Can You Modify a Child Visitation Schedule in California?
Sometimes, circumstances in life change, and parents will need to change their California child custody and visitation agreement. For example, perhaps you lost your job and need to move to another state.
Parents who have experienced a significant change in circumstances often seek to modify a current child custody order. At the same time, you don't always need to retain a lawyer to modify child visitation in California.
Still, most custodial and non-custodial parents are unfamiliar with completing all the necessary legal documents, including filing their motion for a custody change.
Child custody and visitation usually are the essential aspects of a California divorce involving minor children. Therefore, understanding your legal rights as a parent in a divorce case is crucial.
These include the right to request a modification of your child's custody or visitation schedule. In addition, you might be able to change your parenting plan if you have valid reasons.
You must understand that all child custody orders are based on the child's best interest. The family law court might even consider the child's preference when making its final decisions, but some important factors will consider first, such as the following:
- child's age;
- intelligence; and
Of note is that a California family court judge won't typically allow youth under 12 to disclose their preference. So let's review this topic further below.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is the child custody and visitation agreement you and your spouse created and signed. In the absence of a spousal agreement, it could be an order from the court in your divorce case. Simply put, it outlines how and when a parent can legally spend time with their minor child.
It's against the law for a spouse to fail to follow the legally binding terms of the parenting plan. The spouse could have penalties imposed on them, such as being held in contempt of court.
In the most severe cases, which are not common, a spouse could even face parental kidnapping charges. For these reasons, you must take the proper legal steps to modify your child's visitation schedule through the family court. Sometimes, a child might refuse visitation with the other parent.
What Are the Requirements for Modifying a Parenting Plan?
As noted, with the court's approval, it's possible to modify a California child visitation schedule or parenting plan.
However, you need to understand that the judge will only approve a parenting plan modification request if they have the following:
- permission of the other parent; or
- can prove a change in circumstances.
If you have the other parent's consent, you and your spouse will create a revised parenting plan or visitation schedule, complete and sign the required court forms (Form FL-300), and get a judge's signature.
You will then only have to file the papers with the court clerk. Afterward, the new parenting plan will go into effect. This is the easy way, which should be the preferred method. The best custody arrangement for an infant should always serve their best interest.
What is a Change in Circumstances?
In an undesired scenario where you and your spouse disagree on the change, then you will have to go directly to the family courtroom to request a revised parenting plan.
However, you will be required to prove to a judge that there has been a significant change in circumstances since the original court order.
You will also have to show the court that such a change to the child’s visitation schedule is in the child's best interests. Some of the most common changes in circumstances include the following:
- parent moving to another location;
- parent's work schedule has changed;
- custodial parent denies legal contact;
- child enrolling in a new school;
- child now has new needs and care;
- provable domestic violence allegations;
- provable child abuses accusations;
- alcohol or drug abuse by a parent;
- parent has developed a mental illness;
- parent put a child in a dangerous environment;
- improper medical or dental care;
- parent decides to relinquish custody;
- parent has been arrested or incarcerated.
After you complete Form FL-300 and file it with the court clerk, you will be provided with either a court hearing or mediation date. You will have to serve the papers to the other parent and then file your proof of service.
At the hearing, you and your spouse will be given a chance to state your position before the judge. They consider arguments carefully and then decide whether you have satisfied the child visitation schedule modification requirements.
If they grant your request, the new child visitation schedule will go into effect. If it's denied, the original parenting plan will stay intact.
Why Do You Need a California Divorce Lawyer?
As noted, you'll need to have a valid reason for modifying a court-ordered custody or visitation schedule in California.
In other words, you will have to prove it, which requires more than words.
You will need evidence that supports your request, such as a new work schedule or statements from a doctor. Otherwise, a judge will typically deny your modification request.
It can't be overstated that you MUST be able to prove that the change is in the child's best interests. It's not about you!
If your former spouse is challenging the child visitation modification request, you should retain a California divorce lawyer for the best chance of success.
They can help you gather evidence and prepare for your custody hearing. Further, they could also help you during any mediation or arbitration by negotiating on your behalf to reach a mutual compromise.
You can contact our law firm for a free case evaluation by phone or using the contact form. Furman & Zavatsky are Los Angeles divorce and family law lawyers offering legal representation across Southern California.