What is a Child Custody Modification?
When a party wants to change who has custody of a child, legally it’s known as a child custody modification.
A child custody modification can involve changing:
a. the physical custody label,
b. the legal custody label, or
c. both, the legal and physical custody label.
* To learn about physical and legal custody in Minnesota, click here.
Child Custody Modification in Minnesota
- Unless the parties agree to it, a child custody modification is very difficult to do in Minnesota.
- Minnesota law is very specific about child custody modifications.
When Can I Modify Custody of my Child in Minnesota?
Assuming that you and the other party didn’t agree to a different modification standard during your most recent custody order, (and thus the default standard is used), a Judge may only order a custody modification if:
1. Both parties agree to the modification and submit it in writing to the court
2. The child has been integrated into the family with the consent of the other party.
* (This happens, but is rare.)
3. The child’s present environment endangers the child’s physical or emotional health or impairs the child’s emotional development and the harm likely to be caused by a change of environment is outweighed by the advantage of change to the child.
* (This paragraph is why some people refer to the child custody modification standard as the “endangerment standard”.)
* (This is the one most often argued in a custody modification motion.)
* (This is also the most cited reason why changing custody is so difficult.)
4. The court has denied a request of the primary custodial parent to move the residence of the child to another state, and the primary custodial parent has relocated to another state despite the court’s order.
* (This doesn’t come up often, but it is designed to prevent one parent from leaving the state with a child without the other parent’s consent or without court approval.)
5. If the custodial parent is convicted of certain criminal offenses. (See Minnesota Statute 631.52 for the list of criminal offenses).
An Additional Barrier to Changing Child Custody in Minnesota
- There are court cases in Minnesota which say that even if one parent is just trying to change parenting time, if the change is a large enough amount, it can be treated as a child custody modification case.
- Minnesota courts have not defined what amount of time this would come into effect.
- This is an important distinction, because a modification of parenting time only requires the court to look at the best interests of the children, not whether the child is endangered.
* To learn more about the best interests of the child, click here.