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Can custody of the child be changed? If so, when will it happen and what is required to make it happen? As you might imagine, child custody is always subject to change. However, it is not easy to do so.
The Court will always maintain jurisdiction over children until they are 18, no matter what you and your spouse agree to. The Court has the power to make decisions for your child based on the child’s best interests. This is a loosey goosey standard designed to give the Court power to do what it feels is best. No situation involving children will ever be ironclad and written in stone. It can be changed.
The burden of showing why custody of the child should be changed will be on the non-custodial parent. They will have to show a “change in circumstances” affecting the child’s best interests. This change must be sufficient to overcome the legal presumption that the best interests of the child lie in preserving the status quo. If the child is doing well in the current custody arrangement, child custody will not normally be changed. The law essentially says “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
What is an appropriate change in circumstances? The answer is, of course, it depends. Each child custody case is unique and the law forces the Courts to look at each situation individually. There are no hard & fast rules. An attorney can help you here. An attorney can assess the specific situation in your life and tell you whether it is likely to be enough to overcome the presumption of keeping the child where they are now.
Parents looking to change custody frequently ask what effect the wishes of the child have in the decision. It depends on how old the child is. A child’s ability to participate in the legal process, including having a preference for a custodial parent, is given weight on a sliding scale from age 7 to 17. The older a child is, and the more mature they are, the better the chances the court will listen to them. The preferences of an 8 year old will not mean much, but the preferences of a 17 year old will be a major factor in the court’s decision about custody.
You are receiving this newsletter because you signed up for it, or you are a client of our firm. We do not spam. If you wish to unsubscribe, please follow the directions below. This content is written by Tucker Clagett, a Partner at Andrews, Bongar, Starkey & Clagett, a full service law firm with offices in Waldorf & Lexington Park. If you have questions or comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to email me directly. Thank you for reading.