Puja Sachdev | September 16, 2022 | Child Custody
Parents may need to modify their child custody arrangement and parenting plan several times before their children become adults. Unfortunately, going to court each time you need to change your custody order can be time-consuming and costly. Fortunately, there is a solution.
Modifying a Child Custody Arrangement
If you and your co-parent agree to the parenting plan and custody order changes, you may submit a stipulation to the court. A judge will review the proposed changes to ensure that the child’s best interests are being protected.
If the modified terms are not contrary to the child’s best interest, the judge will typically sign the stipulation without a court hearing. The stipulation becomes the new custody order. It is legally binding and enforceable.
It is important to remember that modifying a child custody order is more than merely discussing and agreeing to the changes with your co-parent. You must submit a stipulation to the court for a judge’s signature. Otherwise, your new agreement is not binding on either parent.
Your child’s other parent could petition the court for a Rule to Show Cause because you violated the original terms of the custody order. The parent might deny that the two of you agreed to modify the custody arrangement. That’s why it’s important to submit and file the stipulation with the family court.
Filing the Stipulation
Therefore, take the next step and file the stipulation with the court to ensure that the modified custody agreement is legal and enforceable. A San Diego child custody lawyer can help you prepare and file the stipulation once you have an agreement.
A stipulation is the most cost-effective and simplest way to modify custody in California. However, hiring a lawyer to draft the stipulation and file it with the court is worthwhile. A lawyer understands how to incorporate your agreement into an order that does not create confusion or leave room for misinterpretation of the terms.
Reasons Why Parents Need to Modify a Custody Agreement
Circumstances change as we enter new phases of our lives. Children growing up have varying needs and schedules. There could be many reasons why you need to modify custody.
Some of the common reasons parents seek to modify the terms of an original custody order include:
- The child voices a preference for living with the other parent now that the child is older. Children 14 years old and older have the right to declare their preference, although the final decision is up to the judge.
- A parent with primary physical custody of the child is relocating, and the relocation impacts the custody arrangement.
- The child’s needs have changed, and the parents need to modify the custody order to adequately provide for the child’s current needs.
- The parent’s circumstances have changed, which could mean they started a new job, became ill, went back to school, or want to get remarried.
In some cases, custody agreements need to be modified because a party refuses to comply with the terms of the current custody order. For example, a parent may now be unfit or could be causing the child to be in danger of injury or harm. In those cases, the parent seeking to change custody must petition the court to modify custody because the other parent may not agree to the stipulation.
Petitioning the Court To Modify a Child Custody Order in California
When co-parents cannot agree on how to modify a child custody order, the parent who wants to modify the order must petition the court. The parent must provide the court with sufficient evidence that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred to justify a custody modification. The parent must also provide sufficient evidence to convince the judge that the change is in the child’s best interest.
Judges are reluctant to change custody orders. Children need to be in stable environments. Changes in the custody agreement can disrupt the child’s sense of security and stability.
The other parent has the opportunity to argue against the changes. The parent may offer evidence at the hearing arguing why the proposed changes to custody are unnecessary and/or not in the child’s best interest.
Factors that the court might consider when determining whether to modify custody include, but are not limited to:
- The child’s reasonable preferences
- How the change benefits or harms the child’s wellbeing
- The conduct of the parents
- The environment the child will be living in after the modification
- How the change in custody benefits the parents
- The bond between the child and parents, siblings, and other family members
- Whether a change has occurred that prevents a parent from caring for a child or providing for the child’s needs
- If a change is necessary to meet the child’s needs
- Allegations that a parent has become unfit
Before petitioning the court, you might want to check with a lawyer to determine whether your reasons for changing custody have a good chance of being considered sufficient for a judge to change custody.
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