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What is a child custody modification and when is it used?

A custody modification is a change to the existing custody arrangement. As parents face life changes -- or children's needs change -- a modification to the original agreement may be necessary. For parents seeking a custody modification, the process can be arduous and filled with more than a few hurdles.

Timing limitations

Parents cannot request a modification to the original arrangement within the first year unless certain exceptions are met. If the child is in danger, or the custodial parent is willfully denying parenting time, a modification may be requested.

Reasons to warrant a modification

In the state of Minnesota, modifications are very difficult to get unless both parents agree to the change. Even if both parents are in agreement, the court must find the change is in the best interest of the child. In general, the following reasons are considered valid to warrant a child custody modification:

  • Both parents agree to the change and have submitted the request in writing.
  • The child has been integrated into the family of the parent seeking custody with the full consent of the custodial parent.
  • The child's current environment poses physical or emotion dangers to the child's well-being. Any harm caused by the relocation to a new environment is outweighed by the advantages of the change.
  • The primary custodial parent moved the child out of state despite a court order not authorizing the move.
  • The custodial parent has been convicted of a certain criminal offense.

Modification process

The modification process is fairly straightforward. The first step is filing the motion asking for permission to modify the agreement. A judge reviews your request at a hearing. If the judge believes that your case may have merit, a second evidentiary hearing will follow. Evidence to support the modification is heard and you bear the burden of proof to support your case. A third-party evaluation of the home environments may be required to evaluate the health and well-being of both the child and the parents. After reviewing all the evidence, a judge will determine if a custody modification is appropriate.

Modifying a child custody agreement is complicated and depends strongly on your ability to support your case through written and oral statements. If your request is denied you must wait two years before petitioning to request another modification.

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