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How do I change my current child custody/visitation arrangement?

Child Welfare
Child Custody


Only the court has the power to modify child custody arrangements to meet the needs of the child and to respond to changes in the parents’ lives due to illness, a job change, etc. Usually, a parent who is seeking a change through the court must be able to show that conditions have changed substantially since the last custody order. Any changes to the existing custody agreement must be presented to the court; a decision will be rendered based on what the court determines to be in the best interests of the child. A list of courts may be found on the National Center for State Courts website.

Laws, policies, and procedures around child custody matters vary from state to state. You may want to consult with and/or obtain the services of an attorney in your state who practices in the area of family law. If you need assistance locating an attorney, you can contact the American Bar Association (ABA). The ABA website highlights a variety of services, including the Find Legal Help website, which provides pro bono attorney referrals and more. This website provides links to free, state legal hotlines for individuals to call and speak to a lawyer, pro bono services for special populations, and “unbundled" legal services (which means that individuals can handle part of the legal work themselves to save costs). A listing of pro bono law schools is also available on the ABA website.

Last Reviewed: March 23, 2020