For California parents, a divorce judgment will include a child custody order and a parenting plan setting forth visitation schedules and all other necessary arrangements. A court generally approves or sets a custody order based on what it deems to be in the child's best interests.
What happens when circumstances change? When the current custody order no longer works for the parents and/or the children, the law allows parents to request a modification. To increase your chances of success, it is important to understand the process.
When both parents agree on a change, they can submit their proposed new order to the court. Courts are usually likely to grant approval unless they have specific reasons to believe doing so would not be in the child's best interests.
Changing the visitation schedule
Generally, California courts approach requests to change a custody order or modify parenting time from the standpoint that stability is a major factor in a child's best interests. Thus, if a child has gotten used to a particular arrangement, courts want the parents to justify requested changes.
If you want to modify the visitation schedule, you may only need to demonstrate doing so will be in your child's best interests. Frequently, such requests come about because the child's own school or activity schedule changes. In other situations, a parent's work schedule could change. Such circumstances typically serve as adequate grounds for modification.
Matters can become more complicated when a parent wants to change the custody arrangement. In such a case, one may also have to prove there has been a material change in circumstance since the court entered the final order. This change must be such as to make that order no longer in the best interests of the child. Common reasons may include a parent's new work situation, health problems or behaviors such as substance abuse that can keep a parent from providing safe and adequate care.
Depending on your location, your court may require you to go through certain steps. For instance, you may need to meet with a mediator.