Are there options for changing child custody that don't require going to court? 12 Answers as of May 31, 2013

My ex-wife and I divorced in December 2002. At that time, the divorce decree stated that custody would be 50/50 per verbal agreement between my ex-wife and me. We have always been able to agree on an appropriate schedule, however, my daughter has been requesting to live with my wife and me for the last year or so. She describes her living situation with her mother to be very stressful. She has related situations in which her mother's anger has turned physical, including incidents in which her mother slapped her across the face, grabbed her hard enough to leave fingernail marks on her wrists, and tried to force soap into her mouth. Her mother has not remarried, but has been in a series of relationships that have not ended as her mother would have wished. Since the last relationship deteriorated, my daughter has also related conversations that have raised red flags regarding her mother's emotional stability. Her mother seems to be using her for emotional comfort and is not offering my daughter the security she needs. I have confronted my ex-wife on this behavior only to have her downplay or disregard them, and I learned later that after these confrontations, she punished my daughter for having discussed her personal life with me. Suffice it to say that my daughter is miserable, and, as I stated above, she would like to come live with my wife and me full time with only occasional visits to her mother. My wife and I have been married for 6 years now, and we've been together for 9 years. We have always been able to provide for my daughter, but we haven't had the best luck with employment. We recently relocated to a larger town about an hour away from where my ex-wife lives. As such, we renegotiated the visitation schedule so that my daughter is with us on the weekends and most holidays. My wife has gone back to school full time and is currently in her junior year of nursing school. I acquired an excellent sales position only to be laid off a few months later.

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Reza Athari & Associates, PLLC | Seth L. Reszko
You and your wife can reach an agreement, but it should be ratified and so ordered by the Family Court Judge for it to be enforceable. I would strongly recommend consulting with an attorney if you and the other parent cannot agree.
Answer Applies to: Nevada
Replied: 11/17/2011
John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law
John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law | John Kirchner
Unless both parents agree and then stick to that agreement, your only option is to return to court to have the judge decide what modification of the original decree is in the child's best interest. Even parents agree, unless the agreement is approved by the Court it may not be binding or enforceable if one parent decides to renege later.
Answer Applies to: Colorado
Replied: 11/17/2011
Ashman Law Office
Ashman Law Office | Glen Edward Ashman
Custody can only be changed by court orders.
Answer Applies to: Georgia
Replied: 11/17/2011
Law Offices of Arlene D. Kock
Law Offices of Arlene D. Kock | Arlene D. Kock
This factual description depicts a very complicated child custody case. Your interests are best served (as is your daughters )in consulting with a skilled family attorney concerning your legal rights and options.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 11/17/2011
Dunnings Law Firm
Dunnings Law Firm | Steven Dunnings
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 5/31/2013
    The Zwiebel Law Firm, LLC
    The Zwiebel Law Firm, LLC | Elizabeth Zwiebel
    You can file for a change of custody by agreement; however, I would suggest using an attorney to make the appropriate arguments to get a judge to sign off on an order. Plus, an attorney will be able to file the appropriate paperwork without missing any requirements by state law. I'm sure a change by agreement would also cost less than a contested action.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 11/16/2011
    Diana K. Zilko, Attorney at Law
    Diana K. Zilko, Attorney at Law | Diana K. Zilko
    If you can't agree informally on a custody arrangement, then your only option is to petition the court to modify the existing order.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 11/16/2011
    Glenn E. Tanner
    Glenn E. Tanner | Glenn E. Tanner
    If you were divorced in Washington in 2002, you have a parenting plan. The parenting plan has to be modified to change "custody."
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 11/16/2011
    Law Office of Michael W. Bugni
    Law Office of Michael W. Bugni | Jay W. Neff
    Not really. Unless you and your ex-spouse can come to some sort of an agreement, you are going to have to go back to court.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 11/16/2011
    Wolfstone, Panchot & Bloch, P.S., Inc.
    Wolfstone, Panchot & Bloch, P.S., Inc. | Mark Brown
    Under Washington state law you can go through mediation with the mother to develop a revised residential schedule for your daughter - provided that the mother agrees to participate in the mediation process. If she declines to do so, your only recourse is court action.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 11/16/2011
    Beaulier Law Office
    Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
    A change in custody would require a stipulated agreement between the parties that is filed with the court and merged into an Order. In the alternative, the proponent of the change must file a Motion seeking a change of custody. The standard the court will apply to a change of custody is a steep one and requires a showing that the child is endangered physically, emotionally or developmentally in the current custodial situation and that the benefit of the change outweighs the harm. Although a child can never decide where he/she will reside until they reach the age of 18, Minnesota Courts have ruled that it may be endangerment when a child in their late teen expresses a strong desire to reside with the non-custodial parent. You must consult with experienced legal counsel regarding your particular situation.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 11/16/2011
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