Modification of a Custody Order: Part 11 – The Presence of Siblings
Anyone who has a brother or sister can tell you how important the sibling relationship is and what a significant role our siblings play in our childhood development. As common sense would dictate, the law strongly favors the development and encouragement of sibling bonds.
In custody modification proceedings, courts will not separate siblings unless there is a real need to do so. But tricky issues arise when dealing with half-siblings. When modifying custody, a court must give sufficient weight to the presence of half-siblings and the subject child’s relationship with his or her half-siblings.
What exactly is “sufficient weight” is not clear, but the caselaw suggests that courts must take a very close look at the sibling relationship. This means considering the ages of the children and the quality of their relationship. For example, a toddler and a teenager may not have a close relationship while two children a year or two apart in age may have a very close bond. In some cases, courts have gone so far as to apply the same standard for the separation of half-siblings as applies to whole-blooded siblings. In any event, the presence of siblings in the home of a parent must be analyzed carefully in a custody modification proceeding.