Can I Change My Child Custody Arrangement?

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Attorney Chaim Steinberger | 888-981-0039 | Call Today for Consult

If you want to change your child custody arrangement, there’s one important thing to consider: it needs to be in the child’s best interest. If not, the court will not consider it.

Chaim Steinberger is a family law attorney with Chaim Steinberger, P.C, based in New York. In this video, he explains what the court will consider during a petition to modify child custody.

To learn more, contact him directly by calling 888-981-0039 or by submitting a contact form on this page.

When can a parent change the child custody agreement?

For these matters, courts will always consider what is in the best interest of the child or children, not the preferences of the parents.

Courts will also place preference on stability. Generally, this means keeping things the same as they have been. Courts are reluctant to make a change unless it is truly in the child’s best interests. Children have been through a lot already with the divorce, so there are many hurdles in the way of a child custody modification.

There’s also a presumption that once a court has made a decision, it won’t be undone. This applies to cases where the court has ruled that the child is better off under one parent’s care.

Conversely, if the decision was not made by a court but rather by the parents, the judge will want to know what has changed between now and when the decision was made.

That said, custody is never set in stone. Things may need to be changed to protect the child’s best interests. The parent wishing to change custody will need to answer lots of questions, and the parent wishing to preserve custody will often find the system working in their favor.

What counts as a “substantial change in circumstances”?

The most persuasive argument is one that says, “The current custody arrangement is not working for the children.” For example: this parent shouldn’t have custody because he’s smoking and the child has asthma.

Another example, if the parents have joint custody but are constantly arguing, this would not be an ideal situation for the parents.

If one parent moves too far away, this could also qualify for an adjustment if it takes too long for the child to get to school.

Do you need an attorney’s help to modify child custody or child support?

Absolutely, and you need one who knows what they’re doing. As attorney Steinberger says, a bad lawyer is worse than no lawyer.

A good attorney needs to be emotionally persuasive. Sometimes, just stating the facts is not enough to convince the judge that what you’re arguing is the right thing to do. The attorney must paint a full picture of the situation, including the drastic downsides if they make the wrong decision.

You want to come across as reasonable, and that you’ve tried your hardest to make the situation work. You can do this before you get into the courtroom by being responsible, especially with regard to the emails and texts you send to your former spouse.

One popular method for corresponding with your ex is the BIFF method. Make sure that emails and texts are:

  • Brief
  • Informative
  • Firm
  • Friendly

In other words, say this:

“Sarah has a school play on Tuesday.”

Don’t say this:

“And if you really loved her, you’d show up on time without that girlfriend of yours.”

Before you get into court, start setting a stable foundation for your case.

It’s also extremely difficult to represent yourself in court. You need to know the laws, the procedures, the lingo, and the precedents of your area of law. You also need to overcome the fear of public speaking, compounded with the pressure that your family situation is on the line.

Can the things you post on social media affect your outcome in court?

Yes. Avoid posting anything about the lawsuit, your ex, the divorce, or your child’s situation. Assume that any of this material, along with texts and emails, could be read aloud publicly in a family law court.

To learn more, contact New York family law attorney Chaim Steinberger by calling 888-981-0039 or by submitting a contact form on the side of this page.

Disclaimer: This video is for informational purposes only. In some states, this video may be deemed Attorney Advertising. The choice of lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.