QUESTION: I thought I wanted sole custody of our children but now that I have them all of the time I’m finding it impossible to manage them and make a living, what can I do?

You fought for your current custody arrangement, but it’s just not working out. Whatever the reason, when your custody arrangement isn’t working, you can file a petition for a change of custody order.

Common Reasons Custody Modification in Pennsylvania

The Best Interest of the Child

Example: The children are having trouble adjusting to life in two separate households. The children seem stressed, the homework is always missing, and their grades have dropped. You’d like an arrangement that involved less travelling back and forth.

You must make sure there is a good reason for your request. The courts are usually reluctant to change the schedule of a happy, well-adjusted child.

Danger to the Child

Example: You ex has a new live-in girlfriend. Her children are currently in foster care because they were physically abused. You are worried about the safety of your children.

You can request a change in the custody order if there is a situation in the child’s current household that puts the child in immediate danger.


Example: You were offered a job in Chicago. The move would be a good opportunity to advance your career, but you would no longer live near your ex.

A child custody order can be modified if one of the parents is relocating for work or personal reasons.   You can learn more about relocation and child custody in our article, “PA Custody Law: Can Visitation Stop Your Relocation Plans?”

Your Employment Makes it Hard to Care for Your Child

Example: You fought for sole custody, but balancing full-time single parenting and a career is hard. Your children are spending hours in daycare. You feel that they would benefit from spending of that time with their father.

You can petition for a change in the custody order if you are finding it difficult to provide adequate care for your child.

A Parent is Not Cooperating With a Visitation Schedule

Example: You have joint custody, but your ex is always traveling. Your child’s weekend plans are constantly disrupted when your ex cancels at the last moment.

A court may consider a change to the child custody arrangement if one of the parents is not cooperating with the existing visitation schedule. The court’s decision will depend on the reasons why the visitation schedule has not been followed and the relationship between the parents.

Death of a Parent

Example: Your ex has died and you don’t want his new wife to raise your children.

When a parent dies, a child custody order may be modified to give full custody to the surviving parent or another relative. In most cases, the court prefers for the child to remain with the non-custodial parent,

How to Change a PA Custody Order

Your first step is to discuss the current custody arrangement with your ex-spouse. Let him know what is working and what isn’t and why you want a change. If you can agree on a solution, you will not need to go back to court.

If you can’t agree, you will need to file a petition to modify the child custody order. A PA family law judge will consider the child’s best interest and other factors and make a custody decision.

Make sure your children are protected. A Philadelphia child custody attorney can help you through the legal process of changing a custody order. Call Petrelli Previtera at 866-465-5395.