How to Modify Custody and Visitation Orders

Can You Modify a Child Custody and Visitation Order in Missouri?


A child’s legal and physical custody is always a source of concern for parents, especially when the parents are separated or divorced. As your child grows older, custody arrangements that once worked may not work anymore.

Perhaps your circumstances have changed, and you’d like to see your child more often. You might also feel or have reason to believe that your child’s well-being is in jeopardy with the present custody arrangement. In that case, you might need to approach the court to change the current custody situation.

The court can modify child custody and visitation orders upon request by any parent. However, it is crucial to show the court that a change in circumstances has occurred and that the existing order doesn’t reflect the child’s best interests anymore. Since Missouri courts are intensely interested in protecting the child’s best interests, they allow modification of the child custody order.

How Do You Modify Custody and Visitation Orders?

If you’d like to change the terms of your child’s custody and visitation order, you must petition the court. Even if both parents agree to change the court order and reach an informal agreement, they may still need to approach the court for formal ratification of their agreement.

Modification of a Custody Order

The process of modifying a custody order usually begins with a petition to the court, followed by these steps:

  • Service of summons on the other parent
  • Trying to resolve the issues through mediation
  • Attending the modification hearing

Some courts require that parents complete a parent education program that teaches them dispute resolution, cooperative parenting, and how to put their child’s best interests first.

Although all court forms regarding child support and custody modification are publicly available on the State of Missouri website, the entire process could be much easier if you hire an experienced child custody lawyer. They can help you navigate the process and protect your rights and the rights of your children.


Modification of a Visitation Arrangement

This procedure seeks only to change the schedule that regulates visitation times for the noncustodial parent or other parenting plan issues that may have arisen.

This change has to be in the best interests of the child, as well. However, the other requirements for modification of custody orders do not apply here.

Changes in a visitation order typically don’t require court intervention, so parents may be able to resolve them without a formal court hearing. But, if parents can’t agree, they can try to create an acceptable parenting plan by working with a mediator.

If both parents cannot agree, the court may request that the parent who wants to change the parenting plan presents their case. Having a skilled child custody lawyer to represent you can be beneficial here. They can help plead your case in a manner that is likely to convince the judge.

When Will a Missouri Court Modify a Child Custody Order?

There are several circumstances in which a Missouri court can modify a child custody order. For example, if one parent’s conduct places a child’s physical health in danger or causes psychological or emotional harm, they may be deemed an unfit parent, and the court may modify any existing custody arrangement on that ground.

In addition, under Missouri laws, if one parent is convicted or pleads guilty to certain felony offenses such as child molestation, child abuse, rape, or sexual misconduct involving a child, the Missouri court can remove their custody rights for that reason.

If a parent goes against an existing custody/visitation order and relocates a child outside the state without a proper court order, that can jeopardize the custody and visitation rights of the parent who committed that act. In such an instance, the aggrieved parent might benefit from the services of a Missouri child custody relocation lawyer.

Other factors that could lead to the modification of court-ordered custody/visitation arrangements can include:

  • Poor mental and physical health of any parent
  • Change in a parent’s ability to care for the child
  • Domestic abuse
  • Substance abuse by a parent
  • Refusal to allow parenting time/visitation rights
  • The child is subjected to an unfit living situation

The court will likely modify a custody order in the above or similar circumstances. However, the petitioning parent has to show that such harmful situations that are not in the child’s best interests exist.


Does the Court Consider a Child’s Preference Before Modifying a Custody Order?

The primary consideration in child custody matters is the child’s best interests. However, Missouri courts may also consider the child’s preferences if they are mature enough. But, the child can’t decide which parent they want to live with until they turn 18. Even then, the court would want to determine the reasons behind that decision and won’t change custody solely based on the child’s wishes.

How Often Can Child Custody and Child Support Be Modified?

Custody orders are not modified as a matter of routine. If a noncustodial parent wishes to spend more time with their children, they can’t just ask for a custody modification. That won’t be considered a valid reason.

Missouri courts usually grant custody modifications when parents can prove that the proposed changes are in the child’s best interest and not merely the desire to change something in the child’s life.

It can also be challenging to change which parent has physical custody of the children. That would require the noncustodial parent to present evidence that a custodial parent is unfit to take proper care of them.

In contrast, the family support division can review child support orders every three years. But, if less than three years have passed since the order was established or modified, it will only be reviewed under exceptional circumstances. In such cases, you might benefit from the help of a St. Louis County child support attorney.

How Can a Family Law Attorney Help With Custody and Visitation Order Modification?

When parents separate or divorce, going through a child custody case can be devastating. Parents often ignore important facts and make emotional decisions that could affect the case. However, working with a skilled family law attorney with experience in divorce and child custody cases can improve the outcome.

The Carson Law Firm can help you and represent your family when you want to modify child support, visitation, or custody orders. We know how much family matters, and we offer an empathetic approach to help our clients go through this difficult time. We can assess your case and represent your interests throughout the process.

So, if you need help with your child custody, child support, custody modification cases, or even if you are looking for an adoption lawyer, reach out to our law firm immediately.

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