Courts often make orders related to child custody during divorce proceedings or lawsuits that impact the relationship between a child and their parents. However, such orders are not necessarily permanent, and a request to adjust a child custody order is not unusual. To learn more about the primary reasons for requesting a child custody modification and find out how a New Hampshire family law attorney from Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC can assist with this legal issue, call (603) 707-4800 today and schedule your individual child custody consultation to review your case.
What Is a Child Custody Modification?
Child custody refers to the guardianship-linked legal concept that outlines the relationship between a parent, or guardian, and a child under their care. Per the American Psychological Association (APA), child custody relates to a child’s supervision, protection, and care. Two types of child custody are recognized by the State of New Hampshire: legal and physical. Married parents normally share both of these rights; the former involves making decisions regarding the child, whereas the latter entails the rights and duties related to housing, caring, and providing for the minor.
Child custody decisions may arise during divorce, separation, adoption, annulment, or the death of a parent. A modification to a child custody order refers to making a change to the original order issued by the court. According to The Administration for Children and Families, in 2018, there were almost 13 million custodial parents in the United States.
What Are the Reasons To Modify Custody?
There can be several reasons for modifying the terms of a court’s original child custody order, or even for requesting an update to a previous modification. Some of the most common reasons for modifying the terms of a child custody order are outlined below.
Failure To Follow Custody Terms
If one parent fails to follow the custodial terms set by the judge, the other parent could file to modify the custody order. Frequently cited examples of such breaches include:
- Taking the child on long trips without informing the other parent
- Regularly failing to return the child home at the agreed time
Change in the Child’s Needs
As a child ages, they might need a change of scenery for them to reach their full potential, which could mean one parent’s home suddenly becomes more suitable than the other. Additionally, a child who develops a physical, mental, or emotional disorder may benefit from living with one parent more than the other if the parents have different schedule availability and housing circumstances to facilitate caregiving arrangements.
Change in a Parent’s Circumstances
Changes in a parent’s circumstances that justify a modification to a child custody order must be substantial and have a notable impact on the child’s well-being and life. They can be positive or negative changes; one happy example is that of a noncustodial parent with a previous problem with substance abuse who now has broken their addiction, has a regular income, and is ready to contribute to their child’s upbringing.
If a parent behaves in a manner that jeopardizes the child’s safety, a judge could alter the child custody order and limit or remove that individual’s custodial rights. Examples of possible endangerment behaviors include:
- Psychological, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
- Severe mental health issues with symptoms that are not currently well-controlled, such as psychotic episodes, extreme episodes of mania or hallucinations that frequently result in erratic behavior, or any conditions that require regular hospitalizations for treatment and monitoring
- Substance abuse that risks the child’s health or that demonstrably exerts a negative influence on them
- Placing the child in situation that put them at risk of abuse by others
Explore other reasons why someone might ask for a child custody modification and learn how a seasoned New Hampshire family law attorney can help people considering this adjustment by reaching out to Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC.
What Are Good Reasons To Get Full Custody?
Full custody, or sole custody, could mean full legal, full physical custody, or both. If one parent has full physical custody, the child lives with that person full-time and visits the other parent; such visits may or may not be supervised. In contrast, a parent with full legal custody can make key decisions concerning the child without the other parent’s approval, but the other parent can usually make less vital, daily decisions while looking after the child. Some of the reasons for awarding full custody include the following:
- Abandonment: Abandonment refers to a parent refusing to take an interest in, and contribute to, a child’s upbringing. New Hampshire courts tend to regard abandonment as a valid reason for seeking sole custody.
- Parental death: If a parent dies, the other usually gets full custody of the surviving child. That said, if that parent is not a suitable full-time guardian, another party, like the minor’s grandparents, may obtain custody instead.
- Incarceration: An imprisoned parent cannot care for or house their child, making it likely that a court will award sole custody to the other parent, provided they are not also incarcerated.
- Relocation: If one parent has to relocate to another state or country, the judge might award full custody to either parent.
What Is a Substantial Change in Circumstances in Child Custody?
If there is an existing child custody order in place, a modification is possible if both parents agree to alter the order’s terms, or if one party demonstrates to a judge that the circumstances linked to the order have changed significantly, justifying a change to the current child custody judgment. This high standard, known as a “substantial change in circumstances,” for altering these orders exists since courts want to foster continuity and stability in these cases, and awareness of the relatively high bar they would have to clear to achieve a new order prevents parents from flooding the courts with unnecessary child custody modifications.
What Do Courts Look at When Deciding Custody?
Judges determine custody cases based on what they consider to be optimum for the child, which is a subjective decision that depends on the specific circumstances of a case. Below are examples of the factors considered by courts when making custody decisions:
- Meeting the child’s needs: A judge looks at both parents’ ability to meet the child’s safety, welfare, and health requirements.
- Relationship between the child and parents: Courts typically foster frequent and continuous interaction between separated or divorced parents and their children, but they also consider various factors linked to previous and current relationships between the child and both parents. Examples include the state of the parent-child relationship prior to divorce, whether each parent favors the other parent maintaining a relationship with the child, and whether the parent-child relationship involved any form of neglect or abuse.
- Disruption: Judges often avoid making child custody decisions that are likely to be disruptive, particularly since divorce and separation can already be a traumatic experience for a child. With this in mind, they consider each parent’s living situation, the distance between the parents’ residential addresses, and whether being based at a particular residence could harm the child’s community and school ties.
Contact a New Hampshire Family Law Attorney Today
Adjusting a child custody order is possible, provided the person seeking the alteration files an effective petition for modification. If the suit is unsuccessful, it could be more challenging to obtain a modification in the future, thus highlighting the importance of demonstrating to the court why such a change favors the child’s interest the most in the first instance. Learn more about why an individual might seek a child custody modification and discover how a New Hampshire family law attorney can help parents overcome their legal concerns by contacting Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC at (603) 707-4800.