Child custody modifications aren't the end of the world

Most New York parents consider custody matters settled once the judge signs off on the order. But that can only be the tip of a very big iceberg.

As kids grow up, they can experience the "grass is always greener" scenario, picturing a life with the other parent that is devoid of pesky rules and full of the perks they believe they deserve. Simply learning that their child wants to move in with their other parent can devastate moms and dads. But when the other parent is in full agreement, a child custody modification may be initiated.

It's important for the present custodial parent not to overreact and make the situation worse. Feelings of disloyalty, rejection and abandonment are common but shouldn't become the basis for an outright refusal.

Attempt a dialogue to discover why the child has had a change of heart regarding his or her living arrangements. It can be something as basic as wanting a closer connection with their other parent or it could be a reaction to untenable levels of conflict or restriction in their current home.

It's important to understand that simply because a child wishes to live elsewhere does not entitle them to make a change. The final word lies with the judge in the case, and the general rule is that a significant change in circumstances must have occurred. A child's whim does not meet that legal definition.

However, many judges do give weight to a child's wishes in custody matters when the child is older and demonstrates maturity and good judgment. The litmus test of custody remains what will be in the child's best interest.

When the topic of changing custodial arrangements arises, the custodial parent should cover their legal bases. Speaking to a family law attorney to ensure that if a change is implemented their legal bases are covered is a good idea. The other parent will also have to make the necessary changes for consent for treatment with pediatricians and even with the school to allow them to consent for participation in class activities or sports.

Source: Huffington Post, "6 Words No Divorced Parent Wants To Hear" Bruce McCracken, Aug. 03, 2014

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