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When can you modify a child custody order?

Whether you were able to achieve a divorce settlement swiftly or proceedings dragged on due to disagreements about property or your children, etc., once a Michigan family court judge issued a court order, you and your ex became obligated to adhere to it. As parents, you no doubt focused on details regarding your kids, such as whether they would travel back and forth between two households or live with one parent full-time. Whatever details you incorporated into your child custody plan are legally enforceable, once the court issues the order.  

While the agreed-upon issues are legally enforceable, such as if your ex refuses to obey an order to exchange custody at a certain time and location, you are also able to modify a child custody order, which essentially means you can change it. Since the court makes its decisions carefully, in accordance with state guidelines and by reviewing the merits of each case, it doesn’t modify its orders without good reason. If you are considering requesting a child custody modification, you must be able to demonstrate a legitimate need for it.  

Child custody orders are often modified for these reasons 

The following list includes numerous issues that the court may consider legitimate causes to modify its orders in a child custody case: 

  • Co-parent has died 
  • Co-parent has been incarcerated 
  • Co-parent has a substance abuse problem 
  • One or the other parent is relocating  
  • Children have exhibited symptoms of neglect or abuse 
  • Co-parent engages in activity that places children at risk 
  • A parent’s work schedule has changed 

While this list is not extensive, it features multiple reasons that may convince a family court judge that you have demonstrated a legitimate need to initiate modification of a child custody order.  

What is the process for requesting modification? 

When you are planning to ask the court to modify its orders in a child custody case, you must initiate the process by filing a petition in court. Taking this action means that you become the moving party in a legal motion and your ex becomes the respondent. There is a fee associated with filing a child custody modification petition, although in some cases, the court will allow a waiver.  

There may or may not be a hearing in connection with a petition you file, requesting the court to modify its custody orders. Whether your ex agrees or disagrees with the requested changes may affect how the process unfolds. The most important thing to remember is that, unless and until a Michigan court grants a request for child custody modification, the original court order remains in effect, and both parents must adhere to its terms.