Substantial and Continuing Change of Circumstances that can Warrant a Change on Original Custody, Support and Visitation Court Decisions

A court decision on divorce-related issues, especially those that will affect a child directly, and especially too if the child is very still young, is meant to last; this is due to the fact that children need stability in their lives.

However, an ex-spouse wanting to change a prior decree with regard to the issue of child custody, child support or visitation rights, is no longer unusual. Courts also recognize that changes are most likely to happen, add to this the changing needs of the child as he/she grows (thus, a parenting plan aimed at serving the best interest of an infant may not be applicable to best interest of a 12-year-old or the best interest of a teenager). The only thing necessary is that the “movant,” that is the party seeking the change, be able to show a substantial and continuing change of circumstances, such as:

  • A parent having dramatic changes in his/her job, income, home, or having new children;
  • Relocation to another state;
  • Problems relating to the proper care of a minor child;

A parent having alcohol or drug problems, or exposing his/her your child to drugs, alcohol, pornography, or physical or mental abuse (it could also be that when the time the court decided on the custody or visitation issues, one parent had alcohol and/or drug issues, but which, after some years, have already been corrected, making him/her a parent fully capable of properly caring for his/her child;

  • The child has grown older so that his/her needs and desires have changed;
  • The custodial parent, re-marrying, passing away, or developing a health problem that will limit his/her capability in performing his/her duties in caring for the child;
  • A custodial parent going on active duty and voluntarily relinquishing his/her custody rights to the other parent;
  • The custodial parent alienating the child from the non-custodial parent by creating situations that will render scheduled visitation rights impossible;
  • The custodial parent turning the child against the non-custodial parent by consciously and systematically sullying his/her reputation or by spreading hurtful information against him/her through negative comments, ill-talks and/or false accusations. This attitude is known as Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS); and/or,
  • The custodial parent, with the child, secretly moving to a distant location or another state in order to keep the child away from the non-custodial parent. This is actually a violation of the divorce decree stipulation that requires custodial parents to inform non-custodial parents regarding plans of moving to another residence, whether in the same city or in another state.

According to the law firm Higdon, Hardy & Zuflacht, the movant can pursue a modification by petitioning the court where the original divorce proceedings took place. It is possible that the court will not permit modification requests, but having a knowledgeable modification attorney on your side, who is familiar with what it takes to get a modification approved, may be able to help you get satisfactory results.”


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