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Modifying an Existing Child Custody Arrangement

Modifying an Existing Child Custody Arrangement

The best interests of a child are central to any decision about child custody, but their needs – and their parent’s ability to meet those needs – may change over time. When this happens, either parent may request a modification of the child custody arrangement.

In general, if the terms concerning child custody have been agreed and included in a separation agreement, they will not be changed unless there has been a sufficient change in circumstances and a modification of custody is in the child's best interests. It is incumbent upon the party seeking a change in custody to demonstrate in specific terms what the circumstances were at the time of making the agreement and those that existed at the time of the application for a change. Unless there is a material change, it is unlikely that there will be any modification of the order.

A modification of an existing child custody order may be appropriate under the following circumstances:

  • The custodial parent frequently moves
  • The custodial parent abuses drugs and/or alcohol
  • The custodial parent is emotionally unstable, abusive, or violent
  • The custodial parent frequently changes jobs or has unpredictable working hours
  • The custodial parent has experienced a significant change in income
  • The custodial parent routinely fails to make the child available for visitation with the other parent

Certainly, if there has been a finding of child abuse, a modification will be made in the best interests of the child. Here is an interesting case where modification was ordered:

"Consent order entered granting parties joint legal custody with respondent mother receiving primary physical custody and petitioner father receiving visitation. Father seeks primary physical custody alleging that mother refuses to permit him visitation. Mother appeared pro se. Child suffered from "bottle rot," which required extensive dental care at an early age, and engaged in sexualized behavior attributed to mother. Family Court awarded father sole legal custody and primary placement with visitation to mother."

While parents may come to an informal modification of a child custody agreement outside of court, this is not advisable because the new arrangement would not be legally binding. In order to safeguard your rights, it is a good idea to involve an attorney and go through the formal modification process.

If you are seeking a modification of a child custody order, a New York child custody attorney at Eiges & Orgel, PLLC is available to help. To schedule a consultation with our firm, please call us at (347) 848-1850.


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