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Changing A Custody Arrangement Post-Divorce

If the court awarded primary custody to one parent, can the other parent apply to have the custody arrangement changed post-divorce?

Michele E. D’Onofrio’s Answer:

An award of custody is subject to modification upon a showing of a substantial change of circumstances.  The moving party must demonstrate that, due to a substantial change of circumstances from the time that the current custody arrangement was established, the best interests of the child would be better served by a transfer in custody.

In making an award of custody, the court shall consider but not be limited to the following factors:

  1. Parents’ ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the child;
  2. Parents’ willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time not based on substantiated abuse;
  3. Interaction and relationship of the child with its parents and siblings;
  4. History of domestic violence, if any;
  5. Safety of the child and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent;
  6. Preference of the child when of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent decision;
  7. Needs of the child;
  8. Stability of the home environment offered;
  9. Quality and continuity of the child’s education;
  10. Fitness of the parents;
  11. Geographical proximity of the parents’ homes;
  12. Extent and quality of the time spent with the child prior to or subsequent to the separation;
  13. Parents employment responsibilities; and
  14. Age and number of children

In addition to these statutory factors, the court must “consider and articulate why its custody decision is deemed to be in the child’s best interest.”

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