At the end of any divorce involving minor children or a stand-alone custody case, the court will enter an order for parenting time and legal custody based on what is in the child’s best interest. In the optimal situation, the order can stay in place for years. However, as children grow, their needs often change. When the current custody order is no longer workable, either parent may return to court to ask that the parenting time order be modified. To modify a custody order, the moving parent must prove specific things under Minnesota statute 518.18. The first hurdle the moving parent must overcome is to prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the court entered its last custody order. Parents considering requesting a modification need to have an understanding of how much change is necessary to demonstrate a “substantial change.”
A substantial change needs to be a change that impacts the child’s life or schedule in a meaningful way. It is important to note that a substantial change that impacts the parent may not be one that impacts the child in the same way. The most common change that parents incorrectly believe will automatically mean they can prove a substantial change is remarriage. Although a parent marrying a new spouse is certainly an important step, this will not necessarily mean the change is substantial for the child in such a way that change of a parenting schedule is appropriate or necessary. If the new step parent has an abusive or toxic relationship with the child, then that could be an exception to this rule. Another change that often does not rise to the level of substantial change is a parent changing jobs. If the new job will not impact the parent’s ability to exercise parenting time with the child, or impacts the ability in only a minimal way, the change is not substantial for the child, although starting a new job is clearly an important event for the parent.
One parent relocating is a frequent ground for modification of parenting time orders. If one parent is moving so far away that the current parenting order will no longer be practical, then this would be a substantial change, as the move would mean the child’s relationship with the other parent could be disrupted. However, if the move is not one that would disrupt the parenting schedule, child’s school, or other major life events, then the move standing alone is not likely to be a substantial change.
Let us help you understand how the court will look at your modification case. Call us at 651-371-9117 for a consultation