Is Evil Step-Mom a Reason to Get a Modification of Custody?
Written by: Tracy Augustin
Step-moms get a bad rap. No doubt about it. In fairytales, step-moms are often depicted as evil wrongdoers. Case in point: Cinderella. We all know the story of the evil step-mother making her step-child slave away, while her children are treated like royalty.
You may feel that now that your spouse has remarried, his new wife (the evil step-mom) treats your kids poorly, or worse. You have heard stories from your kids that step-mom allows her kids to eat treats, but not them. Your kids have also told you that step-mom is stricter on them. As a result of what your children are telling you, you may be wondering if this change (father’s remarriage) is enough to get a modification of Father’s parenting time or, even more drastic, a modification of custody (legal decision-making).
I am a step-mom myself, and I know that the negative stereotypes exist. However, I will tell you from personal experience that the majority of time, your child is getting the same love and attention as step-mom’s children are.
But, I am not naïve, and I do know there are exceptions to every rule. This is why I have put together top 5 list of legally sound reasons why Father’s remarriage to the evil new step-mom might warrant a modification of custody or parenting time orders.
TOP 5 LIST OF STEP-MOM ACTS THAT MIGHT GET YOU A MODIFICATION
- Abuse of the Child
This one seems pretty obvious, but there can be gray areas too. Abuse could be more than just physical abuse, and could include emotional and/or mental abuse. Also, abuse may include the use of corporeal punishment on your child. Although, corporeal punishment is a legal form of discipline on your children in Arizona (i.e. not against the law), this may be an issue if one parent is against it and the other parent uses it for discipline purposes. Have you and Father discussed what methods of discipline you will use on the child? Another thing to look out for is abuse of the child by step-siblings. If there is some sort of legitimate abuse by a step-sibling who is living in Father’s house, a modification may be necessary.
Does step-mom have a substance abuse problem? You may be surprised, but the Court may put restrictions on Father’s parenting time, despite the fact that he is not the one with the substance abuse issues, due to a substance abuse problem that step-mom has. The Court may even require step-mom to submit to drug/alcohol screening to try and figure out if there is a real problem.
Is step-mom a sex offender? If so, has Father notified you properly? According to A.R.S. § 25-403.05(B) , there are very specific requirements that each parent must follow to notify the other parent that a sex offender may have access to the child. If you are not properly notified of this and find out about it later, it may be a reason to look into a modification of custody or parenting time.
Neglect of the Child
Do Father and step-mom go out all the time and leave the kids at home? Do Father and step-mom regularly forget to feed the kids? If this is in an issue in your case, you may want to seek a modification.
Other Best Interests Standards
There are a variety of reasons under the best interests of the child that may get you a modification of custody or parenting time. One example, is routine care of the child. Does Father and step-mom refuse to administer prescribed drugs to the child during their parenting time? Another example might be physical distance. Did Father move to a land far far away to live with step-mom, making the exchanges or distance from school rough on the child? There are many other reasons that may fall under this broader category.
This Top 5 List should give you some food for thought as to whether you have solid grounds for a modification of parenting time and/or custody (legal decision-making). It goes without saying that the same reasons can apply to step-dads, and possibly even significant others. Keep in mind that even if you raise one of the above-listed reasons to get a modification with the Court, there is no guarantee that you will be successful. Seeking the advice of an attorney is the best way to know if the facts of your situation will be enough to get a modification.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of “IS EVIL STEP-MOM A REASON TO GET A MODIFICATION OF CUSTODY?” to hear regular complaints about step-mom that won’t get you a modification.