Divorce is difficult for parents, especially for the parent who does not get custody. It's no secret that child custody battles are typically one of the most difficult experiences in the life of a parent. Heated arguments over why you should be the parent who spends more time with the kids is not a situation anyone should experience, but it's a reality of divorcing couples thousands of times every year in all Los Angeles County family courts.
If you are a parent finding yourself in a challenged child custody case, you need to start preparing yourself. It starts with an education on the subject so you will know what to expect and how to use these resources in your favor that could make a difference on the amount of time you are awarded with your child.
If you and your spouse have made the decision to divorce and children are involved, you should start by creating a visitation plan. Until the time a court actually orders that you don't have the legal right to spend time with your child, you can develop a plan for reasonable child visitation. It's important to note that Los Angeles County family courts won't normally deny child visitation unless there is evidence of domestic abuse, or an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
Keep in mind that the family court's main concern is always what is in the best interest of the child. A visitation plan can lay out the exact amount of visitation you and your spouse have concluded is in your child's best interest. We understand this is a difficult and emotional period in your life. Spending quality time with your child is critical to maintain a close bond. Contact our divorce and family law lawyers to review the details of your situation so we can provide relevant legal advice moving forward.
Child Visitation Plan
If you are in the fortunate situation where you and your spouse are on peaceful terms, you should make the attempt to create this child visitation plan on your own. It should include detailed information on how you and your spouse will provide for your child until the divorce process has been completed. It's important to note the more specific details you provide, the better the chance the court will agree to the terms.
For example, the plan should include your child's visitation for their birthday, holidays, and vacations. By creating a child visitation schedule, you will have the opportunity to spend more quality parenting time with them. If you are unable to work out a visitation plan with your spouse, our Los Angeles divorce and family law attorneys can help you create one. In simple terms, a visitation plan will make the custody issues much easier and it's your best chance at receiving the desired custody arrangement.
Filing a Motion to Go Back to Court
If you were awarded visitation, then you might not see your child as much as you want and could find it difficult to maintain a close bond. There are many reasons why parents want more visitation. Maybe your work schedule has changed and you now have more time to devote to your family, or maybe you have always wanted more visitation, but the judge gave you less.
If you need to go back to the Los Angeles County family court after a custody case was concluded to have the orders changed, you can file a motion (form FL-300). It should be noted you can your spouse could attempt to resolve the child custody and avoid a court appearance by a stipulation and order. If this is not possible, you could submit a written request to the court asking the judge you want to change the custody order, but you will need to list the reasons why you want a change.
After the judge grants your request, you and your spouse will be required to return to court. Typically, a judge is hesitant to change a child custody order, but will certainly approve a change if you can prove it's in your child's best interest.
Whatever your reasons, you might be interested in going to court to ask for more time with your child. However, only a judge can modify an existing visitation order, so you will need an experienced Los Angeles child custody attorney to help you submit a successful request.
When You Can Request Modification
Judges really don't want to see people cycling through the courts on a monthly basis asking the judge to tweak their visitation schedules. The courts are too busy, so they expect parents to follow a parenting plan that is approved in the final divorce decree and make it work. Nevertheless, life goes on and circumstances do change. Judges will consider a modification, but only if you have a compelling reason. In legal speak, you need to show a “significant change in circumstances” to warrant a change.
What will qualify? Essentially, you need to show that it is in your child's best interest for you to receive more visitation. There might be several reasons. For example, you might have been given very little visitation to start because you had a drug or alcohol problem. If you've managed to get on top of your addiction, then additional visitation might be warranted.
Alternately, you might have been living farther away from your children when you divorced. If you've moved closer to them, it might be better for everyone if you have the children with you more. Also, the custodial parent might have a new work schedule that requires him or her to be away from home more. In this situation, awarding you more visitation makes sense. Whether you have a valid reason for requesting a modification to a parenting plan is often a complicated legal question, so consult with a Los Angeles child custody attorney for more help. See relevant information: Child Custody Information Sheet.
How to Request Additional Visitation
You need a judge to sign off on any revision to the parenting plan, so you will need to request a modification with the court. Typically, this requires that your lawyer fill out and submit some forms, along with supporting documentation. You also need to send a copy of the paperwork to the custodial parent so that she has a chance to respond. California has detailed rules on correct service of process, but your attorney can handle this for you.
Things will go more smoothly if the other parent agrees to increase your visitation. A judge will still need to approve the modification, but judges are more willing to do so if both parents agree it is a good idea. If the other parent disagrees, they will fight the change, and the process can become very complicated. You will probably need to attend mediation to see if you can reach an agreement voluntarily—not likely, but the judge might make you.
In mediation, a neutral third person listens to the dispute and tries to get each side to find common ground. Mediators are not judges, and they don't pick a winner and a loser. Instead, the mediator's job is to get each side to really listen to each other in the hopes that they can resolve the disagreement amicably.
When mediation fails, a court hearing is probably unavoidable. Each side presents witness testimony and other evidence about why there has been a significant change of circumstances that warrants increased visitation. At the end of the hearing, the judge will need to decide whether increased visitation is in the child's best interests. The judge should also sign off on a new order that lays out the newly-approved parenting plan.
Hearings are high-stakes, and you definitely will benefit from a lawyer's help—especially if the custodial parent has a lawyer. Parents who represent themselves are held to the same high standards as lawyers, and a judge will not give them leeway to file paperwork late or present evidence in a clumsy manner. With so much on the line, why not hire an experienced attorney?
Appealing a Court Order
After the Los Angeles County family court decides on a child visitation schedule, it's possible to appeal their order if you don't agree with the amount of visitation time the court granted you. In basic terms, an appeal is a request to have a higher court change your local court's order.
The appeals court will thoroughly examine all the evidence you presented at trial and will then decide if the local court should have made a different decision. It's very important to stop and note here appeals can be lengthy, complicated, and expensive. You will need the assistance of an experienced Los Angeles family law attorney before you decide to file an appeal a court child custody order.
Contact our Los Angeles Child Custody Attorneys
Requesting a modification to a parenting plan requires careful consideration of how your life has changed since the judge signed the final custody order. It can't be overstated the most important factor in a child custody battle is what is in the best interest of your child. This is what the judge will base their decision on – period.
Therefore, the best chance at receiving more custody time with your child means you need to prove to the court you are a good person who makes their child support payments, obeys court orders, avoid disputes with your spouse, provides a safe environment for your child, and always has your child's best interest in mind. For help with this process, contact one of our experienced lawyers to review the details. You can schedule a free consultation by calling 818-528-3471.
Furman & Zavatsky LLP
Los Angeles Divorce and Family Law Attorneys
15821 Ventura Blvd #690 Encino, CA 91436
Child Custody and Visitation (Parenting Time) Order Attachment (Form FL-341)
Supervised Visitation Order (Form FL-341(A))
Child Abduction Prevention Order Attachment (Form FL-341(B))
Children's Holiday Schedule Attachment (Form FL-341(C))
Additional Provisions — Physical Custody Attachment (Form FL-341(D))
Joint Legal Custody Attachment (Form FL-341(E))