When a Court enters a final judgment for legal custody and physical placement it can be very difficult to modify it within the first two years of the order. There is a preference to maintain consistency for the children and the family during that time. There is also a presumption that what the court ordered is in the child’s best interest so there is a high burden to show that it should be changed. There are two standards that apply to revising custody and placement orders depending whether the request for modification comes within two years of the final order or after that two-year period.

If a request is made to modify legal custody, physical placement or both within two years of the most recent order, the moving party must show by substantial evidence that the modification is necessary because the current conditions are physically and/or emotionally harmful to the best interest of the child.  When a court enters a judgment affecting custody or placement it must consider the best interests of the children. It follows that any modification within a two-year period must be supported by their best interests. It takes more than one parent being unhappy with what the court ordered in its final judgment.

If a party requests a revision of a judgment after the two-year period, they still must make a showing sufficient to convince the court that the modification is in the children’s best interest. Before a court may modify a previous order, it must find that the modification is in the best interest of the child and that there has been a substantial change of circumstances since the previous order. There is a rebuttable presumption that the current custody and placement arrangement remains in the child’s best interest. This is a rebuttable presumption that requires the moving party to make a showing which convinces the court that a modification is appropriate because the current arrangement actually is contrary to what is best for the child.

In any action to modify custody and placement, the court must consider the best interest of the child, including the factors enumerated in the section 767.41(5), which are also accessible in an earlier blog post.

If you find yourself having questions or in need of assistance to modify your court order, schedule a consultation today!