The best interest of a child is always the first thing that’s considered when making child custody decisions. Is it possible to modify custody if a parent’s ability to meet the needs of their child changes over time? The short answer is yes. Learn more about some of the key factors that can make a judge modify child custody.
- A Parent’s Physical and Emotional Stability
Children thrive on stability because they know what to expect and that they can count on their parent. However, if a parent’s stability changes, it can create chaos in the child’s life. Instability here includes factors such as:
- a) Emotional instability. The parent may be depressed or emotionally unable to take care of his or her own needs.
- b) Frequently entering or changing relationships.
- c) Abusing drugs or alcohol
- d) Frequently moving
- e) Making it impossible for the other parent to visit their own child
- f) Extremely unpredictable working hours or frequently changing jobs
Simply because one parent can provide a more stable living environment than the other, does not mean the court will modify child custody. A judge can only modify custody if there are significant changes to the custodial parent’s environment and the child’s best interest will be served by a custody modification.
- Relocation of a Parent
It’s rare for a judge to modify custody based on the custodian parent relocating. However, if the relocation significantly reduces the noncustodial parent’s time with their child, then a judge might consider changing custody. In addition, the noncustodial parent may also argue that the move will also reduce the amount of time their child spends with extended family and siblings or half siblings.
- Changes in a Child’s Physical, Emotional or Academic Needs
If a child’s performance in school drastically drops or their physical or emotional health deteriorates, a court can consider custody change. For instance, if a child is constantly hospitalized, it may be enough reason for the non-custodian parent to be awarded custody.
This, however, does not mean that frequent colds or a poor grade in one academic subject is reason enough to modify custody. You have to prove that the overall well-being of the child has significantly deteriorated and custody change is necessary.
- Abusive or Violent Situations
This one is a no brainer. Provided there is enough proof a child is being abused in any way in the custodial parent’s home, the child should be removed from that situation immediately and the matter handed over to the police. Courts take abuse claims very seriously. The custodian parent doesn’t have to be the one committing the abuse but if they are somehow facilitating it, they can lose custody.
- The Child’s Preferences
A child may be given the right to choose the parent they want to live with if the court considers the child has reached a certain age and they are mature and intelligent enough to make the right decisions. The age varies from state to state but in Texas, a child who is 12 years can have a say in where they want to live. The judge, however, does not always have to follow the child’s wishes. For example, a judge may not change custody if the child wants to live with the other parent because they allow them to stay out one hour past curfew.