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How do I change custody?

Produced by an AmeriCorps Project of Western Massachusetts Legal Services updated and revised Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last Updated October 2009

What if I want to change a custody order?

If your custody order is a "temporary order," you can go back to the Probate and Family Court and file a "motion" asking for a change. Write on the motion form why you and your child need the change.

If your custody order is a "judgment" (final order), you can go back to Probate and Family Court and file a Complaint for Modification. You will need to show that the situation has changed a lot and that your child now needs a different kind of custody order. This kind of case can take a long time.  If you need to change custody quickly, you can file a Motion for Temporary Orders.  You can ask the judge for a temporary custody order that makes the changes that you need. You will need to show that there is some kind of emergency that makes it important for your child's custody to change so quickly. Emergencies that are good reasons for changing custody quickly are things that put your child in danger like;

  • the other parent has started using drugs,
  • the other parent has started abusing your child; or
  • the other parent is abusing another woman.

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