When seeking to modify child custody orders, the parent requesting the change must first prove to the court that a significant change in circumstances has occurred since the last order was issued. This is often a high hurdle to pass, as it requires a showing, that it is not just a good idea to change the order, but rather, that it is in the best interests of the childthat the order is changed. This may be especially true if the current order is a recent one.
While Judges have wide discretion in determining what constitutes a significant enough change, it will likely not be enough for the parent seeking the change simply to show that they are doing better, perhaps because of a new job, or purchasing a larger home. Parents usually must show something has materially changed that is directly affecting the child in a negative manner, or that it certainly will in the future.
Examples of what may be considered a significant change of circumstances might include:
- Abuse, neglect, or domestic violence in the home
- The other parent begins to abuse alcohol, drugs or is in and out of many relationships
- The child is doing poorly in school and no attempts are being made to change that
- The child has health issues that are not being addressed
- The order that is currently in place is being ignored in a significant way, whether by the child now spending most of the time with the non-custodial parent, or the custodial parent not allowing the child to see the other parent or otherwise interrupting their visit.
- The custodial parent’s relocation, if the relocation has the potential to upset the child’s emotional stability by substantially reducing the amount of time the child spends with the non-custodial parent, siblings and extended family.
It is important to note that while changing custody requires such stringent guidelines, changing parenting time without changing custody may be easier to achieve.