Modification is the process that is used to change a Court Order. We previously discussed how NOT to modify your papers here.
Below are the basics for the right way to modify your current Court Order. Child Custody, Visitation and Child Support are always modifiable. However, each has a separate standard. Each require that you prove something different…
1. Child Custody is the most difficult to modify. The non-custodial parent, must demonstrate 1) a material change in circumstances, 2) adverse to the child, 3) in the home of the custodial parent. In English, dad has to show that there has been a big change, harmful to the child and it was mom’s fault. It does not matter how much better dad is doing. It does not matter that he has a new job, making good money, and has remarried Mary Poppins. The Standard concerns what is going on in mom’s house.
A material change could be bad grades, serious behavior problems, serious problems with mom or serious problem with mom’s new beau. Now, once you show the bad change, harmful to the child, and it’s mom’s fault, dad wins, right? No. That provides the Court the authority to go back through the Albright factors for the Court to determine which parent is in the best interest of the child.
2. Child Support is modifiable upon a showing of 1) a material change in circumstances, unanticipated at the time of the Order and that either the 2) paying parent’s income has increased (or a non-voluntary decrease) in a meaningful capacity or that the 3) child’s reasonable needs and expenses have increased, or both an increase in income and needs. It should be noted that Child Support is statutory, as noted here, and the paying parent’s responsibility to pay does not continue to increase, just because his/her income does.
3. Visitation has the lowest standard to modify. In order to modify visitation all one needs to do is demonstrate that the current schedule is not working. This can be shown by showing that a party moved over several hours away making every other weekend unworkable or by showing that due to the child’s schedule, or a parent’s work schedule the visitation plan is not working. This one is easier to pursue, but the outcome is not always predictable, so have a plan for what schedule will work if you are seeking to change it because of distance or a work schedule issue.
*Certain other aspects of Order’s can/may be modifiable as well; ie; alimony, other child benefits.
Matthew Thompson is a Mississippi Child Custody Attorney and reminds you to follow your papers.
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