A divorce decree may seem final at first, but life has a way of shifting priorities, changing life circumstances, and altering the conditions that made the arrangement possible in the first place. A post-divorce life may involve a new location, new career, or a new relationship. According to government statistics, Americans move close to 12 times in their lifetimes on average, with many of these relocations happening before the age of 40.
When children are in the picture, keeping disruptions to their schedules to a minimum is essential, and some of these challenges can complicate one parent’s relationship to the child considerably. Whether it is a move across town or to a different state, these changes can alter the balance that the original custody order provided, and require a modification to the original divorce decree.
Understanding custody modification in Michigan
In Michigan, any request for a change in custody arrangements by either parent will require the judge to sign a new order. The guidance the court uses for any modification will always consider what factors will be in the best interests of the child, and in Michigan, this includes any changes to the established custodial environment (ECE).
For a custody modification to be appropriate given the changed circumstances, the ex-spouse who is filing the motion must present a compelling argument that a changed schedule, location, or financial issue will significantly or negatively affect the child’s well-being. Some of these circumstances may include:
- one parent’s inability to be present in the home
- drug or alcohol abuse
- evidence of child abuse or neglect
- one parent’s withholding of the emotional, physical, or psychological needs of the child
Other factors that the court may consider include the child’s request to change custody or their changing needs as they mature, or one parent’s financial problems. Although it is not always possible, it is much easier to obtain a new order if both parents can work together to make changes to the parenting plan that they can both agree to before filing the motion.
If one parent moves out of state, they must obtain the judge’s or the other parent’s permission to have a residential change involving a custodial change of domicile. in addition to proving that this change is necessary and that it will not alter the parent’s custodial responsibilities, the parent must also demonstrate previous compliance with court orders regarding parenting time.