Can I modify a child custody or visitation order?

 Child Custody and Visitation

The family court prefers that once a court order or decision regarding the custody or visitation of a child is made, it stays the same. Sometimes, these orders become impractical. In this situations it may be possible to change the terms and conditions of the court order. To do this, very specific rules must be followed, and requirements met, before the custody or visitation order can be modified.

Child Visitation Orders

When the parents of a child are unable to come to an amicable agreement regarding custody and visitation, the court will issue their own order which reflects the best interests of the child. In general there are two types of child custody:

  • Legal Custody – The right to make decisions on behalf of the child. These include healthcare, education, upbringing, religion, and so forth.
  • Physical Custody – The physical time spent with the child. Typically one spouse will have physical custody of the child, and he or she will be responsible for their daily care, decisions, and wellbeing.

Joint custody may also be awarded by the courts, but the physical custody of the child still may not be evenly shared. Usually one parent will have primary custody and the other parent will have visitation rights.

After a visitation order has been issued, the terms must be followed by both parents. As time goes on, these orders may no longer suit the parents’ or child’s life. For instance, the wishes of the child as he or she grows older might change. Or, a parent might relocate to a new state making visitation difficult. In a situation like this, the court may modify the order.

Modifying a Court Order

To modify a child custody or visitation order, a petition to modify must be filed with the family court. The orders may be modified when or if:

  • The court approves one parent’s petition to modify; or,
  • Both parents would like to modify the order.

The courts are limited in their ability to modify an order. Furthermore, some states have certain requirements, such as waiting periods, before a modification can be allowed.

Circumstances that May Permit a Modification

In general a child custody or visitation order can only be modified when a significant changes has occurred. For example:

  • A job change or relocation,
  • Evidence of domestic violence,
  • Evidence of abuse
  • Changes in the needs of the child,
  • Changes in the wishes of the child,
  • Concerns about the stability of the child’s home, or;
  • One parent has clearly violated the current order.

After the court has received the petition, it will review the case and determine what is best for the child. A hearing may be required, and during this time you may want to ask a family lawyer to guide you through the process while ensuring your rights are protected.

A Family Lawyer for Child Custody Modifications

Parenting time is valuable, and whenever there is a dispute, emotions can sore. There are many people involved in these situations, and the vulnerability of the children is especially at stake. It can help to have a family lawyer Rockville, MD trusts on your side. A lawyer can help you negotiate with the other parent, file a petition for modification, and present a case that suits your interests.



Thank you to our friends and contributors at The Law Office of Daniel J. Wright for their insight into child custody and visitation.