Skip to Main navigation Skip to Left navigation Skip to Main content Skip to Footer

University of Minnesota Extension
Print Icon Email Icon Share Icon

Extension > Family > Parents Forever™ > For families > Resources for families > Taking Care of Yourself > The Legal Side of Family Transition > Can Custody Be Changed?

The Legal Side of Family Transition

Can Custody Be Changed?

Madeleine Alberts, Children, Youth and Family Program Leader; M. Kathleen Mangum, Sandra Syverson, and Barbara Radke, Extension Educators; and Minnell Tralle, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency


Custody of children awarded by the court in a divorce can be quite difficult to change. In order to change custody, you generally must prove to the court both of the following:

Considerations of the Court

In addition to the main criteria listed above, there are other situations for which a court may consider making custody changes.

The court may consider a change if the parent who was awarded custody has denied or interfered with the other parent’s parenting time. However, parenting time problems alone are usually not enough to change custody. Denying or interfering with a parenting time schedule is only one factor a court may consider in custody change requests.

Custody is sometimes changed if the custodial parent allows the children to live with the non-custodial parent for a much longer time than was ordered for parenting time.

A judge also may change custody based on a violation of the “best interests of the child” standard (see Minnesota Statute 518.17), if both parents agreed to use that standard in the original divorce decree. This is just one reason you should talk to an attorney before agreeing to use the “best interests” standard. An attorney can help you understand what this means.

Initiating a Custody Change

If you and your ex-spouse (or partner) agree to seek a change of custody for your children, you must file a motion in court to alter both custody and support orders. Otherwise, if you are a non-custodial parent who subsequently gains custody of your children, you can still be held responsible for paying support to the other parent.


Minnesota Judicial Branch. (n.d). Basics on child custody and parenting time.

Minnesota Legislature. (2014). Minnesota’s child support laws: An overview.

The Office of the Revisor of Statutes. (2013). Minnesota Statute 518.18.

Office of the Minnesota Attorney General. (n.d). Child support and child custody resources.

Related resources

Making Custody a Win-Win — What makes the best custody arrangements for your children? See questions to explore for your own situation.

Child Custody and Parenting TimeMinnesota Judicial Branch — Get the basics, as well as forms, related to child custody and parenting time in Minnesota.

  • © Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.
  • The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy