This is Todd Burnham, the Founding Partner of Burnham Law, and an experienced family law lawyer with a superb record. In this post, I tackle the tricky subject of your co-parent’s lifestyle.
What if I Don’t Agree With My Co-Parent’s Lifestyle?
Divorce proceedings, especially when a child is involved, can get tricky. The court will have to rule on several matters; one of the most important is who gets custody of the child.
The court will always take into consideration the child’s best interest. They will determine who, among both parents, will be able to properly care for and raise the kids, protect them and give them a good life, especially in the case of a separated family.
When the court has adequately made these considerations, it will create a custody agreement, granting custody to one parent and visitation rights plus other parental obligations to the other. The court’s decision is binding, but there are some instances when you can petition the court to transfer custody to you, if you were not the awarded parent beforehand.
Many parents who were not awarded custody may want to question the lifestyle of their co-parent. Then arises the question of whether or not you can transfer custody to yourself based on the lifestyle of your ex-spouse.
Can You Change Custody Orders?
A court will always be open to changing custody orders when the best interest of the child is concerned. This is the main determining factor to help them decide who will be granted custody.
If you do not agree with the lifestyle that you co-parent lives, that in itself is not enough to transfer custody to you. But there is a way around it — through connecting specific acts in your co-parent’s lifestyle with the best interest factors.
These factors, though determined on a case-to-case basis, can include the following:
- The child’s preference regarding which parent he or she wants to live with — if old enough or capable of expressing a reasonable choice.
- Mental and physical health of the parent.
- Special needs of a child and how the parent can address those needs.
- Religious and cultural considerations.
- Stability of the home environment.
- Support and possibility of interaction with members of the immediate or extended family.
- Relationship with other members of the household.
- School and community adjustments.
- Age and sex of the child.
- Patterns of domestic violence.
- Excessive discipline or emotional abuse by the parent.
- Evidence of drug, alcohol, or child abuse.
So if you do not agree with the lifestyle of your co-parent, you can align specific actions that can endanger the health and welfare of the child with these best interest factors. Instances like the parent leaving the child at home alone and without a guardian, can be crucial to the case and increases the likelihood of a change in custody orders.
But like all cases, you, as the petitioner, possess the burden of proof to show that these behaviors endanger the child and are not in his or her best interest.