Child custody rulings often seem “set in stone,” especially if you are the parent who did not receive primary custody. But it is important to remember that child custody agreements can be changed over time, either through a mutual agreement by the parents or by filing a motion to modify.
In both Missouri and Illinois, courts will generally only grant one parent’s motion to modify custody if the parent can demonstrate that there has been a substantial change in circumstances. This can include changes in working hours, a parental relocation, or certain changes in behavior or circumstances that pose a risk of harm to the children. Sometimes, the non-custodial parent will file a motion to modify custody due to fears that the custodial parent’s new boyfriend or girlfriend is a danger to or a corrupting influence on the children.
This appears to be what one man is doing in response to the very high-profile arrest of his ex-wife’s new boyfriend, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay. Earlier this year, Irsay was arrested on charges of impaired driving. He also apparently has a history of struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.
The man’s ex-wife lives in a home with their 17-year-old and 12-year-old children. The house is owned by Irsay, but he apparently lives primarily in another residence. Mr. Irsay was recently subpoenaed to testify in the custody case.
The father of the two minor children wrote a letter to the court following Irsay’s arrest. He said: “As a father, I do not want my children subjected to this type of behavior and lifestyle . . . Money does not buy morals and self-respect.”
His concerns may be legitimate, but they may also be opportunistic. The ex-wife’s attorney wrote that this was nothing more than “a jealous ex-husband’s attempt to harass his ex-wife by attempting to make a public spectacle out of her relationship with a public figure.”
No one on the outside of a family law case can really comment with certainty on parental motives and other factors. But this case serves as a reminder that custody agreements can be modified. And if the custodial parent’s new relationship is one that could potentially endanger the children, this would certainly be a reason for courts to investigate and perhaps grant a modification.
Source: Indy Star, “Jim Irsay must testify in divorced couple’s child custody case,” Mark Alesia and Tim Evans, July 9, 2014