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When may a Minnesota court modify a child custody order?

Once a couple in Minnesota establishes a child custody order, each of them then moves on with their life, following the schedule set in the order. Yet lives change, sometimes unexpectedly. There may come a time when due to any multitude of reasons, a parent wants to modify an existing child custody order.

First, per Minnesota Statutes section 518.18, unless the parents had agreed to it in writing ahead of time, a child custody order cannot be modified sooner than 12 months after the date the divorce decree was finalized. An exception to this is if the court determines that one parent was persistently and willfully interfering with the parenting plan or if the child's current living environment puts the child's physical or mental health in danger.

Moreover, to modify an existing parenting plan or child custody order with regard to the child's primary residence, a change in circumstances must have arisen making it in the best interests of the child for the modification to occur. Furthermore, a child custody order may be modified if each party, having been represented by attorneys when the original child custody order was made, agree to the modification. In addition, modification is possible if the child has been integrated into the family of the parent seeking a change of custody with the other parent's permission, or the child's current living arrangement endangers the child's health or emotional development to the extent to which it is more advantageous to the child for the modification to occur. Finally, modification is an option if the court had previously denied a request of the primary custodial parent to move with the child out-of-state and despite that the primary custodial parent had done so.

This is only a brief overview of child custody modification laws in Minnesota, and cannot guarantee any specific outcome in one's case nor can it serve as legal advice. If a parent in Minnesota wants to ask the court to modify an existing child custody order, that parent may need to consult a family law attorney to better understand what his or her rights are in such situations.

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