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Modifying Child Custody

About Changing Child Custody Orders

In New York and across the nation, natural parents have a responsibility to care for and raise their children despite whether they were ever married. Child custody is a critical issue that goes into every divorce involving children, as well as any breakup or separation of nontraditional couples that haven't formally wed.

Child custody involves two parts: legal custody and residential or physical custody. Legal custody involves making important decisions for the child such as where they will go to school, which doctor they will see and which religion they will be raised in, whereas with physical custody, this strictly refers to where the child will live and with whom. Joint custody means that both parents make the major decisions about the child together, but the smaller day-to-day decisions are made by the parent who cares for the child the majority of the time. With sole custody, only one parent is allowed to make the major decisions about the child.

When parents get a divorce, they will need to come up with a child custody and visitation arrangement before the divorce can be finalized. Once the arrangement has been created and entered into the divorce, both parents are expected to adhere to their end of the agreement.

Can I modify my child custody arrangement?

Once your child custody and visitation arrangement has become official, you may wonder if it can ever be changed; the answer is yes, it can. Child custody and visitation arrangements are not permanent and are subject to change at any time. Since circumstances frequently change within families, it is not uncommon for one or both parents to seek out a child custody modification at least once, if not on repeat occasions. However, until the agreement has been changed by a judge, the existing order remains in place and in full force.

Some of the most common reasons for modifying a child custody and visitation arrangement are as follows:

  • The residential parent physically, mentally, or sexually abuses the child.
  • A boyfriend, girlfriend, or family member of the residential parent abuses the child.
  • The residential parent has a drug or alcohol abuse problem or both.
  • The residential parent is neglecting the child (failing to provide necessary food, shelter, clothing, medical care, or education).
  • The residential parent can no longer financially afford to support the child.
  • The residential parent suffers from mental illness that threatens the child's well-being and safety.
Other reasons for changing child custody can involve the nature of the child's relationship with each parent, as well as their relationship with their parents' boyfriends, girlfriends, or new spouses. Sometimes as children age they grow apart from their residential parent and wish to live with the other parent, or sometimes the child believes it's time to give the other parent a turn so they can live with them too.

Long Island Child Custody Lawyer

Either parent can petition the court for a modification; however, the burden of proof will be on the petitioning parent to prove there has been a significant change in circumstances to warrant a modification. Keep in mind that if domestic violence is present at either household, or if it was ever a factor, then it will have an impact in deciding child custody. Even if one parent was involved in domestic violence but the child wasn't home to witness it, it will still be considered heavily.

If you want to have your standing court custody or visitation order changed, then you will need to petition the family court. A family court judge may modify an existing child custody order when he or she believes it would be in the best interests of the child.

At Jonathan E. Kroll & Associates, PLLC, we can assist you with preparing your case before a family court judge. We understand the serious nature of child custody issues and how your child's future can rely heavily on the outcome of such proceedings. Proper preparation is essential in these types of cases and we are here to help you prepare the necessary documentation and oral argument before a family court judge.

Contact us today to get started, since 1994 we have been helping families with their child custody modifications all throughout Long Island, and we would be glad to help you!