Modification is the process that is used to change a Court Order. I previously discussed how NOT to modify your papers here.
Here are the basics for the right way to modify the Court Order. Child Custody, Visitation and Child Support are always modifiable. However, each has a separate standard. Each require that you prove something different.
I. 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.
II. Visitation has a lower 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.
Matthew Thompson is a Mississippi Child Custody Attorney and reminds you to follow your papers.