Although divorce decrees are considered to be permanent, courts also recognize that a family’s circumstances could change significantly down the road as children age and the parties relocate or obtain new employment. For this reason, family law courts are permitted to modify a child custody arrangement or spousal maintenance award at a later date, but only if certain requirements are met. Demonstrating that a party’s circumstances have changed enough to warrant a modification can be difficult, so if you no longer believe that your current custody, child support, or alimony agreement is in your child’s best interests, it is critical to speak with an experienced Dutchess County divorce modification lawyer who can help find a solution that is best for you and your family.
Generally, courts are reluctant to modify custody arrangements, if only because they are wary of the effects that such a drastic change could have on the parties’ children. However, courts are willing to approve a modification when a parent can prove that his or her circumstances have substantially changed. Even after a court finds that a change in circumstances has occurred, it will only grant a modification if doing so would be in the child’s best interests, which requires a review of a number of different factors, including:
- The parenting skills of each parent;
- Each parent’s ability to provide for their child’s special needs;
- The mental and physical health of the parents;
- Whether there is a history of domestic violence in the family;
- The work schedules of each parent;
- Which parent has historically been the child’s main caregiver;
- The child’s relationship with siblings and other members of his or her extended family;
- The child’s preference, if he or she is deemed to be mature enough to provide a reasoned argument;
- Each parent’s ability to cooperate with the other parent; and
- Each parent’s eagerness to encourage the child’s connection to the other parent.
Ultimately, a court will only modify a child custody order if an analysis of these elements indicates that doing so would be in the best interests of the child’s emotional and physical health.