As in most states, New York’s laws relating to the custody and visitation rights of the non-custodial parent seek to ensure the minor child has the opportunity for an ongoing familial relationship with both parents. In many cases, the original custody and visitation order will suffice until the child reaches adulthood. At other times, changes in the circumstances of the custodial or non-custodial parent could make it necessary to modify the custody arrangement or at least the current visitation plan. Here are some things you should know about asking for a modification of visitation if you believe it would be in the best interests of your child.
What is a Modification of Visitation?
A modification of visitation is a change from the visitation schedule currently in place to one that is changed in some manner. Requesting a change requires filing documents with the family court in New York City. A judge reviews the request and may ask for additional information while evaluating the merits of that request. Typically, the custodial parent has the opportunity to respond to the modification request, allowing the judge the opportunity to hear more information in favor or against making any changes to the current arrangement.
What’s the Basis for Evaluating a Request for a Modification of Visitation?
The family court takes all matters of child custody seriously, including the issue of visitation. New York City, along with the rest of the state, has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act as the basis for developing procedures and laws related to child custody. This same Act also serves as the guiding light for cooperating with other states when the case involves a visitation arrangement that was originally drafted in another state or involves a child living with a custodial parent in a state other than New York.
In all cases, the court seeks to determine if modifying the present visitation arrangement would be beneficial for the child. If the court finds a modification would have no real impact on the child or that it would possibly harm the child in some manner, the request will be denied. Should the court find the request has merit and would be good for the child, it’s likely to be approved and implemented.
What Reasons Would the Court Consider Valid for a Modification?
Seeking the modification of visitation generally involves proving to the satisfaction of the court that events constituting a substantial change of circumstances has taken place. This generally means that the custodial or non-custodial parent’s lifestyle has undergone a change that has a direct bearing on the parent’s ability to interact with or provide proper supervision and attention to the child. The rationale is that modifying the current visitation agreement would provide a more stable and supportive environment for that child overall.
Most reasons associated with a modification for visitation request have to do with protecting the well-being of the child. For example, the custodial parent secures a new job that requires working every weekend. In this scenario, the non-custodial parent may ask for a modification that expands visitation to include every weekend. A change may also be in order if the custodial parent begins working nights.
A change in the visitation schedule may occur if the custodial parent moves to another area of the state or even out of the state. In this scenario, the family court is likely to counsel the parents to work out some sort of new schedule. If they cannot come to agreement on a workable visitation arrangement, the court will do so and issue a formal modification that amends the original order.
Custodial parents may seek modifications to original visitation plans because of changes in the lifestyle of non-custodial parents. If an issue with substance abuse develops or if there is reason to believe the non-custodial parent is negligent or abusive, the court may approve changes that include only allowing visits if there is another adult present to oversee them, or even suspend visitation.
Are All Requests Approved?
Not all requests for modifying visitation arrangements are approved. The burden of proof rests with the parent who is seeking to have the present agreement modified. If the evidence does not support the claim or the court finds the stated reasons to be spurious, the request is likely to be denied.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer to Ask For a Modification of Visitation?
As with any type of legal action, requesting a modification for visitation is a serious matter. It’s not something to be done in the heat of the moment or without consideration of how a change would affect the minor child. While it’s possible to obtain and file the proper documents with the family court without benefit of legal counsel, doing so is not generally recommended.
The value of having a lawyer rests in the fact that he or she understands all laws related to custody and visitation that apply in the client’s situation. That lawyer will also know what questions to ask the client, how to evaluate the answers as they relate to the desire to modify the current visitation schedule, and provide the client with correct information about procedure and what to expect. That same lawyer can ensure all documents submitted to the court are prepared in full and obtain only information that can easily be confirmed by the judge.
If you believe that modifying the current visitation schedule is in the best interests of your child, see a family lawyer today. Assuming your reasons are considered valid by the court, the changes could go into effect immediately.