In cases involving the custody of minor children, the changed-circumstance rule might apply. The changed-circumstance rule is a judicially created doctrine rooted in the concept of res judicata (ie “a matter already judged”). The rule is intended to supplement the statutorily mandated “best interest of the child” standard by recognizing a minor child’s right to stability and continuity in his or her living arrangements.
A major reason for implementing the rule is to recognize the finality of judgments and to protect the parties and the child from harmful and needless relitigation of the issues of custody and visitation. The supreme court has acknowledged that in some cases to change an existing judgment the moving party generally needs to show a change of circumstances affecting the welfare of the minor children. However, other cases have held the changed-circumstance rule not to be “absolutely ironclad.”