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In a custody dispute, the court’s main objective is to make a ruling that puts the child’s best interest first. In the best case scenarios, the order given by the court will afford equal access and responsibilities to both parents, but unfortunately this does not always happen. 

A court can set a custody and visitation plan that you believe is unfair, unjustified, or does not reflect the child’s best interest. For instance, a judge may rule that you don’t have any or very limited access to your child. As a result, you may want to renegotiate your child’s custody agreement.

But is this possible?

Custody Modification Law in California

California law allows a parent to request a modification to a current custody order. In order to do so, the parent requesting the change must show the court a significant change of circumstances has occurred that would warrant the court to modify the order. You can also argue that the court did not examine certain evidence when rendering the original ruling. 

It is important to work with a family law attorney when preparing your argument. Your attorney can help you determine if the change in circumstances is enough to change the current order. Also, your attorney can help you articulate to the court why the requested changes will better serve the child’s interest.  

Factors that Can Lead to Modification

The court will consider several factors while determining whether a custody order should be modified. 

Some of the questions that the court will consider are:

  • Which parent can provide a safe and healthy residence for the child?
  • Which parent has the ability to care for the child’s daily needs?
  • Who has the capacity to provide maximum supervision to the child?
  • How will the child get regular emotional support? 
  • Who has been the primary caregiver to the child?
  • Are there allegations of domestic violence or child abuse in the household? 
  • Are there concerns about drug and alcohol abuse?

The court will look for answers to all of these questions before it makes a determination.

Process of Changing Custody Agreement

First, you must file a petition, called a Request for Order, in the proper family court based on your zip code.. Second, you must serve the conformed copy of the petition to the opposing party. 

Third, you wait for a response and if necessary, provide a reply to their response. 

The next step is setting the date of trial. You will be given the opportunity to argue your case and state why you want to renegotiate the custody agreement. The respondent will also make a presentation in court.

Generally, the court will render its decision immediately after both parties have made the presentation. In this case, the custody agreement will be modified on the spot, and you can walk away with your child on the same day. However, some trials may lead to further review and deliberations among the affected parties.

Remember that the evidence presented must convince the court that its original ruling was not in the child’s best interest. That is because custody rulings are primarily meant to ensure and protect the welfare of the child. For instance, you can state that the respondent is a drug addict and, therefore, has a bad influence on the child. You will then request the court to ask the respondent to do a drug test.

Bottom Line

You can renegotiate the terms of your child custody agreement in California. However, you will first need to talk to a qualified lawyer to guide you through the process. The lawyer will help you to gather the evidence and present it in court.




[image courtesy of pexels, this article has been updated for 2024]  

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