The Steps to Changing an Existing Child Custody Order

If you have been cooperating with your child’s other parent under the terms of a child custody agreement that has been in place for some time, you may have reason to change some elements of a plan that your child has outgrown. In our latest blog, we will walk you through the step-by-step process for requesting a child custody modification in California, including the court forms you will need to fill out ahead of mediation or the court hearing.

Can I Change an Existing Court-Ordered Custody Plan?

The court understands that changes in circumstances may warrant a long-standing custody order no longer appropriate for the child. After all, as the child gets older, their needs, interests, and activities may change, and as each of the parents moves on with their separate life, new partners, or new jobs, their environment and ability to care for the child with the other parent may also change.

In California, some parents may be asked to renegotiate portions of their parenting agreement every 2 ½ to 3 years. If one parent seeks to change an order, they may petition for a modification. Note that to successfully request a modification, they will need to show that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the last custody order was issued. This change should show establish that a rearrangement of the custody order is in the best interests of the child. As with the initial custody order, requests for modifications still rely heavily upon the child’s best interests.

Steps to Requesting Modification

In general, the steps to obtaining a visitation and custody order modification are:

  1. Fill out the necessary court forms (Request for Order or Child Custody and Visitation Application Attachment).
  2. Have a family law facilitator review the paperwork.
  3. Make copies of all the forms.
  4. File the forms with the court clerk (they will take the original and return the copies to you). Note that there is a filing fee.
  5. Receive a court date or mediation date (mediation will come prior to the court date).
  6. Serve the papers on the other parent, including a blank Responsive Declaration to Request for Order.
  7. File the Proof of Service.
  8. Go to mediation or the court hearing.

Mediation and the Court Hearing

Mediation is an ideal method for resolving the modification request, as it will allow both parents to discuss among themselves rather than defaulting to a judge’s final decision. The best way to prepare for mediation is to consider the changes since the last custody order and why the new parenting proposal will be in the child’s best interests.

If the parents successfully reach an agreement in mediation, the third-party mediator will help write up the agreement that the judge will ultimately approve and sign, making it a court order. If the parents do not reach an agreement in mediation, they will both appear before a judge, who will make the final decision and sign it into a court order.

Seek an Experienced Attorney for Legal Guidance

If you seek to petition for modification of an existing custody order, do not hesitate to contact our experienced team at Cianci Law, PC. We have over 3 decades of combined experience and aim to develop creative solutions to your family law issues, especially as you build your case for child custody modification.

Schedule an initial consultation with our team here to discuss your case in more detail.

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