How Do I Modify a Child Custody Agreement in California?

In the state of California, child custody orders are not necessarily permanent. Therefore, custody can change multiple times before a child is legally an adult and may need to change to keep their living situation ideal. But how can it be done?

Sometimes circumstances change, and a parent may not be able to provide for their child, even if they received custody following a divorce. California allows either parent to request a modification to their custody agreement. However, the process to do so is strict and, at times, complicated.

As family law attorneys, we’ve seen many clients express frustration and confusion about how to modify a child custody agreement. Read our simplified outline below so you don’t make a mistake that could jeopardize your request.

When Can I Modify A Child Custody Agreement?

In California, you can modify a child custody agreement at any time. However, just because a parent requests changes doesn’t mean a judge will accept them. It must be deemed necessary or otherwise in the child’s best interest for a request to be received.

Common reasons for modifying a child custody agreement include changes in the child’s life that one parent isn’t suited to handle or difficulties in a parent’s. You can request a change if the other parent isn’t following the terms of the agreement or is irresponsible in a way that negatively impacts your child’s life. You can also file for a change at the child’s request.

Any changes presented to the court need to be significant to result in an altered custody agreement. A slight reduction in hours at work, for example, might not be enough. When making your request be sure to focus on how your child’s quality of life has changed to support your argument.

How Do I Request Modification?

Making a request only requires you to submit one form: Form FL-300, the Request For Order. Once filed with a court, the process will begin in earnest. You may also file Form FL-311, Child Custody, and Visitation, though this is optional.

While not needed to complete a request, FL-311 can be a strong supporting document. It allows you to provide precise details of your child’s visitations with yourself and the other parent. FL-311 is especially useful if the other parent isn’t meeting their obligations under the current agreement.

Both forms can appear overwhelming at first, requiring specific information about both parents and the child. However, if any part is incomplete or incorrect, the process will only be delayed further, so it is essential that you verify the validity of the information and submit it properly the first time. If you hire a family law attorney, they will not only help complete the form but give you valuable legal advice along the way to help you understand your options and potentially strengthen your case.

How Do I File the Forms?

Once you and your lawyer have gone over your forms, you need to make two additional copies of each. You will keep one and serve the other parent with the other. The original copy is what you’ll be filing with the courts.

Submit your forms to the court clerk, which does come with a filing fee (usually a few hundred dollars). However, the clerk will waive this fee if you have a low income or receive public assistance. Then, the clerk will process your paperwork and assign your court date.

Your lawyer will then hire someone to serve the other parent their copies or do it themselves. Depending on the circumstances, they may receive additional forms so they can submit a complete response to your claim. However, there’s no extra work for you at this phase.

What is the Court Process Like?

The court will order you and the other parent to attend mediation before sending things to trial. Mediation gives you both the chance to reach an agreement with the help of your lawyers and court-appointed supervision. Mediation is ideal because it can save all parties money in additional costs and prevent further court involvement.

If mediation fails to reach an agreement, your case will go before a judge. At your child custody hearing, the judge will review all the forms submitted so far and view any additional evidence. If they find it in your favor, they will sign the agreement, and it will go into effect.

The judge’s decision is final, but either party can file future requests. If the judge denies your request, it’s essential to keep monitoring the situation. If any substantial changes occur with the other parent or your child, you can file a new request to alter the agreement.

Get Help From Hann Law Firm

Sometimes, modifying your custody agreement is necessary to ensure your child’s safety and give them a stable home life. However, the process can be incredibly daunting. It can feel like you’re the only one fighting for your child when facing so much complexity.

That’s why you need Hann Law Firm on your side

At Hann Law Firm, we take a personal approach to everything we do. From our first consultation, we’ll listen to your needs and concerns. Listening to our clients is at the heart of our success in the courtroom. When you work with us, we’ll address your specific challenges, prepare diligently for the best possible outcome, and create a personalized approach to help achieve your goals.

This kind of care takes more time, but the results of our personalized approach speak for themselves. While other firms see a case number and a bottom line, we see each client as a human being who deserves justice. We know your case is important to you, and we’ll take it just as personally. You – and your case – matter to us. 

Contact us today for your free consultation.

Creating A Visitation Schedule For A Young Child

Parents in California who are tasked with raising an infant after ending their relationship may face a variety of challenges. However, the top priority should be to create a schedule that preserves the best interests of the baby. Ideally, visits will be scheduled with the child’s feeding and sleeping schedule in mind. Furthermore, visits should be no more than 30 minutes long and take place about three to four times a week.

This should give a noncustodial parent enough time to bond with the baby and learn how to best care for the child. Shorter visits may be an especially good idea if the mother is still breastfeeding. However, if the child is able to take a bottle, it may be possible for a noncustodial parent to have a young son or daughter overnight. If there are issues creating natural milk for the child, it may be worth supplementing it with formula.

Overnight visits can be beneficial for a custodial parent because it will give that person an opportunity to catch up on his or her sleep. In most cases, courts will not order that overnight visitation occurs until the child is a few years old. If a custodial parent is resistant to longer visits without a court order, the noncustodial parent is urged to determine why that is and find a way to overcome it.

Individuals who are denied child custody rights are still generally entitled to visitation rights instead. If parents cannot negotiate a parenting plan on their own, it may be necessary to have a judge create one on their behalf. An attorney may help a person gather evidence or take other steps to prepare for a court hearing. This may maximize a individual’s chances of obtaining more parenting time with a child.

Balancing Between A Job And Custody

In California, divorced parents have a number of different obligations that they need to meet. They must figure out how to balance them so that they can both work and spend time with their children. Figuring out how to spend consistent time with the children while holding a job is not always easy and is a factor in custody decisions in family court.

Parents need to be realistic when they negotiate for a certain amount of time with the children in the agreement. They should be sure to not ask for more time than their career makes possible unless they have arrangements in place that allow them to spend time with the children. Courts will consider things such as the work schedule in deciding the time that the children are with the parents.

In order to be effective in their dual role as single parents and employees, people must remain flexible and efficient, especially at work. They need to figure out how they will get their work done and leave the job when they must in order to pick up the children. Often, this involves coming up with creative arrangements that help maximize their productivity as an employee, such as working from home after the children are asleep to complete any unfinished work.

A family law attorney may counsel their client to figure out exactly what is possible when it comes to a custody agreement and time with the children. The attorney might suggest solutions that would help maximize parental time while allowing the parent to pursue their career. Then, they may help negotiate the agreement with the other parents attorney. If litigation is necessary, the attorney might present their clients case in court to try to persuade the judge of their position.

A Custody Dispute May Feel Unavoidable For Some Fathers

During a divorce, California parents usually just want what is in the best interests of their children. However, what those best interests are can be highly subjective. Long-held biases in both the general public and family law can make it difficult for fathers to continue being active parents after divorce. For some, it could even lead to a custody dispute.

There are currently around two million stay-at-home dads in the United States. Despite this, 14% of Americans think that opportunities for mothers to bond with babies should be prioritized over bonding opportunities for fathers. This attitude goes beyond initial bonding, as 53% of people think that mothers are just better suited for child rearing. Only 1% of adults believe that a father could do a better job at caring for a baby.

These biases show up during matters involving child custody. Due to a number of factors, including divorce and unmarried parents who have children together, 25% of children do not live with their fathers even some of the time. This is generally not from a lack of desire on the fathers part, but because of inherent inequalities that men face when trying to be active parents. The problem is especially difficult for unmarried fathers who may be unsure of their legal rights or how to uphold them.

Depending on the situation, some parents are able to work out their own custody agreement outside of court, which is then signed off by a judge. When this is not possible, a child custody dispute may be unavoidable. California fathers who are ready to address their problems with either a proposed or current custody order should consider speaking with an attorney before moving forward, as doing so could provide valuable insight on their options and possible outcomes.