Motion to Change: When a Child Becomes Older
In the case of Coppin v. Arboine, the father attempted to have a court order concerning parenting time varied on the basis that the child was all grown up.
The father brought a motion to change a previous order to increase his parenting time with his child. The mother opposed this change and argued that there was no material change in circumstances. It was her position that the child was doing well under the current parenting schedule. The child was two years old at the time of the most recent order. The child is now four years old. It was the father’s position that because the child was older, it amounted to a material change in circumstances, meaning a variation order should be made.
The judge referenced the landmark case of Gordon v. Goertz, in which it is stated that if the applicant can demonstrate a material change in circumstances, the court must then consider the merits and make an order that is in the best interest of the child.
Though the judge found it commendable that the father wished to be an integral part of his young son’s life, he noted that a material change in circumstances must be a change that altered the child’s needs or the ability of the child’s parents to meet those needs in a fundamental way.
The father produced witnesses at trial. However, these witnesses proved unhelpful as they could not attest to there being a fundamental change in the parents’ ability to care for the children, or any altered needs of the child. Furthermore, the judge was not satisfied that there had been a change since the last order. There was no evidence to show that the child’s needs were not currently being met. The only change that occurred was the fact that the child was now two years older than when the last order was made.
The judge made reference to Wiegers v. Gray, where it is noted that the passage of time and increased maturity of a child does not, by itself, constitute a material change in circumstances. If it did, this would open the floodgates and parties could bring motions to change every few years, which is contrary to established law. Accordingly, the motion to change was dismissed.
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