Child Custody Modification in California: What You Need to Know

Life is never predictable, and as your children grow, their needs change with unexpected circumstances that affect everyone in the family. Certain court orders are able to be modified by California courts, even after a final judgment has been made. Common areas for post-judgment modifications are child custody, visitation orders, child support orders, and spousal support orders. In order to modify child custody, parents have to account for the change of circumstances and be able to prove how a child custody change could benefit their children.

Common Reasons for Child Custody Modification

Judges will allow modifications for a child custody order for the following:

  • Child’s needs have changed
  • The child is in physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual danger
  • One or both parents’ situations changed
  • Non-custodial parent’s work schedule changes
  • Non-custodial parent has moved closer to the other parent
  • The child wishes to live with or spend more time with the non-custodial parent
  • One parent needs to relocate
  • One parent acts irresponsibly (such as not getting their children to school on time, abusing drugs or alcohol in front of the child, etc.)
  • One parent refuses to follow the original child custody order 

Filing for Child Custody Modification

Seeking modification of child custody and visitation orders at any time, if you are able to show the court that a significant change in circumstances has occurred since the first order was made. You will need to show how the modifications can improve your child’s life, and prove that these improvements are in the best interest of your child. You may modify a child custody order at any point until the child turns 18. Typically the parent who wants to modify the order will make the request with help from an attorney.

Steps in Modifying Child Custody in California

  1. Filing court forms: A Request For Order form, and optional Child Custody and Visitation form are made to begin the child custody modification process. In these forms, explain why it is necessary to change the existing custody order. In the optional form, the filing parent should detail information about future visits, holiday arrangements, and other scheduled visitations for the judge to consider their order.
  2. Having forms reviewed by a trusted lawyer: Family Law attorneys will ensure your forms are filled out correctly. Parents also can hire a lawyer for legal advice and assistance through their claim.
  3. Make copies of all court forms: Each parent should receive their own copy of the original court forms that will be given to the court.
  4. Filing forms with the court clerk: A court clerk will stamp the two copies, and keep the original document to be filed. Filing costs with a clerk usually range from $200-400. A fee waiver can be given if a parent is unable to afford the fee.
  5. Receiving mediation or court date: The court clerk will provide the court date, and a parent may have to meet with a mediator prior to said court date.
  6. Serve papers to the other parent: You are able to hire someone over the age of 18 to serve the papers to the other party. Attach a blank Responsive Declaration to the Request for Order, and also check Form FL-300 to notice if there are any additional documents that need to be served. Your attorney will let you know if any paperwork must be served in person, or if a parent can be served by mail. Service of process is to be completed 16 days before the court date, or 21 days when served by mail.
  7. Filing Proof of Service: Whoever is serving the court orders will need to complete a Proof of Personal Service form, and give it to the parent to file at the court. If the process is served through mail, the server will need to fill out a Proof of Service by Mail form.
  8. Attend mediation or court: Your local court might require both parents to attend the mediation. If an agreement isn’t reached in mediation, both parties will need to settle their dispute in court. You and your attorney will need to bring copies of all filed forms to court.
  9. Post Court Proceedings: Once your request for modification has been approved, the judge will sign a court order. A courthouse clerk or staff will then prepare the document for the parent who requested a hearing. If either party had any legal assistance, their lawyer will prepare the document.

Kern County Family Law By Your Side 

Having a trusted attorney to guide your decisions and process paperwork needed can make things easier and more streamlined for you, which is especially desired when it comes down to the future of your children. 

At Azemika Law, we’re here for you with our practice devoted to family law for 28 years. We efficiently handle cases involving divorce, dissolutions of partnerships, child custody and visitations, abandonment, and adoptions. Serving all of Kern County, we want you to have the opportunity to make informed decisions from the best position possible for your future. 

Contact us today to help you create effective resolutions and build a happy future for you and your children.

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