How to Modify Parenting Time After a Divorce

By Elizabeth Rayne

The original parenting time order following a divorce may not be practical after a period of time due to a change of circumstances. Parenting time, also known as visitation, is ordered and modified based on the laws of the state. Often, parents can agree on changing the parenting time schedule, but when they cannot, it will be up to the court to determine whether or not it would be in the best interests of the child to modify the arrangement.

Modification Agreement

Parents will often agree to change the visitation arrangement or schedule. For example, if you only need a minor scheduling change because of a new work schedule, your ex-spouse may agree to make adjustments to the parenting time schedule. However, you must file a consent order, sometimes referred to as a stipulation, which states that you both agree to the change in parenting time, with the same court that awarded the original order. Failing to file with the court may create complications down the line as your ex-spouse could claim that you are not following the original order, despite later agreements.

Motion for Modification

If your ex-spouse does not agree to change the terms of the parenting time order, you may petition the court for modification. Your state or county court's website might have particular forms you may use to request modification. If not, you can visit the courthouse or try an online legal document provider. On the petition, you will include how and why you want parenting time to be changed. The petition should be filed with the same court that originally awarded custody and parenting time. You generally must have a copy of the paperwork served on your ex-spouse. The court may schedule a hearing to allow each parent to present their side of the story.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More


In some states, after a parent has filed a petition for modification, the court will send the parents to mediation before the hearing. During mediation, the parents will meet with a neutral third party who will attempt to help the parents reach a decision on their own terms, instead of the judge making the decision for them. If you reach an agreement at mediation, the mediator may submit the agreement to the judge for him to sign. If you cannot agree, you will proceed to a hearing before the court.

Burden of Proof

Generally, the parent who files the motion to modify parenting time has the burden of proving that the change is necessary. Depending on the laws of the state, courts will usually only modify the order if you have evidence that circumstances have substantially changed since the time of the original order and it would be in the child's best interest to change the arrangement. For example, a court may change the visitation schedule if one parent moves out of state or the noncustodial parent starts abusing alcohol or drugs. In some states, courts may modify the schedule if one parent has unreasonably refused scheduled visitations.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Liberal Visitation Rights


Related articles

Reconsideration of Divorce Decree

In some cases, you can ask the same court that issued your divorce decree to reconsider its opinion by filing a motion for reconsideration, which is often called a motion for relief from judgment or order. This motion is not appropriate if you merely disagree with the court's order. You should only use it when the court has made some kind of mistake.

How to Legally Change Physical Custody in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania, like all states, uses the "best interests of the child" standard when making custody determinations. The state also has a strong presumption in favor of shared custody because frequent contact with both parents is often in the child's best interests. Changing physical custody can be accomplished either by reaching an agreement with the other parent or by petitioning the court for a change in custody.

Child Custody Alternatives

When parents divorce, the court usually must issue an order dividing custody and crafting a visitation schedule that is in the best interests of the divorcing couple's children. While only courts can issue these orders, parents can create their own custody and visitation agreements, through mediation or by themselves, and ask for court approval. If parents cannot agree, the court creates a custody and visitation structure based on state guidelines and the facts of the case.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

How to Change Custody of a Minor in New Jersey

After parents separate or divorce, life goes on; children grow older and their needs change. Parents move on, too, ...

How Often Can a Person File for an Increase in Child Support After the Divorce Is Final?

Generally, a judge orders child support payments in your divorce decree based on your family’s situation at the time of ...

How to Stop Visitation Rights by the Biological Father in the State of Kentucky

All states require that custody decisions be made according to a child's best interests. Kentucky is one of only a ...

Can You Write a Letter to the Court Requesting a Visitation Modification in Indiana?

Indiana has instituted very specific child custody laws and guidelines to help shield children from parental conflict. ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED