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:
- There has been a change in the situation since the divorce decree, and
- The children’s physical or emotional health or development is in danger.
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.
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 Time — Minnesota Judicial Branch — Get the basics, as well as forms, related to child custody and parenting time in Minnesota.