Change (Modify) Court Order
Your child's Parenting Plan may need to be revised as circumstances change. Parents may agree on changes. Minor changes agreed to between both parents, such as temporary changes in days, times or exchange location, can be made between the parents informally. It is advisable to modify the court order in case of a major change, such as the amount of child support or the principal residence of the child. A court order modifying to current parenting plan is required for the agreement to become binding and enforceable by the court. Until the agreed upon change is filed with and approved by Court, the current parenting plan remains in effect (this includes the amount of child support the court expects a parent to pay).
If an agreement with the co-parent is not possible, consult a lawyer about the possibility of modifying the parenting plan. Changes to the parenting plan must be in the best interest of the child and satisfy other legal requirements. A formal pleading called a "Motion to Modify" is filed with the court to make changes. The Court will consider circumstances of the child and/or the parents that have changed since the last court decision. Events or concerns heard by the Court in the past will not be reconsidered by the judge. The Court is usually reluctant to modify custody of a child for at least one year after the most recent custody decision.
Even after legal proceedings have started, the parties should explore opportunities to settle contested issues. Your child will benefit when parents can agree on whether to make changes and how to implement them. Most cases do settle, rather than go to trial. Mediation is available at any time. The judge can and often will request that the parents meet with a mediator before hearing a contested motion to modify the parenting plan.
Parents who file a request for the court to modify their parenting plan are required to attend the COPE & BEYOND orientation program. A voucher for two hours of free mediation is available to parents who complete the program. Free and low cost mediation is also available through the MARCH Mediation Program.
More information about modification of custody and child support is available at www.selfrepresent.mo.gov.