San Diego Child Custody Modification Lawyers
Modifying a Child Custody Decision in California
Determining child custody can be one of the most difficult aspects of a divorce. There are many decisions that must be agreed upon by both parents, and figuring out what is fair for everyone and in the best interests of the child can be extremely contentious. Questions that must be answered include whether the parents will share joint custody, who will make decisions when it comes to medical treatment, education, and vacations, and who is responsible for what share of the costs involved.
After all of the effort that goes into settling on a fair co-parenting arrangement, everyone involved will probably be extremely hesitant to make a change. These agreements are often settled with the help of lawyers and mediators and take many hours of negotiation. Once a judge has signed off on a settlement, he or she will be unwilling to allow any changes without being given compelling reasons for why a new arrangement is necessary.
The state of California has very strict laws over how to mediate child custody issues, and this applies even after the divorce has been finalized. If both parents agree to the changes, it is relatively simple to apply for a new court order. But if they cannot agree, one parent will have no choice but to petition the court for a modification to the custody agreement. It will be up to a judge to decide whether a change is warranted.
What Changes in Circumstance Warrant a Custody Order Change?
There are many valid reasons for changes to be made to a custody agreement. In fact, every few years, the agreement should be revisited, for as children get older, their lives change. They will attend new schools, become involved in new activities, and require different resources and care.
At the same time, circumstances can change for the parents as well. These changes can include new jobs, new partners, or new homes. The loss of a job can lead to unexpected financial pressures. The court realizes that divorced parents do not lead static lives, and so procedures have been put into place to allow for changes to be made.
When the parents cannot agree on a new arrangement, one parent will have to show that there has been a significant change in circumstances since the current custody order was agreed upon, and that it is in the best interests of the child to establish a new custody and visitation arrangement.
Reasons can include:
- One of the parents is continually moving
- One of the parents is showing signs of being emotionally unstable
- The child is showing signs of abuse
- One of the parents is failing to make the child available for scheduled visits
- One of the parents is abusing drugs or alcohol
- One of the parents has undergone a significant change in financial circumstances
How Are Changes Made to a Child Custody Order in San Diego County?
You and the other parent making a verbal agreement regarding child custody can backfire, badly. Your verbal agreement means very little should the other parent later accuse you of violating a court-ordered custody agreement. Your changes in custody should be approved by a judge. Child custody and visitation modifications are not rare – children's needs change over time, and so do a parent's circumstances. Some of the issues that a judge will consider include:
- The child has changed needs in health or education.
- A parent has experienced a significant change in circumstances regarding work schedules or locations.
- The child prefers to live with the other parent.
- The parents now live closer together, and a joint custody agreement would be more beneficial to the child.
- A parent needs to move to another state or city for work.
When Can a Parent File for a Child Custody Modification?
A modification to an existing child custody order can be sought at any point after it is first put in place. All that is required is that the parent request the modification. In some cases, both parents agree, and in others, this change is a point of contention. It is imperative that you are represented by a talented family law attorney to guide you through the process, and to present a persuasive argument in court. You can modify a custody agreement every few years, as the needs of your children change. When both parents agree to these changes, a revised agreement can be submitted to the court for approval.
In some cases, a parent feels that the custody order was unfairly decided, and a change is pursued through the court system. If a custody ruling was not in your favor and you believe this decision was unfair to you, as a parent, and to your children, speak with our San Diego family lawyer about how to move forward to seek a modification.
Reasons a Judge will Approve a Modification to a Child Custody Order
All actions regarding child custody are decided on what is considered to be in the best interests of the children. While the parents' situations are considered, they do not have the same weight as the health and wellbeing of the children of a divorce. However, judges will modify an existing order for several reasons, and it is important that the situation is presented by a professional attorney who understands the court system, and what judges look for in making these decisions. Some reasons that a judge may approve a modification include:
- The child has needs that are better served by a change in custody, such as schooling, healthcare, or personal pursuits.
- The parent believes the other parent's living conditions put the child in danger of some type of abuse or neglect. Evidence of abuse or neglect will be necessary in these cases.
- A parent wants to relocate, which may or may not be approved by the judge.
- A parent is showing signs of drug or alcohol abuse.
- A parent is not adhering to the court ordered custody and visitation orders.
Defending a Modification Request
The court will need to see evidence that the modification request is warranted. If the circumstances do not constitute an emergency, then you may need to work with a mediator to come to a mutually agreed-upon settlement with your co-parent, much the same as with the original divorce.
The experienced legal team at Mattis Law, A.P.C. will treat a modification to a custody agreement with the same care and seriousness that we do the original divorce proceedings. We will do our utmost to ensure that you continue to have a meaningful and secure environment in which to raise your children. Call us today at (858) 328-4400 to learn how we can help update your child custody arrangement in the quickest manner possible.