It is important to know that once a judge makes a child custody order, it can always be modified. Changes occur throughout our lives that may not have been taken into account at the time an order was put into place. The need for modifications are more important than ever with high national unemployment rates (7.9%), the enormous national deficit, significant trade imbalances and constant flux of gas prices. California, in particular, is suffering from some of the worst economic conditions in the country with unemployment rates currently at 10.2% and continuing high foreclosures of homes. The best way to deal with these changes due to circumstances sometimes out of our control, is to try to come to an agreement modifying custody with the other parent, but understandably that doesn’t always work out. If the parents cannot agree on a solution, they may ask the court to make changes for them.
What Courts Consider when Deciding Whether to Modify
If a parent wishes to modify a California custody order, a court must approve the custody change, even if the parents agree. If they do not agree, a parent must show to the court that there has been a “substantial or material change of circumstances.” The primary concern of the court is to ensure that the child remains in a stable environment with the “best interest of the child” in mind. In determining what is in the best interest of the child, a court has much discretion and can take into account a wide variety of factors that can include the financial condition of the parents, the living conditions of the parents, if there has been any substance abuse or abuse of the children and the choice of the child if the child is of sufficient age.
Circumstances that Might Allow for Modification
Child custody modifications are very common, especially in these times. Our society is constantly changing and readjusting to the turbulent economy and ever changing personal circumstances. Some situations that can justify a child custody modification are:
- A severe increase in cost of living
- A permanent disability suffered by either parent
- A child suffering a permanent disability requiring costly care
- A considerable change in income by either parent (ex: Job loss)
- Increases or decreases in costs for the child due to age of child or other
Change of school
- Relocation (see celebrity star Halle Berry in the midst of trying to get the court’s permission to relocate her four-year old daughter to Paris)
The Modification Process in California
When a parent turns to the court to make a decision for modification, both parents are required to first meet with a mediator from Family Court Services (“FCS”). The mediator will help both parents come to an agreeable solution and to hopefully put into place a new agreement. If the parents cannot come to an agreement, the mediator will write a report with a recommendation to the judge. The parents can then agree with the mediator’s report or argue to the judge as to why the mediator’s report should not be adopted. This is a difficult process and should be avoided. A settlement between the parents is highly favorable because it is quite undesirable for the courts to make decisions for you regarding your child. The assistance of a skilled, experienced family law attorney can help you reach a settlement, or as a last resort, can represent you in court to obtain a modification.
Skilled Legal Help from Minella Law Group
It is important to hire an experienced family law attorney at Minella Law Group with expert knowledge of the legal standards involved to successfully modify your current child custody order.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, click the button below, or call us at (619) 289-7948. We look forward to helping you.