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Can I change my custody order?

On Behalf of | Dec 11, 2023 | Child Custody & Parenting Time

Custody orders in New York are created with the best interests of the children in mind. Once your custody order is entered, you must follow it or face being found in contempt of court.

But what happens if your circumstances change, making it impractical or impossible to follow the order? This is bound to happen at some point, since life is naturally unpredictable and full of changes.

Reasons a change might be necessary

Perhaps you start a new job or move a little farther away. As children get older, they often become involved in more activities and their own schedules change.

Maybe the change involves your co-parent. They may have taken a new job with additional hours, developed a substance abuse problem or be struggling with something that makes you believe you should have primary physical custody.

When you find that your current custody order is no longer working, you can file a petition to modify custody with the court, but you must show that a substantial change in circumstances occurred.

Any of the examples above could potentially qualify as a substantial change in circumstances. The change is more likely to be considered substantial if it affects a major piece of your life and it is expected to be long-term.

You should carefully consider if modifying your custody order is the right choice before filing a petition. It takes time and costs money to file, and if your co-parent does not agree with the proposed changes, you could find yourself in custody court. The experience could be stressful for both you and your children.

An agreement must still be approved by the court

You and your co-parent can always agree on the changes to your custody schedule, but if you want it on record with the court as an order, it must be approved. The court will examine if the agreement is in the best interest of your children.

Although rare, a court can refuse to accept a proposed modification that you and your co-parent agreed upon. You can increase the chance of a court accepting the agreement by showing how it best meets your children’s needs.