When to consider modifying your child custody agreement

Flicker, Kerin, Kruger & Bissada LLP

When your current custody agreement went into effect, it was based on a snapshot of your family life at the time and conjecture when it came to what could happen in the future. You and the other parent may have considered how things might need to change as your children aged, but you could only account for so many potential changes.

Now, you may be wondering whether things are working out as you thought they would. Should you consider modifying your agreement? That depends on the circumstances, since courts, including those here in California, generally don’t consider changing agreements that seem to work.

When would the court consider a change?

If you are considering a change to your child custody agreement, you may want to remember that the court will need to approve any changes you and the other parent make or want to make. The most common circumstances in which the court would consider modifying your agreement include those listed below:

  • If one of the parents dies, the other parent does not automatically receive full custody of the children, which surprises many people. Even though remaining with the surviving parent is preferable, the court will still need to ascertain whether that parent can provide for the children’s needs and otherwise serve their best interests and maybe their preference.
  • If you believe your children are in danger when with the other parent, you will need to prove it to the court. If the court views the situation in your favor, the modification may proceed.
  • If the other parent consistently fails to follow the existing order, if the schedule just doesn’t work as well in reality as it does on paper, the other parent’s work schedule changes or your communication is not as it should be, a modification may be in order.
  • If you want to relocate with the children, you will need the court’s approval, especially if it interferes with the current custody arrangements. You will first need to prove to the court that the move will benefit the children’s best interests, and then you will need to propose a way to restructure the other parent’s visitation to allow adequate time with and access to the children.

You may have another reason for wanting to modify your current custody arrangement. As long as you prove to the court that the change will serve the best interests of the children and not cause them undue harm, any agreement you and the other parent come to should receive the court’s approval. The key is to provide the appropriate evidence that the modification is warranted and the other parent’s consent, if possible.

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