Now that some time has passed since you settled your divorce, you may be feeling confident that you and your children are adapting as well as expected to your new lifestyle. While you might still have a few “down” days here and there, for the most part, you have hopefully built a strong support system around yourselves that you can easily access when needed. Perhaps your extended family and closest friends are a big part of that system.
Like most good parents in California and beyond, you realize that with life comes change. Your children have likely already adapted to many changes since your divorce; however, what if a situation arises since you signed your visitation agreement that warrants further change? Depending on the exact issue at hand, you may be able to request modification of your existing court order.
Valid reasons for seeking modification
The court makes its child-related decisions carefully and while mindful of state guidelines. Therefore, it is not going to grant modification for non-legitimate reasons, such as you getting mad at your ex and wanting to deprive him or her of seeing the kids. The following list includes reasons the court may consider valid for request a change in a visitation order:
- Your work schedule has changed and you are no longer able to transport the kids to their other parent at the agreed upon time.
- You believe your former spouse’s presence has become detrimental to your children because of substance or physical abuse problem.
- Either you or your ex has relocated, and you need to adjust your visiting schedule because of that.
- You are the non-custodial parent and the custodial parent has died.
There are other reasons the court may consider legitimate for granting modification of a visitation agreement. The critical factor to keep in mind is that unless and until the court grants such modification, you and your co-parent are legally obligated to adhere to the exact terms of the existing court order, even if it is no longer feasible.
Process of modification
You must show the court that you have had a change in circumstances and thereby are in need of modification to your visitation agreement. The following information includes important facts on the topic:
- If both parents are not in agreement regarding a modification request, the issue will be filed as a contested modification application.
- If your ex contests your request, you will have to provide evidence to the court that your request is valid and is in the best interests of your children.
- Even before the court has handed down a ruling during proceedings regarding a contested request, you and your spouse can negotiate a compromise and determine a viable solution, which the court would then need to approve.
- The court to which you submit a request must have jurisdiction over the matter at hand.
- After filing a motion, the court will serve a summons, then various steps may follow, including mediation, discovery proceedings and a trial, if necessary.
Once the court makes a final decision, you and your spouse must adhere to the existing court order, whether it remains unchanged because the court has denied the request for modification or contains new terms because the court has granted the modification request. If your ex refuses to adhere or you are facing other legal complications regarding changes in your visitation order, you can seek support from someone well-versed in California child custody and visitation laws.