Even in the best of circumstances, divorce can be difficult for children. Children are often resistant to change: adapting to new schedules and surroundings, learning to live with one parent at a time, and getting along with possible new stepsiblings or half-siblings are all big changes, ones which can challenge a child’s developing social skills and coping mechanisms. However, many, if not most, children with divorced parents eventually adapt and thrive, growing into healthy and well-adjusted adults.
There are cases, however, where a child’s discomfort with a custody arrangement goes beyond natural resistance to change, beyond the fairly standard complaints of “I don’t like it here” or “I like dad’s house better.”
Perhaps there is serious, ongoing, and frequent conflict between the child and one of the custodial parents, a conflict that makes living with that parent a deeply anxious situation for the child. Perhaps the conflict is with a stepparent or stepsibling and a child’s grades are dropping as a result of the distress.
Conflict and negative situations are not the only reason to consider modifying a custody agreement, however.
Perhaps, at the other end of the spectrum, a mom can now spend more time with her children because of a promotion that allows her more control over her schedule. Or perhaps a ten-year-old custody agreement no longer works for a fledgling teenager because she prefers to live at her mom’s house as it is considerably closer to her new high school than dad’s, allowing her to participate in more extracurricular activities and sparing her a long commute in rush-hour traffic.
In these cases, it may be in the child’s or children’s best interest to file for a custody modification. If approved by the court, this modified agreement will supersede the original judgement or a preexisting temporary custody order.
In Massachusetts family courts, as in family courts across the country, children’s best interest and well-being are primary concerns. As such, any petition for custody modification must demonstrate that:
- Circumstances have substantially changed since the last custody agreement was approved
- The change is in the child’s or children’s best interest
When both parents agree to a change in the custody arrangements, they can jointly file for modification. Each parent could benefit from having a lawyer to help set out the details and wording of the petition and its filing. In general, a joint petition for custody modification is a fairly straightforward procedure.
In contrast, when one parent is applying for a custody modification the other does not want, it is highly recommended to have a lawyer. This applies whether you are the parent filing for a change or the parent opposed to a change.
Our partners are experienced family law practitioners. We can help make custody modifications easier on the whole family. Call today to schedule a consultation. We will discuss your family’s unique situation and design a plan to best serve your family’s needs.