Request to change a child custody or parenting time order

Learn how to change a child custody or parenting time order, what forms you'll need, and where to file.
Most people receive a copy of a decision within 30 days.

Probate and Family Court

The Details

What you need

One parent can ask for a change (called a modification) in custody or parenting time, or if both parents agree on the change, they can request the change together. 

  • If only one person is seeking a change to a Judgment on custody or parenting time, you should file:
    • The Complaint for Modification (CJD 104). The person filing the complaint is the plaintiff and the other party is the defendant, regardless of who was the plaintiff or defendant in the original court proceeding. You'll need to state the circumstances that have changed in the complaint.
  • If only one person is seeking a change to a Temporary Order, you should file:
    • A Motion (CJD 400) asking the judge to make a change.
    • A Proposed Order specifying what you'd like the new Temporary Order to say. This is a form that you create yourself. The law libraries can provide you with some samples that can help you write your own.
    • Affidavits that support the need for change, which can include new facts, events, etc. that have happened since the original order.
  • If both people agree on a substantive change to a judgment or temporary order, you should follow the instructions in Changing a Judgement or Temporary Order by Agreement General Information (CJD 903). See the checklist of required forms for changing a judgement or temporary order by agreement for more information. The forms for a joint modification must be filed together with the Joint Petition as a complete packet. 

You'll also need to pay the following fees. You only need to pay the summons fee if you're filing a complaint. 

Fees

Name Fee Unit
Summons Fee $5 each
Complaint for Modification or Joint Petition for Modification Fee $50 each

How to request

You should usually file with the probate and family court where the judgment or order was originally issued.

If the other parent lives in a different state, the Massachusetts Child Custody Jurisdiction Act applies. This law determines which state’s court has the authority to change a custody agreement. If Massachusetts qualifies as the home state, the case may be heard in this state. You may want to get legal advice in this situation. See Find a Lawyer in Massachusetts for help with finding an attorney.

You should usually mail your forms to the probate and family court where the judgment or order was originally issued.

If the other parent lives in a different state, the Massachusetts Child Custody Jurisdiction Act applies. This law determines which state’s court has the authority to change a custody agreement. If Massachusetts qualifies as the home state, the case may be heard in this state. You may want to get legal advice in this situation. See Find a Lawyer in Massachusetts for help with finding an attorney.

Next steps

Serve papers to the other person

If only one person is seeking to change a Temporary Order, check with the division where your case is to find out how to get a date for the hearing on the motion. Once you know the hearing date, you must serve (notify) the other person by mailing him/her a copy of these documents as well as the time, date, and location of the hearing within 10 days of the hearing.

More info

If all forms have been filed and the court approves the modification, both parties will receive a copy of the decision within 30 days. If forms are missing or incorrect or the judge has questions about the new agreement, the court will notify you within 21 days that a hearing has been scheduled. Both parties must attend.

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