Most Michigan residents probably assume that the stress and emotional upheaval of a divorce ends when the judge signs the final order that determines issues such as child custody, child support, division of assets and support. That isn’t always the case.
Even if the divorcing couple has agreed on all the issues mentioned in the preceding sentence, an unexpected change in circumstances, such as a debilitating illness, the desire for one spouse to move to a new state to accept a better job, or the loss of a job by one of the spouses, may necessitate a modification of one or more of the court’s orders. In this post, we will consider some of the reasons for modifying an order for child custody.
Reasons why a court will modify an order for child custody
Courts will consider changing a prior custody order if there has been a substantial and material change in the circumstances since entry of the last custody order, or if there has been proper cause under the law.
As with the original custody order, the court must determine whether the requested change will serve the best interests of the child. In making this determination, the court looks closely at the effect of the proposed change on the child; the effect on either parent is a secondary consideration. The best interests of the child depend upon many factors outlined in the law and each must be analyzed by the court when determining whether a custody change is in the child’s best interest.
The modification process
Generally speaking, the parent who desires to modify the prior order must bring a motion before the court that has jurisdiction over the case. The other parent will also have a chance to respond. This is only the first step in the modification process, where a parent seeking the change has to first show that there has been a change of circumstances or proper cause, as outlined above. If the court agrees that such a change may exist, the court then has to analyze whether the requested change is in the child’s best interest. This usually happens by holding a “best interests” hearing, where parents may present evidence or witnesses, as well as provide their own testimony as to why they believe the court should grand the change. Ultimately a change of custody request is as multiple step process where the parent who is requesting a change must prove by the greater weight of the evidence that the there exists a reason for such a change and that the change is ultimately in the child’s best interest. Any failure by the moving party to meet this burden will result in a denial of the request by the court.
Requesting a change custody is not a trivial request made to the court. Likewise, defending against another parent’s request to change custody should not be taken lightly. Anyone considering a change in the court’s child custody order may wish to consult an experienced family law attorney before moving forward. A knowledgeable lawyer can provide an evaluation of the evidence and an opinion on the likelihood of prevailing.