How to Change a Child Custody Agreement

Updated March 20, 2017

Emotions run high in child custody proceedings. Reaching a custody arrangement that satisfies both parents is a difficult process, and once it is complete no one wants to revisit it. Occasionally, however, one parent's circumstances change, making it necessary to modify the custody agreement. Filing motions in a family court without an attorney is complicated, but not impossible. There are resources that a parent can use to try to modify a child custody agreement, with or without legal representation.

Gather evidence to show your circumstances have changed considerably since the original custody agreement. The aim is to prove that the current custody agreement is not in the best interest of the children. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families, two examples of changes that would justify a modification of the agreement are illness and a job change.

Contact the clerk at the court that created your current custody agreement. The clerk will tell you what forms are required to begin the proceedings. Typically, you can find these forms online at the website of the family court where you are filing your motion. If not, you can get them from the clerk's office.

Fill out the required forms. It is important that these forms are filled out correctly. If you have any questions, contact the court clerk.

Make three copies of the forms; one copy for the court, one for the marshal who will serve your ex-spouse with the papers, and one for your own records.

Bring the completed forms to the court clerk. The clerk will set the date by which the marshal must serve the other parent with the petition. The clerk will also set the date and time for the hearing at which you and your ex-spouse will appear.

Arrange for a marshal to serve your ex-spouse with the papers. The court clerk can provide information on how to do this.

On your court date, present your case to the judge. It should be clear, organised and concise. Your ex-spouse will have an opportunity to counter your arguments or consent to the proposed changes. The judge will then decide if there is enough evidence to warrant a change in the custody agreement. If your ex-spouse consents to the modification, the court will almost always approve it.


The laws governing modications of child custody agreements vary by state. If necessary, educate yourself on the specific forms and motions required in both your state of residence and the state where the custody agreement was made. Courts will grant temporary custody modifications for changes that are not permanent. If you cannot afford an attorney, you may be eligible for assistance. Some states may also waive the charges associated with filing the motion in court .

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About the Author

Constance Simmons is a writer from the Houston area. She has been writing academically for the past 11 years. She has a Bachelor of Science from McNeese State University in Lake Charles Louisiana, and a Master of Counseling from the University of Houston-Victoria in Victoria, Texas. Simmons has been a high school history teacher for the past seven years.