change in circumstances and best interest of the child

Understanding Change of Circumstances

When initial custody, support, and co-parenting arrangements begin to chafe after a change in circumstances, many parents find themselves pondering the next steps. What does one do when new situations arise that the original agreement didn’t foresee, or when existing arrangements no longer serve the child’s best interests? Seeking a modification to a post-trial judgment becomes a consideration when the other parent is unwilling to agree to changes you believe are vital for your child’s welfare. But how does one proceed in court to modify a judgment, and what criteria do judges use to evaluate these requests?

Requesting a Modification

The process for requesting modifications to final judgments in family law, such as adjustments to child support or custody orders, involves filing a “Request for Orders” (RFO). This is a formal appeal to the court for changes post-judgment, grounded in the legal principle that child custody and visitation orders can be modified at any point during the child’s minority, provided the court deems the changes “necessary or proper” for the child’s best interests. It’s a good idea to seek out a Family Law Attorney to help with filing an RFO.

However, once a custody order is considered “final,” any party seeking modification must demonstrate a significant change in circumstances that directly impacts the child’s welfare, necessitating an adjustment to the custody arrangement. This “changed circumstances” rule complements the “best interest of the child” standard, aiming to maintain stability and continuity in the child’s life unless a substantial reason for change is presented.

This means that for parents contemplating a return to court to alter the custodial status quo, it’s imperative to not only indicate that circumstances have shifted but also that these changes are crucial for the child’s well-being. Subjective feelings or ongoing challenges with the current arrangement are insufficient; concrete evidence of the change and its necessity for the child’s welfare must be presented.

Change of Circumstances vs Best Interest of Child

The “Changed Circumstances” rule and the “Best Interests of the Child” standard serve as crucial guidelines for courts when considering modifications to custody and support orders. The “Changed Circumstances” rule comes into play specifically after a final or permanent order has been established. It necessitates a demonstrable shift in the conditions that were present at the time of the last order, requiring substantial proof that these new circumstances materially affect the child’s welfare and justify a modification of the existing orders.

In contrast, the “Best Interests of the Child” standard is a constant, overarching principle that guides all decisions related to custody and support, regardless of whether they are initial determinations or modifications. This standard ensures that the child’s health, safety, and welfare remain the paramount concern in every legal decision, emphasizing stability, continuity, and the overall well-being of the child above all else. Together, these rules aim to balance the need for stability in a child’s life with the flexibility to adapt to significant changes, ensuring that every decision made by the court serves the child’s best interests.

Modifying Child Support Due to a Change of Circumstances

Modifications to child support also hinge on demonstrating a change in circumstances, such as shifts in parental income or changes in the amount of time a child spends with each parent. However, if initial child support orders were set below guideline amounts, these can be adjusted without showing changed circumstances.

Unlike child support, modifications to visitation or parenting time under a joint custody arrangement don’t require proof of changed circumstances. These adjustments are assessed solely based on the child’s best interests, aiming to enhance the child’s health, safety, and well-being without altering the fundamental custody framework.

Contact A Family Law Attorney Today

If you’re experiencing a change in circumstances that impacts your current custody or support arrangements, don’t navigate this challenging process alone. Contact us today to explore your options for a modification that aligns with your child’s best interests and your evolving situation.


Yes, if the original order was below the guideline amount. Otherwise, a change in circumstances must be shown.

No, visitation modifications are judged solely by the child’s best interests, without needing to demonstrate changed circumstances.

Significant changes can include relocation, changes in employment, alterations in the child’s needs, or any other situation that materially affects the child’s welfare.

Presenting evidence related to the child’s health, safety, education, and overall well-being, including expert testimonies, can support your case for what best serves the child’s interests.

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