Modification of Child Custody, Visitation and Child Support Orders
James M. Warner has experience in suits to modify child custody, seeking court-ordered changes to the terms and conditions of court-ordered custody arrangements (custody, possession and/or access to the child). Mr. Warner will undertake a modification case, so long as he is able to submit evidence supporting the following statutory grounds for modifying custody:
- Best interest of child;
- Child's preference (when child is 12 years of age or older) and in the best interest of child;
- Voluntary relinquishment and in the best interest of child;
- Material and substantial change of child's circumstances, including, but not limited to, a conviction or deferred adjudication for domestic violence or sexual abuse, military deployment, violation of court order or agreement, parental alienation, home environment instability/changes, child age and needs change, parental conflict and relocation. The modification, on this basis, must also be shown to be in the child's best interest.
Simply because a parent wants to modify custody does not mean that a court can and/or will order a modification. Therefore, during our consultation, I will require facts and evidence from the client that answer or bear on the below-listed "best interest factors". Courts weigh these factors, when considering a petition to modify the conditions or orders found in the divorce decree. As such, if there is no evidence or facts that show a modification is required, based on, in part, the best interest of the child, then the court will not grant a modification, regardless of how strenuously legal counsel advocates for such relief. The term "best interest" of the child is critical to proving the need for any modification. And, the best interest of the child is the standard by which custody and visitation is assessed. The best interest factors include the following non-exhaustive list:
- The child's desires;
- The child's current and future emotional and physical needs;
- Current and future emotional and physical dangers to the child;
- The parental abilities of the parties seeking custody;
- The availability of programs to assist the parties seeking custody;
- The plans for the child;
- Home stability;
- Cooperation between parents;
- Primary caregiver;
- Child's desires;
- Geographic proximity;
- History or pattern of abuse/family violence;
- Parent's acts and/or omissions; and
- Any excuse for the parent's acts and/or omissions.
During our consultation, we will invest time and energy into discussing these factors. The client has "homework" assigned to identify and obtain evidence - some of which may be written or documentary - and provide that to Mr. Warner and his staff, so that he can present your modification action in the most favorable light. Mr. Warner also suggests to his clients to develop a chronology of events, which would support or at least explain why a modification is necessary. Every case has a story, and the client is in the best position to explain that story to his attorney - preferably in writing - thereby saving time and expense for the client.
James M. Warner also has substantial experience with modifying child support orders. Mr. Warner will meet with the client, determining the evidence available to support a change in the amount, scope or duration of court-ordered child support. The grounds for changing child support are also statutory and common law (established by case law). The most common basis or reason to seek a child support revision is a "material and substantial" change in the circumstances of the child or a person affected by the order. Quite often, the material and substantial change is not difficult or overly taxing to prove. For example, a change in conservatorship, paternity or a parent's salary may be agreed up, by the parties, so that the child support may be modified without a lengthy, contested hearing. However, Mr. Warner has familiarity with the child support laws, so that if a modification in child support is indicated by a material and substantial change in circumstances, or for any other reason, he has the experience to litigate these matters with confidence. To assist him, and increase the likelihood of a positive result in your case, you will be required to provide his office with all of the documents and other evidence necessary to show that a change in child support is warranted and reasonable. You will prepare a chronology of the events and facts showing that a modification is necessary, given the change of circumstances of the parent and/or child, since the rendering of the child support order or mediated agreement on which the child support order was based (whichever occurred first).