Technically, yes. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

Once a New York family court has issued a custody order, you and the other parent are bound by its terms unless you apply for a modification, which is generally granted only if you can demonstrate that circumstances have changed significantly since the order was originally issued. Common grounds for requesting a custody modification in New York include:

  • The custodial parent is being abusive, neglectful, or otherwise acting in ways that endanger the child.
  • The child is older and wants to spend more time with their non-custodial parent.
  • One of the parents intends to relocate in another city or even state.
  • One or both parents experience work schedule changes.

Some parents, when facing a significant life change that impacts the custody agreement, wonder if they can bypass the court and work out a new arrangement, especially if they are on amicable terms. Maybe you would like to have the kids for an extra weekend every month, or your ex wants you to take them for an additional weeknight so that he or she can work some extra shifts.

While modifying a custody agreement is not technically illegal when both sides agree on the changes, there are some potential complications that you should be aware of.

Private agreements are not legally binding

The most important thing to realize is that any agreement you make with your co-parent is not legally binding. While it may be convenient and cost-effective in the beginning, you have no leg to stand on if things take a turn for the worse. Courts can only enforce the order on record, so if your ex suddenly changes their mind about the new arrangement, then there is no way that you can make them comply.

Seek a custody agreement modification through the court

Any agreement that represents a significant change to the current arrangement should always be presented to and approved by the court. It will then be legally binding, which gives you the right to enforce it if your ex decides that they no longer want to comply. Getting a judge to sign off on all changes is the best way to safeguard your rights.

Contact a New York child custody attorney

If you and your co-parent are thinking about modifying your current custody agreement, then contact a New York family law attorney who can help you prepare a petition that accurately reflects the new arrangement. Any changes that are in the best interest of the child are generally approved, and if your ex changes their mind to be spiteful or difficult, you and your child are protected. The little you spend on attorney fees will result in invaluable peace of mind.

Jayson Lutzky is a Bronx family court lawyer who regularly handles child custody and support cases. Mr. Lutzky has over 36 years of legal experience and offers free in-person consultations. Visit to learn more or call 718-514-6619 to set up an appointment.