What are reasons a judge will change custody
? The judge's primary concern is doing what is in the child’s best interests. However, the needs and interests of a child, as well as each parent’s ability to meet them, may change over time. Thus, a change in custody may be necessary at some point. If you are considering asking a judge to modify custody of your child, an experienced family law attorney
to walk you through the process. Below, we discuss some factors the court will consider in child custody modification cases.
Emotional and Physical Stability
A parent's ability to provide a child with stability is a critical factor in custody proceedings. Children do best when they know what to expect and can count on their parents. If a parent’s life is constantly chaotic, the court may see this as a reason to change custody. Examples of this include:
- Frequent moving
- Emotional instability
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Frequent new relationships or marriages
- Frequent job changes or unpredictable work hours
- Failure to make the child available for visitation with the other parent
You must be able to prove that something has materially changed since the original custody order in order to get a judge to modify custody. One material change may be a substantial change in the custodial parent’s living environment.
Child’s Academic, Emotional, and Physical Needs
Included in reasons a judge will change custody are significant changes to a child’s school performance or emotional or physical health. If a child is receiving failing grades in school, then the court may think the other parent is a better fit. That parent may live in a school district with better access to resources that can help support the student’s academic struggles. Similarly, if a child is frequently hospitalized for untreated illness, a noncustodial parent may be awarded physical custody, especially if they have better access to health care. One poor grade or recurrent ear infections likely aren’t enough to warrant a custody change, but the court will consider the ability of each parent to meet the child’s academic, emotional, and physical needs.
Relocation of a Parent
A noncustodial parent may also use the relocation of a custodial parent as an argument to change custody. Such a move may drastically reduce the noncustodial parent’s time with the child or their relationship with siblings. However, the court will still consider what is in the child’s best interests.
Preferences of the Child
If a child is emotionally mature, then the court will likely consider their preferences in where they would like to live. A child will not likely testify in a custody case, but their wishes may be indicated from an appointed person, such as a guardian ad litem.
Abusive and Violent Situations
If a child is in an abusive or violent situation with a custodial parent, the court will remove them immediately. A parent can file an emergency motion to modify custody and address the situation right away.