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Modification Of Court Orders

Practice Areas

Modification of Existing Court Orders

Some court orders can be modified. Some cannot. Some court orders are hard to modify. Some are easy. Modification of different types of court orders is discussed below.

Child Custody Orders

A child custody order is a court order that gives one parent most or all of the rights and duties regarding a child. A child custody order can always be modified.

To modify a child custody order, a parent must establish three facts.

  • A change in circumstances occurred after the existing court order was issued.
  • The change in circumstances relates to the child or a custodial parent.
  • The modification requested would be in the best interest of the child.

Parenting Time and Visitation Orders

After a child custody order is issued, each parent is usually given the right to have physical possession of a child during specific periods of time. The right to have possession of a child is generally called the right to parenting time. However, in some sole custody cases, these rights are called visitation rights. Parenting time and visitation orders can always be modified.

To modify a parenting time order or a visitation order, a parent must only establish that modification of the order would be in the best interest of the child.

Shared Parenting Orders

A shared parenting order generally gives custody of a child to both parents. A shared parenting order is sometimes called a joint custody order. If a shared parenting order has been issued, the parents share some or all of the rights and duties regarding a child.

Shared parenting orders can always be terminated. To terminate a shared parenting order, a parent must establish three facts.

  • A change in circumstances occurred after the existing shared parenting order was issued.
  • The change in circumstances relates to the child or a custodial parent.
  • Termination of the shared parenting order would be in the best interest of the child.

If a court terminates a shared parenting order, the court must then give sole custody to one of the parents.

Shared Parenting Plans

A shared parenting order also adopts and approves a shared parenting plan. A shared parenting plan addresses many of the details regarding how the parents will care for a child. For example, a shared parenting plan will address parenting time rights and school placement issues.

A shared parenting plan can always be modified. To modify a shared parenting plan a parent must only establish that modification of the plan would be in the best interest of the child.

Child Support Orders

A child support order is almost always issued when a child custody or shared parenting order is issued. A child support order can almost always be modified.

To modify a child support order, a parent generally must establish that the new child support order would be at least ten percent more or ten percent less, than the existing child support order.

Other Child-Related Orders

Other child-related court orders can also be modified. For example, court orders regarding a child's school placement, health insurance, and uncovered medical and dental expenses can be modified. Similarly, court orders regarding the allocation of a tax dependency exemption and decision making authority can be modified.

Spousal Support (Alimony) Orders

A spousal support order is sometimes called an alimony order. A spousal support order can only be modified if, at the time the original spousal support order was issued, the court expressly retained the power to modify the order in the future. If the court did not retain the power to modify the order, the order cannot be modified.

To modify a spousal support order, a party must establish two facts.

  • A change in circumstances occurred after the existing spousal support order was issued.
  • A new spousal support order would be more reasonable and appropriate than the existing order.

Property and Debt Division Orders

Generally, a court cannot modify a prior court order dividing property and debt. However, if a party fails to disclose a significant item of property or debt, it may be possible to reopen the case and reexamine property and debt division orders.

Attorney Fees and Other Expenses

If a party files a motion to modify a prior court order, the court can order one party to pay some or all of the other party's attorney fees, court costs, and other litigation expenses. A court will issue such an order if it finds that such an order would be equitable.

Further, a party engages in conduct that a court believes is frivolous, the court can order the guilty party, or the guilty party's attorney, to pay the attorney fees incurred by the innocent party regarding the frivolous conduct.

Agreed Modification

If the parties to an existing court order reach an agreement regarding modification of the order, the court will generally allow the parties to modify the order. An existing court order can only be modified by the issuance of a new court order. That is, an existing court order cannot be modified based on an informal agreement between the parties.

Success Stories


The DHS law firm attorneys have produced successful outcomes for many family law clients. Please click here to read about success stories that reflect various family law issues. Perhaps you will see your marital issues reflected in one or more of these brief stories.

Contact Us

Please contact DHS for a confidential consultation with attorney Dougherty or Hanneman or Snedaker. Each is an Ohio State Bar Association Certified Specialist in Family Relations Law. They are three of only 115 attorneys in Ohio who have earned this designation as of January 1, 2013. Less than one-half (1/2) of one (1) percent of all family relations attorneys registered in Ohio has achieved this status!

DHS is located in a safe, convenient northwest Columbus suburb with free on-site parking. The building is west of the intersection of Sawmill Road and Bethel Road. (Bethel Road becomes Hayden Road west of the Sawmill Road intersection.) The offices are in the classic redbrick Northwest Law Offices Building:

  • next to Bravo! Cucina Italiana Restaurant,
  • on the north side of Hayden Road, and
  • east of Riverside Drive (State Route 33).

Then turn onto Donnylane Boulevard from Hayden Road. Then turn right into the parking lot behind the building. The main entrance is at the rear of the building.