Can I Modify My Child Custody Order?


Once child custody has been determined, either through a Consent Order or an order given by a Judge, the child custody schedule may be modifiable. However, the custody order cannot be changed unilaterally, nor can the parties just simply start following a new schedule for it to be enforceable. There are various steps in the process that must first occur before a custody order has been modified and may be enforced.

First, the parent wishing to modify the child custody schedule must submit a motion to the Court asking the Court to modify the current custody schedule. The parent wishing to modify the custody schedule may want to change the schedule for many reasons; however, the basis for the modification will either be because something is benefitting the child, or something is harming the child.

In the moving parent’s motion, a variety of statements must be explicitly stated. Specifically, the parent requesting the modification must prove two things to the court: (1) that there has been a substantial and material change in circumstances that affect the wellbeing of the child; and (2) if the court finds that there has been a substantial and material change, the parent must show that the modification is in the best interests of the minor child.

First, you need to know what qualifies as a substantial and material change. This is the more difficult of the two burdens to overcome. A definite substantial and material change includes a variety of occurrences, including but not limited to when one parent begins abusing drugs or alcohol, becomes abusive or neglectful toward the child, the minor child being to struggle academically or behaviorally, relocation of a parent, or the parent disregards the terms of the current custody order. Another substantial and material change could include when one parent remains sober for an extensive period of time, proving to the court that the minor child is their top priority. There are many other reasons which the Court may consider substantial and material changes.

Now, once the court has determined that there has been one or more substantial and material change in circumstances, the parent wishing to modify the custody order must show that this modification is, and will remain, in the best interests of the minor child.

Modifying a child custody order is not an easy or quick task. Each of these requirements are difficult burdens to prove and are best handled by experienced family law attorneys. If you are seeking to modify a child custody order, reach out to one of our skilled and experienced family law attorneys at Jetton & Meredith.