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When can I modify an existing child custody order?

On Behalf of | Feb 22, 2023 | Child Custody

The answer to this question really depends on the circumstances at hand. Under New York law, a custody modification will only be granted if there’s been a substantial change in circumstances and the requested change is in the child’s best interests. This “substantial change” typically must be a major life change that affects one of the parents or the child. If you can show that this substantial change is ongoing, you’ll be in an even stronger position to successfully argue for modification.

What kind of situations warrant a modification?

Not all changes will support a request to modify custody. However, there are some major issues that, if present in your situation, will likely justify a motion to modify. Let’s look at some of those substantial changes here:

  • Parental substance abuse: Drug and alcohol abuse impacts many parents. But even if your child’s other parent is seeking treatment, your child’s exposure to that parental substance abuse can be harmful to your child. It can impact the child’s behavior, their school performance and their mental health. Since addiction issues are typically long-lasting, you’ll have a strong argument here for modification.
  • Exposure to domestic violence: If your child witnesses or even hears domestic violence in the other parent’s home, they could be at significant risk of being harmed both physically and psychologically. Therefore, if you suspect that your child is being exposed to domestic violence, you might want to talk to witnesses and obtain police reports to help support your modification request.
  • Evidence of abuse or neglect: Abuse and neglect can take many forms, but all of them can be extremely damaging to your child. Therefore, if your child has made statements about being verbally abused, being physically struck or being neglected without their basic needs being met, you can use that information to strongly support your position.
  • Changed physical and mental health: In order to properly care for your child, you have to be physically and mentally fit. If the other parent has experienced a decline in their physical or mental health to the point that they’re no longer able to adequately care for the child, the court needs to know that. You can inform the court of that issue through your motion to modify.
  • Financial hardship: As a parent, you also have to be able to financially provide for your child. If your child’s other parent has lost a job and is now struggling to make ends meet, your child’s basic needs might go unmet, even if the other parent’s shortcomings in that regard are unintentional.

Focus on your child’s best interests

It’s important to keep in mind that in addition to showing a substantial change in circumstances, you’ll also have to show why a modification is in your child’s best interests. Therefore, as you proceed with building your argument, it’s critical that you keep the state’s best interest factors in mind.

Do you need help advocating for the outcome that’s best for your child?

If so, now may be the time for you to reach out to a legal professional who has handled enough of these child custody cases to be competent in navigating them. By having a legal advocate on your side, you might be better positioned to make the arguments needed to succeed in modifying custody. Hopefully, you can take comfort knowing that your child is safe and that your relationship with them is intact.