In New York divorce actions involving children, the courts’ driving concern is what is in the best interest of the children, and they will issue custody orders accordingly. As such, a parent that wants to modify an existing custody order must meet a significant evidentiary burden, not only to demonstrate that a change is necessary but also to be granted a hearing on the issue. In a recent New York ruling, the court discussed what a party needs to demonstrate to obtain a hearing on a request for a custody modification. If you are involved in a dispute over custody of your child, it is advisable to meet with a New York child custody attorney as soon as possible.
It is reported that the mother and the father were married and had two children together. They subsequently divorced. In the divorce judgment issued in November 2019, the court granted joint legal and residential custody of the children to both parents. The order specified, however, that the mother would be the custodial parent for child support purposes only. In May 2022, the father filed a motion to modify the custody provisions and secure sole legal and residential custody of the children. The trial court denied the motion without holding a hearing; the father appealed.
Grounds for Modifying Child Custody Orders
On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling. In doing so, it explained that in order to modify an existing custody agreement, the moving party must present evidence of a subsequent change in circumstances that necessitates modification in the best interests of the child. Further, the petitioning parent must make a threshold evidentiary showing of such a change in circumstances to be entitled to a hearing on a modification petition.
In the subject case, the court found that the father failed to provide the necessary evidentiary showing of a change in circumstances that would justify a hearing to modify the custody provisions of the divorce judgment. Although the father claimed that the oldest child had been residing exclusively with him since April 2022, the record revealed that the parties had mutually agreed to this arrangement. Further, the father did not demonstrate that the parties’ relationship had deteriorated to the point where they were unable to maintain joint legal custody of the children.
The court found that the remaining allegations made by the father either referred to pre-divorce conduct or were unsubstantiated and conclusory and, therefore, lacked sufficient merit to warrant a hearing. Consequently, the court found that the trial court appropriately denied the father’s motion to modify the custody provisions of the divorce judgment without the need for a hearing.
Talk to a Trusted New York Child Custody Attorney
Parents generally have the right to seek modifications of child custody orders, but the courts will only hear a request to alter an existing order upon a showing of a change in circumstances that warrant an adjustment. If you need assistance protecting your parental rights, it is smart to talk to an attorney. Ksenia Rudyuk is a trusted New York child custody attorney with the skills and resources needed to help you to advocate for your child’s best interests. You can contact Ms. Rudyuk via the form online or at 212-706-2001 to set up a meeting.