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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.

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