Changing Custody

*If a parent believes that a change in custody is necessary, because of a change in circumstances or proper cause motion may be filed with the court asking for a hearing regarding custody, and stating on the motion the reasons that a change is being requested.

Friend of the Court (FOC) Investigation

Generally, the matter is referred to the FOC for an investigation and recommendation. The FOC will meet with the parties and significant others and will interview the minor child(ren). The FOC may refer the parties for psychological evaluations, drug testing, or other evaluations to assist in the investigative process.

The FOC will issue its written report and recommendation to the Parties and to the Court. The report and recommendation set forth general information, legal history, marital history, and the positions of both parties. The investigator will attempt to give a preference for each factor; either favoring the Plaintiff, favoring the Defendant, or indicating no preference. These preferences will reflect logical reasoning and will be supported by the facts of the case.

Investigator Recommendations

After analyzing the child custody factors, the investigator will include a conclusion and recommendation section. The recommendation is not based on the number of factors on which each party is given preference, as information under certain factors may carry more weight than information under others. The recommendation will address custody, a parenting time plan, and support recommendations.

The investigator may also recommend such things as:

  • Child transfers in public places
  • Counseling
  • No controlled substances during parenting time
  • Parenting classes
  • Specific telephone contact with children
  • Any other recommendations that would benefit the children

Filing a Motion

A motion may be filed by a party's attorney, or a Motion Regarding Custody, FOC 87, may be filed by an unrepresented parent. The parent seeking a change of custody must show by a preponderance of evidence (i.e. more than 50%) that there has been a change in circumstances or good cause to justify a review of custody. 

Generally, the change in circumstances or proper cause must have originated since the time of the filing of the last custodial order. Only upon such a required showing or proof will the Court continue a review of custody by analyzing the best interest factors.

You may obtain a Motion Regarding Custody form from the FOC Office.

Court Decisions

The Court may grant or deny the motion, order an investigation by the FOC, or set the matter for an evidentiary hearing. The court will always consider the best interests of the child in ordering a change in custody. The court will generally talk with the child or children before making a change in custody.

A change in custody will only be made if it is shown to be in the child's best interests by clear and convincing evidence if the child has an established custodial environment with one parent or the other. If there is not an established custodial environment with one parent or the other, a preponderance of the evidence must show that a change in custody would be in the child's best interest.