How to get a custody order changed in your favor, post-divorce

In a nutshell, to get a custody order changed in your favor, post-divorce, you have to show that there has been changed circumstances with the custodial parent that are so urgent that without a change of custody, the best interest of the children is in jeopardy. So, for example, if the children’s basic needs are not being met because the custodial parent cannot and will not meet those needs – food, clothing, shelter – (this includes issues such as education, and physical and emotional needs of the child) then the court can be petitioned to re-assess custody, and specifically you can show yourself to be a better custodial parent by demonstrating how you can meet those needs in a superior way. Circumstances change all the time. It could be an issue with drugs, mental illness, job loss, new relationships with inappropriate mates, or some type of extreme behavior.
One caveat: Don’t expect to run to court every time something minor happens to try to change the custody order. Your ex is allowed to date and the fact that you may not like the new person doesn’t mean that in a judge’s discretion, that person is bad for the kids’ best interest. Or, even if your mate is having trouble with drugs or alcohol, chances are the court may order rehab or therapy but may not think the problem rises to the level to justify a permanent change of custody. Just because your ex may have lost his or her job does not automatically mean he or she will lose custody. Like anything else in the family court system, it just depends on the specifics of the situation. But the threshold issue is to show that circumstances have changed. If you can’t show that, at the outset, you’re not going to be able to get the order changed. It isn’t in the best interest of the child to be tossed around from parent to parent. This is very chaotic and de-stabilizing actually.
Although, with states like Tennessee, maybe this custody battle situation will not exist in years to come as more states move towards an “equal custody” or “maximum possible time” model. At the end of the day, it is healthier for the child, all things held constant, to have as close to equal a relationship with each parent as he or she possibly can. Don’t you concur?