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Joseph R. Zoucha, Attorney & Counselor at Law

Can I modify my custody order after it is finalized?

When you finalize your divorce, the court will typically enter an order detailing your child custody and child support arrangements. This child custody and support agreement will often specify where your child will live primarily, who will be responsible for making decisions for the child, how often the non-custodial parent will see the child and how much the non-custodial parent will pay in child support. Once the custody order is finalized, both parents are legally obligated to follow the terms of the order.

However, as the months and years go by, you may find that the original order needs to be modified due to a change in your life circumstances. However, not every change is significant enough to warrant a modification. The court will generally consider major life changes, such as getting a new job, losing a job, getting remarried or relocating. The court will also consider changes in the child's life that may require a modification.

If you have decided to modify your custody order, you will have to file a Request for Order form to ask the court for a hearing to change your current order. You may also fill out the Child Custody and Visitation Application Attachment to let the court know exactly what changes you would like to implement with regards to custody and visitation arrangements. A family law attorney can review your forms to make sure you filled them out correctly and provide advice regarding the modification process.

Once you have filed your forms with the court, you will likely get a court date, or mediation date to settle matters before court. If you are unable to work out your issues with the mediator, you may go in front of the judge so that he or she can make a final decision with regards to any modifications you seek. Once the judge has made the decision, they will sign a new order, effective immediately.

Source: California Courts, "Changing a Custody Order," accessed on Feb. 12, 2018

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