Modifying Custody: Home Integration
For modifying a custody order, parents often have to show that the child has been integrated into the family of the petitioner with the consent of the other party. (1) But what is this integration?
Factors considered by courtsThe court will consider several factors in determining whether a child has been integrated into the non-custodial parent's family. They include the length of time spent in the non-custodial parent's home, the time spent caring for the child, and the preference of the child. The court may also consider the child's relationship with members of the non-custodial family.
ExamplesConsider these examples: where a child lived with father, the moving party, for less than two of nine years since the dissolution and the living arrangement ended abruptly five months before the father brought motion for modification of custody it did not constitute the integration contemplated by law. (2) The court did not find integration where a child lived with a non-custodial parent for 16 months. (3) Alternatively a nine-year-old child was found to be integrated into non-custodial parent's home when she lived with him for four years and had a close relationship with a half-sibling. (4)
ConsentThe failure to object to the change of residence may constitute implicit consent to the integration. (5) If integration has occurred, consent will normally exist, regardless of a parent's subjective intent, absent kidnapping, fraud, or coercion. This is because it is the primary aim of the court is to protect the child's interests, not to secure fairness for the parents.
Time RestraintsIn the area of integration it is important to examine the restrictions on modification within particular time frames. (6) Motions for modification are not allowed within one year of the initial determination of custody and after that, motions for custody modification are not allowed less than two years after the most recent custody-modification motion disposed of on its merits. (7) The failure to appreciate these restrictions will result in the matter being denied as a matter of law.