DOES YOUR CHILD CUSTODY AGREEMENT NEED TO BE CHANGED?
When you and your ex either negotiated or litigated your current child custody agreement, you did so with the information you had at the time. Even though you tried to predict the future and include provisions that would cover eventualities, it can be nearly impossible to cover all the bases.
Now you may find yourself in a position where all or part of your custody agreement no longer works well for your family. It may be possible to modify your current arrangements, but you must go back to court to do so, in part because any informal arrangements would not be enforceable if something were to go wrong. Also, not following a custody order — moving away with the child without court approval, for example — could put you in serious legal trouble.
On what grounds will the court approve a modification?
In general, California courts will only modify an existing custody order under the following circumstances:
- If one parent fails to adhere to the provisions of the current agreement on a consistent basis, the court looks at the reasons why that parent fails to follow the order. Before ordering any changes, the court will also consider how you and the other parent communicate, as well as any agreement the two of you reached in your parenting plan.
- If a modification suits the best interests of your children, the court may make the requested changes. The reasons must be compelling and significant, however. Any changes the court approves must be in the best interests of the child.
- If you or the other parent wishes to relocate with your children, the court will consider modifying your current custody order. Numerous aspects of this change come under scrutiny. If you and the other parent both agree to the relocation and come up with an agreement on your own, that could help sway the court. Again, the relocation must serve the best interests of the child.
- If you believe that the current custody agreement puts your child in danger, you may request a modification. The court will want to know whether the danger is imminent and whether domestic violence is an issue.
Protecting the best interests of the child is always the court’s primary concern when considering requests for child custody modification. Whether you want to request a modification or prevent one from happening, it’s a good idea have experienced legal counsel on your side as you prepare your case and seek a favorable outcome.