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Legal Information: Montana


Laws current as of December 20, 2023

How can I change a final custody order? What effect could a criminal conviction have?

Filing a motion to amend
If you have a parenting plan order already in place, either parent can file a motion to amend the order to make changes to it. Generally, you can only ask to have a final parenting plan order amended if:

  • the amendment is necessary to serve the best interest of the child; and
  • there is a change in the circumstances of the child that is based upon:
    • facts that have come up since the prior plan; or
    • facts that were unknown to the judge at the time the prior plan was ordered.1

When considering how a proposed change will affect the child, the judge will consider:

  • the potential impact of the change on the factors listed in How will a judge make a decision about a parenting plan (custody)?; and
  • one or more of the following:
    • whether the parents agree to the proposed change to the parenting plan;
    • whether the child has been included (integrated) in the family of the petitioner with the consent of the parents;
    • whether the child wants the proposed change - but this only will be considered when the child is 14 years of age or older; or
    • whether one parent has willfully and consistently:
      • refused to allow the child to have any contact with the other parent; or
      • attempted to deny contact between the child and the other parent or make contact difficult.1 If a parent does either of these things, the judge will assume that the parent was not acting in the child’s best interests.2

Note: If a parent files to amend the parenting plan without first making a good faith effort to follow it or to use the dispute resolution method laid out in the plan, the judge will assume that the parent is acting in a vengeful or harmful manner. However, the parent can offer evidence to try to convince the judge that s/he did not file to get revenge or harm the other parent. This does not apply to the “objection” option explained below.3

Filing an objection
You can file an “objection” to the parenting plan if the other parent or anyone living with that parent gets convicted of any of the following crimes:

After you file the objection, the other parent has 21 days to respond. If s/he doesn’t respond, his/her parenting rights are suspended until the judge says otherwise. If the parent does respond to the objection, then a hearing on the issue will be set within 30 days of the parent’s response.4

1 R.C.M. § 40-4-219(1)(a)
2 R.C.M. § 40-4-219(3)
3 R.C.M. § 40-4-212(4)(b)
4 R.C.M. § 40-4-219(8)