Modification of Custody: Am I Stuck with My Current Custody Order Forever?

In today’s blog post, I discuss how and when a custody Order of the Supreme or Family Court can be modified and what circumstances a Court will consider when determining whether or not a custody Order should be modified.

In many divorce and Family Court cases where a determination of child custody is made, whether by a Judge after a trial or by agreement of the parties, one parent finds him or herself unhappy with the custody arrangement and Order. If you are in such a situation, you may find yourself wondering whether or not that Order can ever be changed.

The answer is… maybe. In order to change, or modify, a custody Order in New York, a party has to be able to show that there has been a substantial change in the parties’ and/or child’s circumstances since entry of the previous Order that would warrant a change in custody. If a change in circumstances is proven, the Court then has to decide whether the custody change being requested would be in the best interests of the child, which is always the Court’s overarching consideration in custody cases.

A change in circumstances has to be significant in order for a Court to modify a custody Order. Some examples of changed circumstances that would warrant a change in custody would be drug or alcohol abuse on the part of the custodial parent, neglect or abuse of the child by the custodial parent, actions by the custodial parent to try to alienate the child from the noncustodial parent, or the mental instability of the custodial parent and inability of the custodial parent to properly care for the child. This list is not exclusive, and the Courts will decide whether or not there has been a significant change in circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

To begin a custody modification proceeding, you must file a modification petition in Supreme or Family Court. You will be assigned a date for a Court appearance and you will have to have the petition served on the other party/parent. In most cases, a modification petition will be assigned to the same Judge that presided over the original custody case, as that Judge will know the parties and the background of the case and will be better equipped to decide whether there has been a change in circumstances and whether a custody Order should be modified.

If you are a parent who feels that there has been a change in circumstances to make your current custody Order inappropriate, call us at (845) 203-2287 to schedule a free consultation. Let us handle your case, and we will fight for you.

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