If you have a child custody agreement in place, can you request a new agreement? The short answer is yes, it is possible to change the conditions set forth in a child custody agreement. After all, things in your life and the lives are your children are bound to change dramatically over time. To meet these new needs, you can request for a modification to your custody agreement.
However, it is not always an easy process. Here's what you need to know.
In California, you must first be able to prove that there is a significant "change in circumstances," either for yourself of your children, that means you require a modification. In addition, the change must be what is in the best interest of your children. You can't simply request a modification because you want one. There must be a reason behind the request. Depending on the procedural history of the case, this can be a significant threshold requirement. If the court has made a final determination of custody at a contested trial, this standard will be used. The person requesting the modification will be pressed to convince the court that something has changed. There are other cases where this standard is not used but rather that the court should modify the existing order based on the "best interest of the child" standard.
This should not deter you, however, from making a request for a modification because there are many reasons why such a request may be necessary. For example, your work hours may have changed, which would make it impossible to maintain the same agreement. You might move to a new area, which would require a new agreement. Your kids might have school activities that interfere with the custody agreement. The list goes on and on.
If both parties agree to the modification, the process may be quite simple. In many cases, this process can be done without any type of formal hearing. You will still have to prove that there was a significant "change in circumstance" and/or that the modification is in the best interest of the children.
It also still requires the approval of the court and both parties must sign the modification court documents. It is recommended to have a family law attorney complete the necessary court documents or to review the documents (if the other parties if filing the request) to ensure that both you and your children's best interests are protected.
If both parties do not agree to the changes in physical and/or legal custody agreement, then the requesting parent must file a motion to modify child custody. When filing the motion, you will need to explain the "change in circumstances" as well as why the modification is in the best interest of the children. You will likely be required to go through mediation first to see if both parties can come to an agreement. If not, your case will go before the judge, who will make the final decision.
A child custody lawyer can represent you in both mediation and court to protect the rights of you and your children. Attorneys that specialize in family law have the experience necessary to formally relay to the courts your reason for the modification request and why the change is in your children's best interest. Keep in mind that modification to a child custody agreement may also affect any child support order put in place, especially if the amount of time the children spends with one parent or the other changes dramatically.
California family law courts place a lot of emphasis in doing what is in the best interest of the children. Proving this point in court, as well as the reason why the modification is necessary, will increase the likelihood of the judge granting your modification.
If you or your children have had a significant change in circumstances that affects your custody agreement and/or your children's well-being, seek out the professional services of an experienced family law attorney today. Contact the Family Law Attorneys at the Law Offices of H. William Edgar for a free initial consultation to discuss your options. 888-251-9618.