposed new living situation is a substantial improvement over the current living situation.

As an example, if a mother currently has sole custody of the child, but is planning to move out of state for a new job, the father may petition the court for a modification in the custody agreement. If the father cites the fact that the child will be losing the stability of his current life, friends, school and other aspects of his living situation, the court may agree. This is a substantial enough change in the quality of the living situation that the court may find in his favor, although this is not always the case.

There are two primary considerations that the petitioner must prove:

  • He or she must prove that the current living situation for the child is no longer in his or her best interest.
  • He or she must prove that the proposed terms of the modification in child custody would improve the child’s situation. Here, if the two households are considered to be equal, then the burden of proof will not have been met.

In situations where the child has reached the age of 16, he or she is legally allowed to petition for a modification in the custody agreement, but the same burden of proof must be met. Here, the child must be able to prove why the change in custody is warranted, and why it is in their interest to make such a change. In most cases, child custody modification cases are looking to determine whether stability is in the best interest of the child, or a modification in the custody arrangement, since modifying the custody arrangement will alter a child’s life. This is one of the most important considerations that the court has to make, as they do not generally like to make custody modifications unless there are solid reasons for them to do so. Work with your custody lawyer to determine the best course of action when you are attempting to modify a custody agreement.

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