If a custody order is already in place, how can I get it changed?
To change a custody or visitation order that is already in place, you need to file a petition to modify (change) the order at the courthouse that originally issued the order. Generally, for a judge to change your custody or visitation order, you need to show that there has been a substantial (significant) change in circumstances since the final order was made and that your proposed change would be in the best interest of your child.*
To begin the process of changing your custody order, you will need to fill out the forms for a “Petition for Modification of an Order of Custody/Visitation.” You can get the forms in the courthouse or you can file a custody or visitation modification petition online through the NY Courts website. We recommend getting a lawyer to represent you. Go to our NY Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals. Even if you do not have a lawyer representing you, you may still want to have a lawyer check over the papers before you file them.
Note: Under New York state law, if a custody order was issued based on the fact that a parent was deployed by the military, the parent's return from deployment automatically qualifies as a substantial change of circumstances. Upon the request of either parent, the judge must then decide whether it is in the child's best interests to keep or change the custody order.**
* See, for example, Grassi v. Grassi, 28 A.D.3d 482 (2nd Dept. 2006)
** NY Fam Ct Act § 651(f); NY Dom Rel § 240(1)(a-2)