How do I File for a Custody Change?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 16 January 2020
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In most places, custody orders are not set in stone, and either party to a custody order may request a change to it. Typically, a person who wants to change a custody order files a custody modification form or petition with the appropriate court in his jurisdiction. The custody modification form or petition usually has to include specifics about the reason the person is requesting the change. Once a person has filed for a custody change, the modification is not automatic. Usually, he has to prove to the court that there is justification for the modification.

Judges are unlikely to change custody orders for frivolous reasons. For example, a judge is unlikely to order a custody change simply because a parent does not like the custody order or is angry with the other parent. In some places, a person who wants to seek a custody change must prove that the proposed modification is in the best interests of the child in question. If the change is merely in the best interest of one of the parents, the modification may not be granted. In fact, a judge may dismiss the modification request without a trial if there is no firm legal basis for the request.


If a court determines that there is a valid reason to hear a custody modification request, the opposing party is usually given a chance to respond at a hearing or trial. Both parties are usually allowed to have legal representation to argue their points, though some people may go through custody trial proceedings pro se. The person who has requested the custody change usually has the burden of proving his case to the court. While awaiting the court’s decision, both parties are usually expected to follow their current custody order.

Often, people immediately think about going to court when they want a custody change. While a judge does have to order modification of a custody order to make it valid, some people may get better results by negotiating with the other party. For example, if a person wants to change some details of a custody order and can convince the other party to agree, a judge may be more likely to grant the change. Additionally, the parties may be able to modify the order without having to appear for a trial. In some cases, they may be permitted to simply have the agreed-upon change filed with the court.


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