There are many reasons why parents may need a change in custody or visitation of their children. Family dynamics rarely stay the same after a divorce or separation. As children get older their needs, interests and activities change. Divorced parents also make changes. They move on and find new partners, new jobs or new homes. These changes in a family can mean that a parenting plan needs to be modified.
A consultation with a family law attorney can help you determine if you have legal options for changes that have recently occurred in your family as well as upcoming changes. Standing custody orders should only be modified if doing so is in the best for the children.
Family law courts make child custody and visitation orders based on evidence presented and agreements between parents. To get an order modified, you have to show that there has been a change in circumstances following the final custody order. The change needs to be significant and be in the best interest of the children.
When these changes happen, forms will need to be properly filled out and filed in court. A family law attorney can help you prepare the forms so they are correct and explain why you think it is necessary to make a change to the existing order. You will also need to attach the new parenting plan or proposal for the new custody and visitation arrangement so that the judge can review and create a new order.
Do I Have to go to Court to Change My Custody and Visitation Order?
Not all California family law courts require that you attend multiple hearings to change a custody and visitation order. Instead, some courts require parents to attend a meeting with a mediator. You may be able to avoid long, drawn out court battles with the help of a trained mediator. A mediator will probably help you write up an agreement that the judge may sign, making it a court order.
Mediators usually have a graduate degree and knows how the family court system works. They may also have information about community services that may be helpful to you. It is important to understand that although many mediators are experienced in counseling, mediation is not counseling. A mediator meets with both parents and helps them try to agree on a plan that is best for their children.
If you do not reach an agreement with the other parent in mediation, you will both go in front of the judge who will make a decision in your case. Mediators can help you and the other parent plan what is in the best interest of your children while creating a parenting plan that lets your children spend time with both parents. Mediators can also be a great resource for parents when it comes to helping you learn ways to deal with anger or resentment.
Should I Contest Custody and Visitation Modifications?
Parents may need to renegotiate portions of their parenting agreement every few years. As a responsible parent, you need to reflect on whether contesting a current child custody order is really a good idea. Ideally, it is probably in the children’s best interest for the parents to reach a reasonable settlement. Standing custody orders should only be changed if it would be best for the children.
When contested custody litigation cannot be avoided, consult with a local divorce lawyer who will give you factual advice and can help you make appropriate decisions based on California family law and what is in the best interest of your child.