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I don’t like our custody arrangement: Can I change it?

Depending on when parents divorce or split up, they can spend years or decades raising a child together, but separately. In many cases, parents deal with everything from teething and potty training to braces and college applications in the context of shared parenting.

Considering all that will happen throughout the course of raising a child, it is to be expected that things will change. Your child will change, your relationship with your child will change, and your own life and capabilities as a parent will change. With all this in mind, it can be crucial for California co-parents to understand the process of modifying a custody or visitation order.

Why you might need a modification

Modifications are not going to be granted based on a parent’s whim. Courts take these requests very seriously and typically only grant them after a few years have passed since the original order and/or in the event that a change in circumstances makes an initial order inappropriate or no longer in the best interests of a child.

These changes in circumstances can include:

  • Parental relocation
  • A child’s expressed wish to change the existing custody arrangement
  • A parent’s unwillingness or inability to provide stable care
  • Threats to a child’s safety
  • Changes in a child’s needs or best interests

How to request a modification

Even if you and the other parent are in agreement regarding modification, you still need to get the court’s permission, as the courts have the final say in your custody and visitation orders. In other words, an informal agreement is not going to be the same as an actual modification.

If parents do not agree on the modification, the process becomes a bit more complicated. Parents need to file the appropriate paperwork, attend mediation or a court hearing, make a case for modification and then comply with whatever the judge decides.

The value of seeking help

There is a lot at stake when it comes to custody modification, including the well-being of your child. Because of this, it is crucial that you know you do not have to figure out this difficult process alone. You can work with an attorney who understands the legal process and can help you navigate it without making avoidable mistakes.

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