Modification of Child Custody Orders
The child custody agreement is considered final after the court has issued the order. However, at some stage in the future, your circumstances may change, or the needs of your child may change as they grow up. At that point, you can seek a modification of the child custody order in Orange County.
In many cases, co-parents may need to renegotiate or adjust some elements of their custody and visitation agreement every few years. An experienced child custody lawyer in Orange County will try to ensure that this can be done by mutual agreement, which can then be approved by the court. However, if you and the other parent are unable to agree on the changes, your attorney will help you file a request for modification with the court.
Prior to your court hearing for a child custody modification order in Orange County, you and the other party may be required to have a mediation session to resolve any issues or differences you may have. With your attorney’s guidance, you can try to make the most of the mediation. If a resolution is not reached through mediation, your attorney will effectively represent your case before the court to help you obtain the required order.
Pre-requisites for Custody Order Modification
Your Orange County child custody lawyer will explain to you the two pre-conditions that must be fulfilled in order to obtain a child custody modification order. These include:
- You must be able to prove to the court that you have had a significant change in your circumstances since the court issued the custody order. In other words, you will need to show that your there has been a significant change in your or your child’s situation that makes it necessary to modify the custody and visitation agreement.
- The modification in custody and visitation agreement that you are requesting is in the best interest of your child in view of the changed circumstances. The family court in Orange County will only concern itself with whether the child’s best interests are affected by the existing order, and whether a modification would maintain his or her best interests.
Steps Involved in Requesting an Order Modification
- Complete the prescribed court forms
- Get your filled out forms reviewed by your child custody lawyer
- Make two copies of all the forms – you will give one copy to the co-parent, while retaining the other copy with you. The original papers will be submitted to the court.
- File your papers with the Orange County court clerk.
- Serve the co-parent with a copy of the papers (you cannot serve these papers yourself, and should have another adult to do it on your behalf).
- File the “Proof of Service” with the court clerk.
- Attend your mediation session and court hearing. (If your local court requires you to attend mediation, it will be held prior to the date of court hearing.)
While a neutral mediator will try to help you and the other party resolve the issues related to changes in child custody, your attorney will be present to ensure that your rights are fully protected in this process. If you and the other parent reach an agreement through mediation, the court may approve it and issue a formal order.
If the issue remains unresolved after mediation, the judge will evaluate the facts during the court hearing and decide on your request for child custody order modification.
Examples of “Changed Circumstances” for Modifying Custody
Your change in circumstances should affect your child’s best interests, and not necessarily your own, in order for the court to consider a child custody order modification. You will have the burden of proof to show a significant change of circumstances, which makes it necessary to modify the existing custody arrangement.
A seasoned child custody order modification lawyer in Orange County will help you prepare and present evidence that shows that a custody modification is warranted. Here are some of the common examples of “changed circumstances” that the court may consider for order modification:
- • Demise of the custodial parent automatically makes the other parent eligible for the child’s sole custody (except it is proved through evidence that it would harm the child).
- • If the custodial parent wants to relocate, you can request the court to grant you physical custody in the best interests of your child. Particularly, if your child is in his or her teens, and the court finds it is in the child’s best interests to continue studying at the same school, stay involved with the same coaching, sports and other activities, and maintain the same friends and acquaintances, they may modify the custody order.
- • If the non-custodial parent relocates, the court may agree to their request to change the visitation schedules (make them of a longer duration but reduced in frequency).
- • If the custodial parent has a pattern of disrupting visitation or frustrating the communication between the non-custodial parent and the child, the court may consider a change in physical custody.
- • The child’s needs and preferences may change as they grow up into a teenager. But sometimes the court will consider the child’s perspective even when he or she is on 10 or 11 years old.
Child’s Individual Preference
California Family Code provides an opportunity to the child in a custody and visitation case to voice their preference, provided the court finds the child to be of an age and capacity when they can form a reasonable opinion.
Children who are at least 14 years old have a right to express their preference, and the court will determine what is in their best interest. But in some cases, even children who are younger than this age may state their preference to the court, which will be considered while determining child custody or a modification order.
Get Legal Advice from a Child Custody Order Modification Attorney
Child custody and visitation are critical matters for you and your child. If your circumstances have changed, do not hesitate from seeking a child custody order modification in Orange County. No matter whether the co-parent has legal representation or not, you should obtain the best legal advice and support from a skilled divorce lawyer in Orange County who has experience with modification of custody orders.
Your attorney will use every legal option available to obtain a favorable outcome. From establishing evidence that backs your position to utilizing expert testimonies to having the other parent depose in the case, an experienced attorney will make all the necessary strategic moves to help you achieve the required order modification.
On the other hand, if you want to stop an alienating, abusive, or irresponsible co-parent from obtaining enhanced custody or visitation rights, your attorney will fight legally to prove in court that your position is consistent with your child’s best interests.