Divorce is always difficult, but it can be even more so when you are granted limited custody and visitation with your child. Sadly, some parents are forced into custody arrangements that hurt, rather than strengthen, their bond with their child. If you're in a situation where you don't see your child as much as you would like, or where you feel the custodial parent isn't acting in the child's best interests, you may be able to modify the current agreement. The best place to start is usually by trying to work with the other parent for a modification. However, if they won't agree, you may have to take the matter to court. Here are a few things you'll need to show the court to get a favorable outcome:
Enough time has passed. Divorce courts want consistency for children. They don't want to see a child bounce from home to home and from custodian to custodian. If your divorce is very recent, it's probably too soon to consider a modification. In fact, some states have minimum "waiting" periods that must elapse before a parent can ask for a modification. In some cases, these periods can last for years.
The exception to this is if there some extreme and urgent need for the modification. Examples would be if there was physical abuse occurring in the home, or if the custodial parent had a drug problem or was engaging in criminal activities. In those cases, the court may consider a modification even if the divorce was recent.
Something has changed. You can't simply get a modification just because you want one. The court will want to see a material and substantial change that warrants a modification. This change could happen either in the custodial parent's home or in your own life. For example, the custodial parent could have run into financial, legal, or substance abuse issues that have caused them to be an unfit parent. Or they could be moving far away, threatening your ability to regularly see your child.
On the other hand, perhaps you didn't get custody originally because you were dealing with serious challenges. Maybe you had financial difficulties or were dealing with substance problems. If you have overcome those challenges, that could be a strong enough reason to revisit the custody agreement.
The child will benefit. Ultimately, this is the most important factor for the court. You have to show why a change in custody agreement not only benefits you, but benefits the child. Will they be closer to school, friends, and other activities? Will they have more contact with extended family members? Will they have a more consistent routine and stronger financial support? Show the court why this change will help your child be a happier and healthier kid. If you can do that, you'll greatly improve your odds of being successful.
For more information, contact a family lawyer like Joanna Cobleigh Esq. They can help you develop a strategy and they can represent you in court.
My husband and I had a great marriage for about ten years--that is, until he started cheating on me. I found out about it from a friend, and once I started peeling off the layers of my husband's lies, I realized that we hardly had anything to salvage in the first place. I decided that it would be best to get divorced, but I knew that it would be painful and difficult. This blog is for anyone out there who needs to gather the strength to get divorced. Check out these posts to learn more about the process and how the right lawyer can help.