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Modifying an order for child custody in New York

On Behalf of | Jun 10, 2024 | Child Custody & Parenting Time

Many New York divorces involve child custody issues. The most obvious question is which parent should be granted physical custody of any children. The next most obvious question is whether the non-custodial spouse should be ordered to pay child support to the custodial spouse? And finally, can a final order for child custody or support be amended or revised?

The answer to the last question often affects the answer to both of the first two. An order for child custody can be revised or modified if the party seeking a change can provide evidence that meets the statutory burden for making such a change.

Two types of custody

New York law provides for two types of child custody: physical custody and legal custody.

A parent who is awarded physical custody usually decides that the child (or children) will share that parent’s living quarters.

Legal custody is the right to make certain decisions about a child’s welfare, including providing clothing and food, providing ordinary medical care, meeting the child’s needs for education, and similar matters that do not depend directly upon where the child resides.

Changing an order for custody or support

The party desiring to modify the court’s initial order for custody or child support must file an order with the court demonstrating that a substantial change of circumstances has occurred since the original order became effective.

If the parents cannot resolve the dispute, the court will schedule a hearing to hear and consider evidence bearing on whether the requested change will serve the child’s best interests. Both parties may present evidence to the court, and both parties may retain attorneys to argue their side of the dispute.


If a custody or support modification request cannot be settled by the parties, the dispute will be set for trial. In any matter heard by the court, an experienced attorney, while not mandatory, would be a useful ally.