One of the purposes of co-parenting after divorce is to provide your children stability and security and to ensure they maintain close relationships with both parents. The key in any child custody arrangement is to advance your children’s best interests, however, if the custodial arrangement is not working or doing more harm than good, then it might be time to modify the shared physical custody agreement.
If you have joint custody in New York by court order, that order may, in some cases, be modified.
Co-Parenting Situations Can Change
If you are sharing physical custody, your child will spend some time living in your home and some time in your ex’s home. However, your circumstances may have changed and the parenting plan that used to work may no longer be suitable for your children’s current situation. Fortunately, with the help of your New York custody and visitation lawyer, you can seek to modify the existing parenting order.
Common Reasons Why Parents Seek a Parenting Plan Modification
Joint physical custody allows both parents to cultivate their relationship with their child while sharing the day-to-day responsibilities of child-rearing.
Joint legal custody allows both parents to participate in making decisions regarding the child’s health, education, and well-being.
Over time, situations arise that may require a modification of an existing joint parenting agreement to ensure that it works for the best for the child’s interests.
- Relocation. One parent moves out of state or to a new location which would make it geographically impossible or impractical for the current custody schedule to continue.
- Violation of custody agreement. One parent, for instance, is not adhering to the terms of the custody order, i.e., violating the visitation schedule, or not allowing the child to see the other parent when there is a court-ordered custody schedule in place.
- Risk to child’s safety. One of the parents is engaging in behaviors that could endanger the child’s physical or mental health. Examples include substance abuse, domestic violence, and risky behaviors that can put the child’s safety at risk.
- A substantial change in a parent’s circumstances. Not all changes are bad. Some positive changes in the life of a parent can have an impact on the agreement. For example, a parent who overcame drug addiction or alcoholism may seek more parenting time with a child.
- The child’s needs have changed over time, and the current parental plan is no longer meeting those needs. The needs of a toddler are so different from an adolescent who seems to be under a lot of social and academic pressure. Some modifications might be needed for them to get more guidance from their parents and to get the support they need as they build their independence and autonomy.
When Will New York Courts Approve the Shared Parenting Plan Modification?
Both legal and residential child custody can be modified by agreement or by court order. If you and your co-parent can agree to amend, in writing, a new parenting plan, the agreement can be “So Ordered” by the Court. This modification will have the effect of a court order and will supersede any prior shared custody agreements.
While you can craft your parenting plans and modifications on your own, a family lawyer can ensure that the new agreements meet your family’s current needs and address foreseeable future issues.
What If Co-Parents Cannot Reach an Agreement on Parenting Plan Modifications?
When parents cannot agree on the modified custody agreement, the judge will hear the evidence and arguments of both parents. Then, the judge will determine if there is a basis to modify an existing parenting agreement.
Meaning of Child’s Best Interests
In any contested custody matter, the Court would be guided by the best interests of the children. Custody is often granted to the parent who can provide stability and promote their childen’s current and future physical, mental, and emotional well-being. While any application to modify custody is decided on a case-to-case basis, the judge will consider all relevant factors that relate to what is best for the child in terms of the following:
- The capacity of both parents to fulfill the changing needs of the child: As kids grow, their needs change; parents have to rise to the challenge of meeting these big social, physical, and emotional changes. From providing them with food and necessities to teaching them social skills and proper discipline, parents act as a pillar for their child’s success. If the current parenting plan no longer accommodates their needs, a modified custodial arrangement, with more appropriate terms, might be needed for the best interests of the child.
- State of the relationship between co-parents: Perhaps the most important factor in custody determinations is recognizing a parent’s willingness to foster the relationship between the child and the other parent. Cooperation is rewarded and alienating conduct is punished.
- The domestic situation of both parents: The court will examine the parents’ capacity as a caregiver for the child and to provide a safe home environment. For example, if one parent has an abusive partner or keeps dangerous items in the home, this could negatively affect custody. Children need consistency to help them get used to the changes in their lives. They need a safe, stable, and nurturing home.
Why You Need an Attorney for a Co-parenting Plan Modification in New York
A New York family lawyer experienced in custody and visitation disputes can guide you through the process of making custody changes that are in the best interests of the child. Your attorney can:
- Guide you on what types of evidence will be accepted by the court to support your claim that there has been a substantial change in circumstances to support the modification
- Negotiate with your ex on your behalf, and advocate for the modified shared parenting agreement that best suits both your needs and your child(ren)s needs.
- Help you deal with your modification case with clarity while keeping your emotions out of the proceedings.
Get Help with Your Child Custody Case in New York
Co-parents who are sharing physical custody of their kids and are planning to file for a modification of their shared parental agreement should seek the help of experienced child custody lawyers to ensure the best possible outcome for their case.
If you have questions about substantial change in circumstances in child custody in New York, contact us today at (212) 683-9551.