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.1
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.2
1 See, for example, Grassi v. Grassi, 28 A.D.3d 482 (2nd Dept. 2006)
2 NY Fam Ct Act § 651(f); NY Dom Rel § 240(1)(a-2)