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Can I modify my child custody or visitation order?

Child custody and visitation orders are often the result of careful consideration and compromise. However, what worked when the initial agreement was reached may not work anymore as families' situations change over time. The terms of an agreement may no longer be practical or appropriate depending on the parents' and children's circumstances. In Mississippi, parents may petition the court for modification and must meet certain requirements to have their orders modified.

There are different requirements for modifying visitation and custody, although to modify either, the modification must be agreed to by both parents or approved by the court. Parents seeking to modify visitation only have to show that the current schedule does not work for them and courts will generally adjust visitation due to changes in circumstance. Mississippi courts are more reluctant to order changes in custody than changes in visitation because of the substantial effect a change in custody would have on the child.

Therefore, child custody modification requires a significant change in circumstances in the custodial home that adversely affects the child. Some examples of such significant changes in circumstance include relocation, abuse or a parent being charged with a crime. Once the significant change requirement has been met, the court will then determine what is in the best interests of the child.

If a child's parent violates the initial custody order, this may also warrant a change in the custody order. However, modification of custody orders should only be requested when a negotiated, voluntary modification cannot be achieved. A mediator may be able to assist parents in coming to an agreement regarding child custody without petitioning the court.

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Christopher G. Holt Attorney at Law
2501 14th St.
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Gulfport, MS 39501

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