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Modify Physical Custody

How Can You Modify Physical Child Custody in Los Angeles?

In the state of California, child custody orders are not always permanent. This means custody can change many times after a divorce. Perhaps a custody order must change to align with a child's best interest.

Many don't know how to change a child custody order from the family court. Perhaps circumstances have changed, and the custodial parent may no longer be able to provide basic needs for their child, even after receiving sole physical custody following a divorce.

Modify Physical Child Custody in Los Angeles

In California, either parent can request a modification to their custody agreement, but this process can be complex, depending on the case details.

Our Los Angeles child custody attorneys have witnessed a parent's confusion over how precisely to modify a child custody agreement, especially in cases dealing with primary physical custody.

Notably, you can modify a child custody agreement at any time. However, you must understand that just because a parent formally requests a custody change does not automatically mean the family court judge will approve it.

It can't be overstated that all family courts must decide that any custody order change must be in the child’s best interest. Otherwise, they will not generally grant the request.

One of the common reasons for modifying a child custody agreement is significant changes in the child's life that one parent cannot handle. Another reason is that the custodial parent is not following the terms of the agreement in such a way that it negatively impacts their child's life. Further, if the child is old enough, typically at least 12, you can file for a change at their request.

Simply put, any changes brought to the court must be significant enough for the court to agree to alter the child custody agreement. Conversely, a minor change with little or no impact will sometimes be sufficient.

Suppose you have decided to formally request the court to change the existing child custody order. In that case, your request should focus on how your child's quality of life has changed to support your position. Let's review this topic in more detail below.

What About Primary Physical Custody?

Modifying physical custody is similar to modifying legal custody. The two options include a mutual agreement or a contested hearing.

Suppose parents want to modify physical custody and parenting time through a mutual agreement. In that case, they will typically enter into a stipulation, which means they both agree, and it can become a court order.

Suppose parents are unable to reach an agreement. In that case, one parent will have to file a request for an order, which asks the court to make orders.

Requesting requires you to submit a Request for Order, Form FL-300, which will start the process. You can also file a Child Custody and Visitation Application, Form FL-311. These forms may seem overwhelming for some, so you should get assistance from a California family law lawyer.

Once filed with the court, they will set a court date, along with a mediation date which occurs before the court date in an attempt to resolve. Some critical issues about mediation include the following:

  • The mediation session is conducted by a court employee who is usually a licensed social worker;
  • They are specifically trained to help parents find a resolution;
  • If the parents cannot resolve the child custody issues at mediation, they will proceed to a court hearing.

As noted, you must understand that filing a request for an order with the court sometimes means not getting what you seek.

What is a Significant Change of Circumstances?

Suppose a parent is seeking a significant modification in parenting time to change joint physical custody to sole physical custody.

In that case, they will have to show the court that there has been a significant change of circumstances since the last court order to justify the modification, which would be in the child's best interest.

California Family Code 3011 says, “(a) In making a determination of the best interests of the child in a proceeding described in Section 3021, the court shall, among any other factors it finds relevant and consistent with Section 3020, consider all of the following: (1) The health, safety, and welfare of the child….”

Simply put, does the modification make sense and is in the child's best interest? Some examples of a substantial change in circumstances include the following:

  • Ex-spouse has remarried or living with someone;
  • Primary custody parent not sufficiently providing for child's needs;
  • Unsafe environment for the child or parent is unfit;
  • Parent can't care for the child due to physical or mental illness;
  • Child is being abused by the parent or somebody living there;
  • Parent is an addict to alcohol or drugs;
  • Primary custodial parent moves too frequently;
  • Parent has lost their job and can't provide financial support,
  • Either parent becomes incarcerated;
  • The child is old enough to state a custody preference.

The factors the court will consider include the child's age, health, safety, and well-being of the child's emotional relationship with parents; the amount of time the child spends with each parent, the parent's ability to provide care for their child; and the environment of child's living conditions,

Get Guidance from a Child Custody Lawyer

You should look for the legal guidance of an experienced Los Angeles child custody lawyer to understand better what the court might consider a significant change in circumstances.

Los Angeles Child Custody Lawyer

Every situation is unique, and you'll need legal advice from an attorney who can help you with a court order modification. Requesting an adaptation of an existing order due to a change in circumstances can be challenging with legal guidance.

Notably, the change in circumstances rules only apply to final child custody adjudications. Suppose the physical custody orders are still temporary.

In that case, a custody modification will not require a significant change in circumstances as the court will use the best interest standard. We have helped people modify their child custody and other family court orders for many years.

Call our office for a free case evaluation, or use the online contact form. Furman & Zavatsky are Los Angeles divorce and family law attorneys representing clients throughout Southern California.

Call a Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer

Family law disputes have the potential to have a significant impact on your quality of life and overall happiness. As a result, it is critical for you to protect your rights to the fullest extent possible when involved in a dispute related to family law. The lawyers of Furman & Zavatsky have the skill and experience to resolve your case as favorably as possible and provide compassionate and understanding legal counsel and representation. We also offer flat fee legal services for divorce and family law issues.

To schedule a free consultation with one of our Los Angeles divorce attorneys, call our office today at 818-528-3471. Read our blog on how to prepare for your first meeting with a divorce lawyer.

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