Child Custody and Visitation Modification
Custody and visitation arrangements decided upon by the court are often times not permanent. Over time, situations change, often necessitating modifications of the original court order. California family law allows for this, giving parents the opportunity to modify the agreement. If the parents feel that circumstances have changed enough to require reconsideration of the custody agreement, either or both parents can file to have it changed.
The key factor in modifying child custody and visitation arrangements is establishing that there has been a significant change that affects the children—no matter how significant a change may be, if it only impacts the parents, the court will deem it irrelevant. The existence of the change and its significance to the lives of the children likely must be proven to the court. Such circumstances may include:
- Relocation (especially long distance)
- Loss of employment or a decrease in earnings that affect the child’s quality of life
- Unforeseen medical issues
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- The formation of an unsuitable environment for children
- An older child wishing to have the custody arrangement changed
- Alteration of school schedules
- Evidence of abuse
In cases where only one parent is seeking the modification (and especially if the other is contesting it), the burden of proof falls onto the party seeking the change. In more pleasant situations, when both parents request the change, the court may still require them to meet with a mediator to work out the new arrangement and conclude whether a change is really in their best interest.
It should be noted—it is extremely unwise to “unofficially” change the custody arrangement. In other words, some parents may decide to become more “flexible” with custody-related matters, allowing the other parent to take the day reserved for them and so on. While this may appear beneficial at first, the consequences can be disastrous. One parent may allow the other to take their “day” in order to claim that the second parent violated the custody order. Or, this sense of cooperation may fall through due to unforeseen circumstances, resulting in an unwelcome and unexpected change in the daily lives of the children. Before changing custody and visitation-related behavior, always speak to your lawyer and consider having the arrangement changed officially by a court order.
As for establishing the new custody and visitation arrangement, the process is identical to the one used to create the original. As such, it would serve you well to read our page on “Child Custody” if you are considering a modification. Just remember, as with all cases involving children, the court will act according to the child(ren)s best interest!
By Connor Douglas Johnson