Modifying Child Custody Orders in Cases of Domestic Violence

Parents understandably want to make sure their child custody and parenting time arrangements reflect what’s best for their children. However, it’s important to remember that child custody orders are not written in stone – and it is possible for either parent or guardian to request a modification to an existing order based on a substantial change of circumstances.

In general, the courts will review all facts presented to determine whether a change of custody or parenting time is necessary and in the best interests of the child. This is a high bar, and judges take great care to ensure that they are not making changes for inappropriate reasons. For example, the courts will examine whether the requested change of custody is truly necessary because the current arrangement no longer reflects the child’s needs or the parent’s ability to provide a safe and stable environment.

Additionally, in cases of domestic violence, the court will also carefully consider the safety and well-being of the children involved. The courts are also concerned that the alleged domestic abuse may have negatively impacted the child’s psychological and emotional development. In those cases, the judge will likely find that a change of custody is in the best interest of the child, and will usually order a permanent change.

If a parent requests a custody or parenting time change, they will file either a petition for custody or a petition to modify the previous order with the court. Depending on the original order, the parties may have filed in Supreme Court or Family Court. In most cases, if the original order was entered in Supreme Court, the parties would have the option of going back to that court to pursue the modification.

The time it takes to reach a decision in a custody modification case depends on many factors, including how contested the matter is and how long the case goes through the trial process. The vast majority of custody and visitation modification matters are resolved without the need for a full trial, and most are decided within a year.

If you are considering seeking a custody modification, it is best to have an attorney on your side. An experienced attorney can assist you with gathering all of the information needed to prove a substantial change of circumstance and help you to achieve a fair outcome for your situation. If you do not have an attorney, or cannot afford one, the court will appoint counsel to represent you. However, as the old adage goes, “one who represents themselves has a fool for a client.” To avoid this potential pitfall, it is advisable to contact an attorney who is experienced with handling custody and visitation modifications. To learn more about what to expect from your child custody modification case visit