How to Modify an Existing Custody Order

When you get divorced with children, the court must consider what is in the best interest of the child when ruling on a custody plan. However, what happens when that prior plan is no longer practicable? The truth is that life is an ever-changing thing that can be drastically altered at a moment's notice. For that reason, Missouri law recognizes what is called a Motion to Modify to help parents modify an existing order when modification of that order is in the child’s best interest. Call us today at (573) 995-4077 to discuss your options.

Smilling Child

1. What is the process?

A motion to modify is essentially a new case. It is typically filed as your underlying case number, but with a “-01” attached. Once you file your motion, the other party is served and given the opportunity to respond to the motion. One important difference with a motion to modify versus a typical divorce or custody case is that the opposing party cannot be found in default if they do not file a responsive pleading. In simple English, you cannot win on your motion to modify simply because the other party does not file a responsive pleading.

2. What is the standard I must meet to prevail on a motion to modify?

This question is likely more relevant to many people. You’re probably reading this because you are frustrated with your current arrangement and want to take a second bite at the apple. However, a custody order cannot and shall not be modified by a court of competent jurisdiction simply because it is inconvenient or the other parent is acting like a jerk.

Rather, the standard the court adheres to is “substantial and continuing change.” This means you must meet this standard in order for the court to consider a change in the existing custody order.

Of course, the court must consider what is in the best interest of the child in making the determination on whether to modify the existing order. Therefore the following factors may be considered:

  1. The relationships between the child and parents, siblings, and other closely involved parties who may affect the child’s best interest;
  2. The child’s well-being as it pertains to their home, school, and community environment;
  3. The mental and physical health of all individuals actively involved in the child’s life, whether there are any noted incidents of abuse; and
  4. The child’s preference and wishes as to who will be their primary caregiver.

In conclusion, if your current custody arrangement is not working, call our Jefferson City office at (573) 995-4077 to discuss your options. We serve the Lake of the Ozarks area in addition to Cole County, Osage County, Boone County, and beyond!

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