A child custody order in a California divorce is not permanent. Until your child turns 18-years old, either parent could submit a petition to the family law court to modify the prior custody award. This includes a situation where the current child custody award was negotiated during the divorce settlement process.
Family courts in California know life circumstances can change to a level where it's in the best interest of the child to make a change in custody.
When parents can't reach a new child custody arrangement on their own, one parent will have to prove to the court there has been a significant change in circumstances. Some of the most common reasons include:
- parent is failing to follow current child visitation plan;
- parent is constantly moving to new location;
- parent is abusing alcohol or drugs;
- parent is committing child abuse or has been become emotionally unstable;
- parent has had a significant change to their financial situation.
Opposing a California Child Custody Modification
During a California custody modification hearing, the other parent who is opposing a change will be given an opportunity to explain why. The family court judge will need to see that the modification request is warranted.
When parents can't reach a mutual agreement to modify an existing child custody order, then the requesting parent must file a request to the court.
If the requesting parent has valid reasons that a change in circumstances has occurred, the court will set a hearing date.
Then the opposing parent will be served with papers letting them know about the hearing. The papers they receive, known as “pleadings” will lay out in detail the:
- alleged change in circumstance, and
- why they believe a child custody modification will serve the best interest of the child.
The opposing parent can file a response to the modification request and both parents will be provided a chance to explain their position at the hearing.
When a parent receives the paperwork and opposes any changes to a child custody, they should immediately consult with a California family law attorney to review the reasons and write a response.
Presenting Supporting Evidence at the Child Custody Modification Hearing
The actual evidence your family law attorney will show at the California child custody modification hearing will depend two major factors:
- the primary reason for the modification request, and
- your reasons for opposing the modification request.
Obviously, your family law lawyer will attempt to produce and present evidence to the judge that changing the child custody order would not serve the best interest of the child.
A few common examples of supporting evidence at a California child custody modification hearing include:
- ex-spouse doesn't make an effort to have an active role in their child's life;
- ex-spouse is not currently using all their child visitation time;
- ex-spouse is not financially or emotionally stable to have joint custody.
The judge will need to be convinced that the modification would benefit the child. After all the evidence has been presented at the hearing, then the judge will make their decision on the custody modification request.
Their decision will be final and must the followed by both parents until another change in circumstance occurs and a new petition filed.
If you were served with papers letting you know your ex-spouse is seeking a modification in the custody order, there is a time limit to respond. You should contact our Los Angeles family law lawyers to review your options.
How Can I Get a Child Custody Order Changed?
California family court judges will often consider making a modification to a child custody order if enough time has passed since the latest order.
Judges know as times passes, children and both parents change and there is a need to modify the order that will best serve the child. There are a couple of ways a parent can get the child custody order changed:
- both parents mutually agree changes are needed to current child custody order;
- one parent files a motion with the court to change the custody order.
In situations where both parents agree changes to the custody order are needed, they need to submit a joint document to the family law court requesting the change.
In this type of situation, it's not necessary to show evidence that a change in circumstance has occurred because both parents are not disputing the change. Since both parents agree to the modification, the family court judge will sign the order.
If parents can't reach an agreement on their own to change the current child custody order, then one parent will have to file a motion with the court, which is completed by the court clerk and a hearing date is set.
As stated above, the requesting parent must serve the papers to the other parent letting them know about the request so they can have an opportunity to respond. Before the court hearing, the parents will be given an opportunity to work out the issues through mediation.
Change in circumstances
The parent making the request must explain what circumstances have changed and how a modification is in the child's best interest. The court must decide if there has been an actual change in circumstance and if:
- the change of circumstance occurred since last child custody order;
- the change of circumstance has had an adverse impact on the child.
If the courts find that a change in circumstance has occurred, they must then determine if:
- the other parent will agree to the change in custody;
- any harm caused to the child for making a change in custody;
- the wishers of the child;
- child's adjustment to new home and school;
- if one parent has maintained their child support payments;
- whether either parent has ever abused the child.
As you can see, it would be in your best interest to retain a family law attorney to make sure the child custody modification process is handled properly.
Contact Furman & Zavatsky for Help with Child Custody Modification
It's important to remember that the California family law court will need to be shown evidence that a child custody modification request is warranted.
Requesting a child custody modification involves paperwork, which can normally be found online. If the required paperwork is not properly completed and served to the other parent correctly, then the petition can be dismissed.
There are many parents who will list inappropriate reasons for their modification request or simply have no idea what type of information is relevant.
Our family law attorneys can help you with the modification process and give you the best chance at success.
Furman & Zavatsky are Los Angeles family law and divorce lawyers who represent clients throughout Southern California, including LA County, Ventura County, Santa Monica, Simi Valley, Pasadena, West Hollywood, Lancaster, and the San Fernando Valley.
Our law firm is located at 15821 Ventura Blvd #690 Encino, CA 91436. Contact our office for a free case consultation at (818) 528-3471.