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How to make changes to your child custody and parenting schedule

Once your divorce or paternity action is finalized, you and the other parent will receive a judgment that includes specific terms regarding custody of your children and parenting time.

This may be the result of an agreement the two of you reached, or it may be a Judge's decision. This judgment will specify where the children will primarily reside and detail how the children's time will be split between the parents.

What if things need to change?

In some cases, one or both parents may desire to change the provisions relating to child custody and parenting time. Even if the parents come to an agreement outside of court, the modifications eventually need to be approved by the court in order to become binding on the parties. 

In cases where one parent wants to change custody or parenting time and the other parent does not agree, the parent seeking a modification must file a Complaint for Modification with the Probate and Family Court with jurisdiction over the case. This complaint will describe the change in circumstances that warrants a modification to custody or the parenting schedule.

Do we have to go back to court? 

If both parents agree to change the custody or parenting schedule of the children, the process can be much simpler and they may not have to go to court. Instead, they may be able to use an administrative process, which includes filing a packet of completed forms with the Probate and Family Court. A filing fee is also required.

If you or your spouse has a material and substantial change in circumstance that warrants a child custody or parenting plan modification, it can be important to contact a qualified Massachusetts family law attorney to further assist you with your changes.

Source: Mass.gov, "How to File to Change Custody or Parenting Time," accessed on Aug. 27, 2017

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