Child custody can be a contentious topic for many parents. That said, many parents are also able to arrive at a custody agreement together. Once a custody or visitation order has been issued, it is enforceable. Not fulfilling each parent's respective obligations can result in both criminal and civil action, depending on the facts and circumstances.
Child custody orders, however, are not static and aren't intended to be. If a parent needs to modify it, they may be able to do so. But there are rules that must be followed and requirements that must be satisfied. At Heritage Law Office, our child custody lawyer properly follows the rules and strategically crafts legal arguments to ensure child custody modification goes in your favor. This is true regardless of whether you are the parent who needs the modification or the parent subject to the modification. So contact us through our online form or at 414-253-8500 to schedule a free consultation.
How to Modify a Child Custody Order in Minnesota
Co-parents can agree to modify their court-ordered child custody arrangements on their own. While this is the best and easiest solution, it's always best to file the changes with the court to safeguard your rights and avoid future problems.
In lieu of a mutual agreement, two things must happen to modify a custody order:
- You must file a petition to modify a custody or visitation order in family court; and
- Your petition must identify a substantial change of circumstances and that the modification due to the latter is in the best interests of the child.
Once the petition is filed, a custody modification hearing will be put on the calendar. At that hearing, the parent who filed the petition must explain and lay out the evidence for the substantial change in circumstances.
What Constitutes a Substantial Change in Circumstances in Minnesota?
Because child custody revolves around the best interests of the child, getting a modification to a custody order means showing that the current order is so unworkable that it is no longer in the child's best interests. Thus, modification is necessary.
Some circumstances that can support a modification include:
- Abuse or neglect
- Health condition
- Substance abuse
- Loss of a job
- Reduction in pay/salary
Some circumstances that typically won't support a modification on their own include:
- Birth of another child
To change visitation, you may not have to prove a substantial change in circumstances, but you will have to show the modification is also in the child's best interest.
Other Circumstances Where a Modification to Custody May Be Sought
There are times when a parent may want to modify a child custody order but not for a substantial change in circumstances. Situations where this might be approved by the courts include:
- The child is of a certain age and can say where they want to live.
- The non-custodial parent can prove that they have been rehabilitated, i.e., the non-custodial parent may have had a substance abuse problem and had only visitation rights but is now recovering and capable of custody.
- What's considered de jure custody is not the same as de facto custody, e.g., one parent is the primary custodian but the child stays with the non-custodial parent more and, as such, the non-custodial parent wants to change the custody order to reflect reality.
- One parent can prove the other parent is unfit, i.e., this often involves abuse and neglect but can also include things like the parent's mental health or overall bad behavior that can detrimentally impact the child's wellbeing.
- One parent can show that the child is having serious problems at the home of the custodial parent and that the latter cannot be remedied easily, e.g., maybe there are concerns with a step-parent or step-siblings that cause great harm to the child.
Contact a Child Custody Modification Lawyer in Minnesota Today
Modifying a child custody order takes a little thought and solid supporting evidence. A court is typically willing to approve it if it's in the best interests of the child. We, at Heritage Law Office, will advise you of your best options, draft a well-documented petition for modification, and steadfastly represent your interests before the court. Complete the online form or call us at 414-253-8500 today.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What Are the Grounds for Modifying a Child Custody Order in Minnesota?
In Minnesota, the most significant requirement for modifying a child custody order is proving a "substantial change in circumstances." This could include changes like a parent's loss of a job, a significant health issue, or instances of abuse or neglect. The modification must also serve the child's best interests.
2. How Can a Parent Prove a "Substantial Change in Circumstances?"
To prove a substantial change, you'll need to present convincing evidence during a custody modification hearing. This could be financial records, medical documents, or even testimony from relevant witnesses. It's crucial to show that the existing custody arrangement is no longer in the best interests of the child.
3. Can Parents Agree to Modify a Child Custody Order Without Going to Court?
Yes, co-parents can mutually agree to modify their child custody arrangement. However, it's advisable to file these changes with the court to make them legally binding. This will help safeguard your rights and minimize future disputes.
4. What Factors Do Courts Consider When Assessing the "Best Interests of the Child"?
Courts typically look at multiple factors when assessing what's in the child's best interests. These can include the child's age, emotional and physical well-being, adjustment to school and community, and the mental and physical health of the parents. Courts may also consider the child's relationship with each parent and any siblings.
5. Is It Easier to Modify Visitation Rights Compared to Custody Rights?
In general, the modification of visitation rights may not require proof of a substantial change in circumstances, but you still need to show that the changes are in the child's best interests. It could be a bit easier compared to modifying custody rights, which usually require more stringent proofs like substantial change in living conditions or parental ability.