Modification of Physical Custody in Minnesota

What you need to know about how and when a court can modify a child custody order in Minnesota.

In Minnesota, officially changing an order for physical custody must be done by the court. And the court has strict rules about when it can modify a custody order. Here’s a summary of those rules.

When You Can Ask the Court to Modify Your Custody Order

In most cases, you cannot ask the court to modify custody within a year of the original order. There are exceptions to this rule. The court will hear your petition for modification if it finds that:

  • you and the other parent have agreed to modify the order sooner
  • one of the parents has been denying or interfering with the other parent’s time with the child, or
  • the child is in danger, emotionally or physically.

After the court hears a request to modify an order – and regardless of its decision to modify or not modify the order – you cannot ask the court for another modification for two years unless you can show that one of the circumstances described above applies to your situation.

Modifying Primary Custody

When one parent has primary custody, the court will not consider modifying the primary residence of a child unless it finds that changed or discovered circumstances make a modification in the best interest of your child. If the court does find that a change would be in the best interest of your child, it can only modify the order if one of these conditions applies to your situation:

  • Both parents agree to the modification.
  • The child has been integrated into the family of the non-primary parent and the primary parent has consented to this integration.
  • The child is in danger emotionally or physically, and any harm that modifying the agreement would cause to the child is outweighed by the benefit of making the change.
  • The parent with primary custody requested to move the child to another state, the court denied the request, but the parent moved anyway.

Modifying Joint Custody

If the parents have joint custody, the court follows the same rules as it follows when modifying primary custody (detailed in the section above). This is true unless the parents have agreed to allow the court to modify their order using different rules. Also, when parents have a joint custody order, the court may modify the order if the parent seeking modification is asking to move the child to another state.

Get More Help

If you have questions about modifying your custody order in Minnesota, see a lawyer for help. Or go to the Minnesota Judicial Branch’s Self Help Center which explains many family law issues and provides forms and instructions. Also, you can read Minnesota’s laws about modifying custody orders in Minnesota Statutes §518.18.You can also get more free legal information about Minnesota Divorce and Family Law.


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