In Farner v. Farner, the Appellate Division considered whether a change in the mental health of the custodial mother was sufficient grounds for a custody modification.
Upon divorcing, the mother and father created a parenting agreement that was incorporated into their divorce decree. According to the agreement, the mother was designated the primary residential parent. She lived in Georgia. The father, who lived in New York, was awarded visitation. Sometime later, the father became concerned about the well-being of his child in the care of the mother and her live-in boyfriend and petitioned the court for a modification to the custody and visitation arrangement.
In New York, custody arrangements are meant to be stable. The court will not alter an arrangement on a whim, as it is important for the child’s living arrangements and relationship with his or her parents to be stable and consistent. However, the court does recognize that circumstances do sometimes change from when a custody agreement was established. If there is a substantial change in circumstances, upon petition, the court will consider whether a change to the custody or visitation arrangement is in the best interests of the child. One reason that the court will change a custody arrangement is if a change in the physical or mental health of a parent negatively impacts the parent’s ability to care for the child.