Child custody arrangements are not set in stone, and circumstances can change over time. In California, if your current child custody order no longer serves the best interests of your child, you can seek a modification.
Understanding the state’s rules about child custody modification can help the process go as smoothly as possible.
Establish a substantial change in circumstances
To change child custody, you must demonstrate a change in circumstances large enough to warrant modification. Examples of substantial changes include a parent’s relocation, changes in a parent’s lifestyle or behavior and concerns about the child’s safety.
Before pursuing a court modification, you may want to attempt mediation with the other parent. You meet together with a neutral professional mediator who can help you agree on custody modifications and avoid a court hearing.
File a request with the court
If mediation is unsuccessful, you can file a request for a modification with the family court that issued the original custody order. The court will require specific forms with detailed information about your reasons for seeking the modification.
After filing your request, you must serve notice to the other parent. This step officially informs them of your petition for modification and the associated court date. Proper notice gives the other parent an opportunity to respond and prepare for the hearing.
Attend the court hearing
Both parents will have an opportunity to present their cases at the court hearing. You should prepare evidence that supports your request for modification, including witness statements, documentation and other relevant information.
If the court approves the modification, you will receive a new court order outlining the updated custody arrangement. You must follow its updated terms to avoid legal complications.
Many families face the need for a custody change at some point since about half of U.S. children have divorced or separated parents. To grant a modification, the court must find that the proposed change will better serve the child’s well-being and overall development.