How Do I Modify My Child Custody Agreement?

When you and your former spouse have already come to an agreed-upon divorce settlement and parenting agreement, it can be daunting to face the prospect of requesting a modification to any part of that agreement. You may be worried about the stress, expense, and upheaval that might result from seeking that change.

What made sense when you first reached an agreement, however, may no longer work if you or your ex’s circumstances change in a substantial way. If you are considering a modification of your current parenting agreement, you can either request a modification of the order from the court or work with your ex to come to an agreement. Regardless of which path you choose, it is important that you consult an experienced child custody attorney to ensure that you proceed in a way that will help to ensure you and your child’s best interests are protected.

Requesting a Post-Judgement Modification of Child Custody Orders

California courts understand that people’s lives and circumstances may change over time. Sometimes it is necessary and/or beneficial to seek modifications to your custody agreement for the sake of your children. Or it is possible that you or your ex’s circumstances have changed to the extent that maintaining the original agreement is simply not possible.

In California, you must provide compelling evidence of changed circumstances before the court will grant a modification to the original order. You will also need to demonstrate the change is in the best interests of the child. Some factors that might justify a modification include:

  • A change in either parent's financial status or employment
  • The relocation of one parent
  • Changes in the health and safety of either parent or the child(ren)
  • The wishes of an older child (depending on their age)
  • Excessive demands placed upon one or both parents due to school or extracurricular activities
  • Abuse or neglect by either parent
  • Substance abuse issues present within either parent’s home
  • Violations of the existing agreement by either parent

Reaching an Agreement to Modify Child Custody Without Going to Court

Before filing an action in court, it may be possible to come to an agreement outside of court, saving time and money in the process by discussing possible solutions with your ex-partner. That agreement can then be signed off on by a family court judge, which will result in that modified agreement becoming the new, legally enforceable order.

Reaching an amicable resolution can have many benefits, including:

  • Avoiding a costly and lengthy court battle
  • Exercising more control of the end result
  • Preventing unnecessary conflict with your child’s other parent
  • Reaching an agreement that satisfies you both

Negotiating a resolution that is fair and reasonable will likely require a willingness to listen and compromise. Even in the best of circumstances, this can be difficult for many divorced parents. In some cases, formal mediation may help parents reach an understanding while still avoiding a court battle.

While you may be tempted to simply come to an oral agreement with your ex, it is always best to have any modifications signed by a judge. Our team of knowledgeable and compassionate child custody lawyers at Palmer Rodak & Associates can help you navigate any negotiations with your ex and draft the order to be submitted to the court for approval. And if it becomes apparent that an amicable agreement is impossible, we are prepared to help you reach a court order that protects your rights and ensures your children’s wellbeing.

If you or your former spouse is considering changes to your current child custody agreement, contact Palmer Rodak & Associates today at (760) 573-2223 to schedule a consultation.