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Changing Your Court Judgment

What was right for you and your child when you got your divorce or custody judgment may change over time. If you have a court order for custody, parenting time, child support or spousal support, you can ask the court to change it. 

Changing a court order is called modification on court forms. The process is similar to starting your divorce, separation, or custody case. It is a good idea to get advice from a lawyer before deciding if this is the right step for you.

  • Court order: A written document, signed by a judge, that is part of a court case. A court order creates rules and responsibilities for the people involved in a court case.  
  • Custody: A decision from a court about who makes important decisions for a child, including health care, education, and religion. Legal custody is not about how much time a parent spends with a child or where the child lives. This is what parenting time is about. (See the definition on parenting time for more information.)  
  • Joint custody: A custody arrangement where both parents share decision-making about the child. A judge can only order joint custody if the parents agree to share custody. 
  • Sole custody: A custody arrangement where only one parent has the right to make decisions about the child’s school, religion, health care, etc. The parent with legal custody does not decide how often the child sees the other parent or if the child should move far away from the other parent.  
  • Parenting time: The time a child is with each parent. It used to be called “visitation.” Parenting time can be the schedule agreed to by parents, or it can be ordered by a court. Oregon law says that a child should have regular contact with both parents as long as their parents are safe and act in the child’s best interests. 
  • Parenting plan: A document that includes the parenting time schedule for the kids and other rules for how parents must co-parent. Parenting plans can be detailed or general, but they must include a minimum amount of parenting time for both parents. No two parenting plans are the same. 

You can ask the court to change:  

  • Joint custody to sole custody; 
  • Which parent has sole custody; 
  • Your parenting time schedule;  
  • Your parenting plan; 
  • Child support; and 
  • Spousal support (if your original order included it, and it hasn’t ended) 

In divorce cases, there are some things you can’t change after your divorce is final:   

  • If there was no spousal support in your original divorce order, you cannot ask for it to be added later.   
  • If you change your mind about how to divide property or debts, you can’t get your court order changed. If there was a mistake or a problem with how your judgment divides property or debt, talk to a lawyer.

Judges will only consider changing sole custody if there has been a dramatic, unexpected change in your lives. The judge will then decide if changing custody is in the child’s best interest.  

If you have joint custody, either parent can decide anytime that it is no longer working, and the court must decide which parent should have sole custody. 

If both sides agree to a new parenting plan or support amount, you can get your order changed with the court. If you don’t get the order changed, and one person stops following the new agreement, you can’t ask the court for help to make the other parent stick to the changes.

You can change your parenting plan. If you and the other parent don’t agree about the changes, a judge will decide. A judge will look at what is best for the children.

If you want to move, talk to the other parent immediately to see if you can agree on a new plan.   

  • If they do not agree:  
    • You need to notify the other parent in writing that you intend to move. Fill out this form, send a copy to the other parent, and file a copy at the court.  
    • You will also need to start a modification case to ask the court to change your parenting plan so that you can move. You should not move—even if you give notice—if you will not be able to continue following your parenting plan.  
  • If the other parent does agree: 
    • You still need to change your parenting plan through the court. The other parent could change their mind and back out of the agreement if it isn’t finalized through the court.  

Warning: Oregon law says that the time a child spends with each parent is very important. Judges are hesitant to allow a child to move far away from a parent who is involved in their child’s life. If you want to move because of a new job, to be closer to family, or any other reason, it is important to start this process as soon as you think you may need to move. 

The other parent must follow your current parenting plan until you can both agree to change it, or a judge changes it.  

If the other parent wants to change your parenting plan so they can move, it is their responsibility to ask the court to change the plan.  

If the other parent moves anyway and stops following your plan, you have options. Go here for more information on what to do when a parent doesn’t follow court orders.  

It’s also a good idea to get legal help in this situation.

If you or the other parent have a major change in your work or finances, you may be able to get the amount of child support changed.  

To ask for support to be recalculated there must be a “substantial change” like: 

  • A parent becomes disabled and can’t work; 
  • A parent gets a much higher-paying job; or  
  • The parenting time schedule has changed a lot.  

If your child support order is paid through the Child Support Program (CSP), you can ask the CSP to help you change child support. But they will only help you change child support if:  

  • There has been a substantial change; or 
  • It’s been more than three years since the child support order was put into place. 

If your child support is not paid through the Child Support Program, or they will not consider a change, either parent can ask the court to change the support amount.   

You can find more information on child support, including how to change child support, here

If you or your former spouse has a major unexpected change in your situation, the court may change the amount of spousal support. Changes to spousal support are specific to each case. The court will look at why support was originally ordered. It is a good idea to speak with an attorney.  

Fill out court forms asking the court to change (modify) your judgment. You can find the court forms on the website for Oregon's state courts. Choose “Motion Requesting Modification” from the list of forms on this page. Use the same case number from your original case when you fill out your forms. 

Yes. If you agree on the changes, both sides can fill out and sign an Oregon court form called Supplemental Judgment Modifying a Domestic Relations Judgment and submit it to the court. A judge will sign it and make that your new official court order.  

You can get the forms at:  

File in the same Oregon county where you finished your case. Use the same case number. 

The court charges a $167 filing fee. If your income and resources are very low, you can ask the court to let you:  

  • File for free (called fee waiver), or   
  • Pay later (called fee deferral).  

You must fill out a form to ask for a fee waiver or fee deferral. You can get this form online here or at your local circuit court.   

Warning! If the court gives you a fee deferral, the fees must be fully paid by you or the other person when your case ends. If the fees are not paid at the end of the case, the court may charge extra fees, or send the balance to collections. If you can’t afford to pay at the end of the case, talk to your local court about setting up a payment plan.  

Yes. Just like in the original case, you must give the other parent copies of the papers you file. This is called service.

Important! There are strict rules about how to notify the other person. Read more about service in this guide from Oregon’s state courts.     

If you and the other person have children younger than 18, and you get government benefits like food stamps, cash assistance, or state health insurance, mail a copy of your court papers to the Child Support Program.

The other person can either:  

  • Do nothing, or 
  • Disagree with you and fight the case. To do this they must file papers with the court within 30 days from the date they are served the court papers.

If they do nothing after 30 days, you can ask the court to approve your changes without the other parent’s involvement. This is called getting a default judgment. The forms to ask for that are found on Oregon’s state court website.

The court will contact you with next steps. The process varies by county. In some counties, the court will schedule a court date as soon as the other side files papers with the court. Check with your local court to find out more.  

Yes. You must do mediation for court changes to custody and parenting time. You and the other parent meet with a mediator. A mediator is a person trained to help people reach agreements.    

The court will refer you to a mediator. There is no fee for mediation. The mediator can’t force you to agree to something. If you and the other parent can’t agree, then you will have a trial with a judge.  

If you don’t feel safe trying mediation, you can ask the court to skip the mediation requirement (this is called “waiving the mediation”) by filling out this form.  

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