What do you need to modify child custody orders in California?
Court-issued child custody orders are not designed to last forever. Circumstances change over time, and a custody arrangement initially ordered by the court may eventually no longer suit its intended purpose of serving a child’s best interests.
Therefore, you can likely seek a modification of existing child custody orders as a concerned parent if you think that doing so will facilitate your child’s well-being. Here is what you need to know if your co-parent objects to the changes that you believe should be implemented.
Establish a material change in circumstances
You cannot seek a contested modification of the current child custody orders just because you desire a change. You must demonstrate that the requested modification is necessitated by a significant change in circumstances that impact the child’s well-being. It could be because of a parent’s relocation, changes in the child’s needs, health or either parent’s living situation, for example.
Either way, you must present supporting evidence for a successful custody modification petition. Such evidence may include medical and financial reports, communication records, witness statements and even school reports, among others. Providing documentation of the change in circumstances that affect your child’s welfare enhances the credibility of your case, and assists the court in making an informed decision.
Attempt an amicable resolution
Before heading to court, California courts often require parents to attempt mediation unless the circumstances don’t allow for it. A neutral third party can act as a bridge between you and your co-parent to reach a mutually agreeable solution on the way forward. Mediation can be a productive way to address individual concerns and find common ground without the emotional and financial costs of litigation.
File your modification petition in court
If mediation doesn’t bear fruit or is impractical, the next step is filing a petition with the court. A judge will hear and determine the matter based on the evidence and arguments presented. Ultimately, the child’s best interests will inform the outcome of your modification petition.
Seeking legal guidance from the outset is crucial. It can help you understand your parental rights and build a solid case, significantly boosting the chances of a desirable outcome.