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When can you request a deviation from joint custody?

On Behalf of | Dec 19, 2023 | Child Custody

There’s a lot on the line in a child custody dispute. The outcome, whether negotiated or litigated, will impact your child’s life, dictating everything from the discipline to which they’ll be subjected, the rules they’ll have to follow, and the relationship they’ll have with each parent.

While many cases result in joint physical and legal custody, meaning that parents will share time with the child and both have a say in important decisions regarding the child, such an arrangement might not be in your child’s best interests.

If you hope to stray from a joint custody situation, then you’ll have to convince a court why your proposed plan is in your child’s best interests. So, what sorts of situations would justify a request for sole physical custody and restrictions on the other parent’s visitation with the child? Let’s take a closer look.

Situations that warrant a deviation from joint custody

Regardless of whether you’re fighting over an initial custody determination or seeking modification of an existing order, there are several situations that could warrant a deviation from the joint custody standard. They include:

  • Domestic violence: If your child is exposed to violence in the other parent’s household, then they’re at risk of physical, emotional, and psychological harm. Children who witness domestic violence are more likely to develop feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety, depression, and anger.
  • Substance abuse: Exposure to parental substance abuse also puts your child at risk of harm. They might be more susceptible to abuse or neglect, and they can develop emotional and psychological problems that can negatively impact their school performance and their behavior.
  • Mental health issues: The mere existence of a mental health condition may not play much of a role in your custody case, but it can be powerful evidence if the other parent is failing to adequately treat their mental health. Depending on the condition at hand and its severity, the other parent’s untreated mental health could jeopardize your child’s well-being.
  • Financial changes: If your child’s other parent has recently lost a job or is drowning in debt to the point that they can’t make ends meet, then it might be difficult for them to care for your child. In these instances, some sort of deviation from joint custody may be warranted.
  • Your child’s wishes: Although not dispositive, your child’s wishes can have an impact on the outcome of your child custody dispute. This is especially true if the child is older.

There are other justifications that you might find to support your child custody request. Just remember that you’ll need persuasive evidence to support your case. This evidence might come from witness testimony, but you also can’t overlook the value of documentation such as medical records, financial statements, mental health treatment records, substance abuse treatment records, and school records. Just try to be as comprehensive as you can as you build your case.

Are you ready to advocate for your child’s best interests?

Although child custody orders are always subject to modification when there’s been a significant change in circumstances, you should fight now for the outcome that you think is right for your child. If you don’t, then you could see time with your child limited, and their well-being could be put at risk.

To avoid that from happening, it’s helpful to gain an understanding of how the court analyzes these sorts of cases. Once you have that, you can work to build the legal arguments that will position you for the successful outcome that you want for your child.