Case Law Update: Custody Modification

By Rebecca K. Watts

Padilla v. Whitley de Padilla, COA19-478, decided May 5, 2020 (Custody Modification)

The parties’ original custody order was entered in 2016 and granted custody to Mother. Father had limited visitation because at the time that order was entered, Father had ongoing mental health issues, an unhealthy relationship with his girlfriend, and an unstable living situation. In 2018, the trial court entered an amended custody order which kept physical custody with Mother, but which gave Father more visitation time. Mother appealed.

On appeal, Mother argued Father failed to meet his burden of showing a substantial change in circumstances because there had been no adverse change in her care of the children. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order.  In reaching its decision, the Court of Appeals noted that the trial court’s 2018 order included findings of many positive changes regarding Father and that a modification may be based upon positive findings of changed circumstances.