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Can we change our child support or custody orders?

Securing a child custody or child support order can provide critical protection and guidance for parents who are no longer together. However, these orders may only be helpful as long as everyone's circumstances remain the same.

In cases where the parental capabilities change or a child's needs change, it may be necessary to change these orders. 

Changing a support order

Parents may want to modify an order for support for many reasons. This might include:

  • Parental loss of job
  • Significant change in a parent's income
  • Changes in a child's medical, educational or social needs
  • Changes in a parent's ability to care for a child or time with a child

These can mark a substantial change that affects an original support order as well as a child's best interests. Under these circumstances, parents may work out a new agreement or request that the courts amend an order. 

Changing a custody order

Because custody modifications can greatly affect a child's well-being and sense of stability, courts typically only consider modifying an existing order if there is a material change in circumstances. This means that there is a new development or significant change in a situation that was not a factor when the courts approved the original order. Potential changes include:

  • Parent develops a drug or alcohol addiction
  • A child or parent suffers a serious illness or injury
  • A parent becomes violent or abusive
  • A significant parental relocation 
  • A child expresses a well-reasoned preference to see one parent less
  • A parent previously unable to care for a child becomes able to take on parental responsibilities

These changes are substantial enough to affect a child and may therefore justify modification.

Important notes to understand

Courts do not take modifications to child custody and support orders lightly, and neither should parents. In most cases, parents will need to show that an existing order no longer reflects a child's needs or the capabilities of the parents. In other words, just because you may not like a court order does not mean that it warrants change.

Considering all that can be involved and at stake in these cases, legal counsel will be important. 

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