Can a Child Custody Order Be Changed?

With a divorce judgment in hand, everything might seem final. But when children are involved, there are plenty of reasons to revisit that judgment and change a parenting plan. As children get older, changing needs can make a modification of custody order inevitable. New spouses, homes or jobs, or loss of jobs and income, also present opportunities to reconsider earlier arrangements.

Even with an agreement between parents, there's nothing to keep one party from requesting a change in the future if they feel the circumstances so dictate. Child custody orders are always modifiable. However, a parent seeking the change must show there's been a significant change in circumstances since the final order and that the new proposed order is in the children's best interest.

Common reasons for seeking a change of custody include a change in work schedule, a move, a child's preference (depending on the child's age) and also parental irresponsibility. When preparing for mediation or a court hearing, take note of all the changes since the last order and what type of parenting plan would be best for the children. A parent keeping the child from the other can be a damaging change of circumstance. Keep in mind that courts will be hesitant to modify an order unless the change is significant. A slight change in circumstances may not be enough to justify a modification request

Once a child is 14 years old, the court (in California) is required to consider the preference of that child, unless that preference isn't in the child's best interests. If you think your child's preference is inconsistent with his or her health, safety and education, you should address those concerns with the court.

If you anticipate a dispute over child custody arrangements, be sure to maintain communication records as well as gift receipts and cards to clarify any miscommunications over time spent with children. When the court revisits child custody arrangements, an involved parent has increased odds of a more favorable parenting plan.

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