What To Do When You Need Your Child Custody Agreement Changed
Every child is unique, and every child custody case is unique. If you are a divorced parent in California, or if you are currently divorcing, considering, or anticipating a divorce, this is for you.
Whether your child custody arrangement is a voluntary agreement or the result of a court order, over time that arrangement may need to be modified as the circumstances of life change for you, for your ex, and for your child or children.
How and when can a parent have a child custody ordered modified in California? And if your ex asks for a child custody modification, will you be able to challenge that request if you need to?
IS A CHILD CUSTODY ARRANGEMENT EVER REALLY FINAL?
Your divorce attorney may have negotiated a “settlement” of your child custody dispute, or a judge may have handed down a “final” child custody order, but over time, changing circumstances may warrant a change in the child custody arrangement.
Divorced and divorcing parents in California need to understand that a child custody battle may not be over when a divorce is finalized. The state allows for child custody agreements and orders to be modified – after a divorce is final – in a wide variety of circumstances.
And since everyone’s life is almost constantly changing, it’s not unusual for child custody agreements and orders to be revised – several times, in some cases – here in California.
WHO CAN HELP YOU MODIFY A CUSTODY ARRANGEMENT?
After your divorce, you’ll need legal assistance to have your child custody agreement or order modified, and if your child’s other parent disputes the need for the modification, you’ll need to be represented by an Orange County family law attorney.
You’ll also need a family lawyer’s help if your child’s other parent has requested a modification of the child custody arrangement, but you do not believe that the requested modification is necessary or justified, and you choose to challenge it.
A child custody attorney can protect and explain your legal rights, outline your options, and advocate aggressively on your behalf and your child’s.
Especially when it involves your children and their well-being, and emotions can be highly-charged, you must have trustworthy and reliable legal guidance.
WHAT IS A CALIFORNIA COURT’S TOP PRIORITY IN A CHILD CUSTODY CASE?
Child custody modifications are needed because the future is unpredictable. When you divorce, it is impossible to predict where you will be in life in another five, ten, or fifteen years.
But when a parenting plan and custody arrangement simply becomes outdated and unworkable, a child custody modification becomes imperative.
In all child custody matters in the state of California, and without regard to what might be convenient for one or both parents, the highest priority of the court will always be the best interests of the child.
That’s why parents who request or oppose a child custody modification in California may need to bring particular details to the judge’s attention.
If a child has health or dietary issues, a learning disability, or behavioral concerns, for example, the court will need to know so that its decision will line up with the child’s best interests.
WHEN MAY A PARENT REQUEST A CHILD CUSTODY MODIFICATION?
A California parent may request the modification of a child custody order or a child custody agreement when either parent’s income significantly changes or when:
1. Either parent has sustained a serious injury or suffered a severe illness.
2. Either parent has been convicted of a crime or has become unemployed.
3. Either parent needs or wants to relocate to another jurisdiction.
4. The amount of time the child spends with either parent has considerably changed.
5. Either parent has married a new partner or has become a parent with a new partner.
6. Anything arises that significantly impacts the child or the custody arrangement.
A custody modification may also be requested if either parent consistently fails to adhere to the conditions of the ongoing arrangement or if you believe the current arrangement is placing your child at risk.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A CUSTODY MODIFICATION IS REQUESTED?
Let an experienced Orange County family law attorney help you start the custody modification process. If you and your ex can agree about the need for the modification – and the details of the modification – the court will likely grant the modification, and you’ll both save time and money.
However, if either parent requests a child custody modification and the other parent challenges that request, mediation will probably be ordered by the court.
If you reach a tentative agreement in the mediation process, the court will probably approve that agreement, provided that it lines up with the best interests of the child.
Should mediation fail to produce an agreement, the court will rule on the modification request by making the child’s best interests the top priority.
Child custody modifications aren’t granted for frivolous or trivial reasons. The changing life circumstance that generates a modification request must be a substantial change, and any modification must put the child’s best interests first.
WHAT IS SOLE CUSTODY?
Awarding a child’s sole custody exclusively to one parent is a measure the court will take only if the court is convinced that sole custody really is in the child’s best interests.
When sole custody is awarded to one parent, the other no longer retains any rights regarding the child’s education, medical care, or religious training.
When a court orders sole custody, California law requires the court to issue an explanatory written decision.
Judges in California child custody proceedings have substantial power and discretion whenever there’s any question or doubt regarding a child’s best interests.
For example, a parent’s recent conviction for a crime, or any evidence of recent drug, alcohol, or domestic abuse can destroy your ability to win the custody of your child.
Do not be surprised if some pointed and personal questions are asked at a child custody or child custody modification hearing.
ARE CHILD CUSTODY MODIFICATIONS RARE IN CALIFORNIA – OR ROUTINE?
New jobs, marriages, and relocations happen every day. Illnesses, injuries, and unemployment also happen – far too frequently.
Revisions of child custody arrangements are routinely handled by California courts, but a parent will need a family lawyer’s help with a custody modification request.
Do not hesitate to seek that help as soon as a custody modification becomes necessary. Nothing is more important than your child. Let an attorney help.