Modifying Custody and Visitation Orders

If you and your former spouse had children together, an important part of your divorce proceeding likely involved determining custody and visitation arrangements that would be in each child’s best interest. Of course, things change over time, so what made sense at the time of your divorce might no longer be the most appropriate arrangement years later.

Even though they may say “final” or “permanent”, child custody orders and visitation agreements are, thankfully, not carved in stone. However, even if you and your co-parent agree that changed circumstances necessitate a change to those agreements, it is important to have them officially modified either through filing a formal modification to the agreement or filing a motion with the court. This can protect you – and your children – in the event there is a later claim you violated the terms of the written orders.

Common Reasons To Modify Custody And Visitation

Some of the most common reasons for modifying existing custody or visitation orders is because the schedule doesn’t work for your child anymore due to their school or extracurricular activities, either parent’s work schedule has changed or your co-parent violates the agreement.

Modifications do not need to stem from one parent’s violation, however, you may also want to modify a child custody or visitation order if there has been a substantial change in circumstances for you or for your former spouse.

For example, if one of you has taken a job outside of your geographical area, it may make sense to modify your parenting plans to address the changes. Another example involves a situation where your child’s other parent’s living situation has changed, making the environment one you believe is no longer in your child’s best interest.

How Do I Modify Existing Parenting Orders?

If you and your co-parent agree to the changes, then a Stipulation & Order can be filed with the Court modifying your current orders.  The other option is to file a motion with the Court requesting the modification.  When one parent files to modify an existing parenting order, they need to abide by state laws which dictate notice requirements to the other parent.

Prior to attending your hearing in Court, you and your co-parent will attend mediation, provided by the Court, where you may or may not reach an agreement.  If you do not reach an agreement, a recommendation will be provided to your judge.

During a hearing on a motion to modify a custody or visitation order, the parent asking the court to make changes to the plan will need to present evidence documenting the reasons for the request and why the requested changes are in your child’s best interest.

Factors Courts Consider When Evaluating Motions To Modify Custody

As with the original custody or visitation orders, the court will want to make decisions that are in your child’s best interest, based on the evidence they have available to review.

Some of the things courts consider include:

  • How the requested change would benefit the child’s well-being;
  • The environment the child would be living in or visiting;
  • The parents, custodians or other adults’ conduct;
  • The bond between the child and each parent;
  • Whether the requested change would provide stability for the child;
  • Whether the parents’ emotional and/or physical health may limit their ability to care for the child;
  • The child’s preferences, with limitations; and
  • Most importantly, the overall best interests of the child.

A change to a custodial or visitation arrangement will not automatically change child support orders. If the reason for changing custody or visitation will impact support too, it’s important to address child support at the same time with your attorney.

A Family Law Attorney Can Help

If you are considering modifying existing child support or visitation orders, or if your co-parent has indicated a desire to do so, working with an experienced child custody attorney can help protect your child’s best interest.  It is important to have an experienced, knowledgeable family law attorney by your side who can advocate on your behalf. 

For more information, call our law firm at (619) 866-3756 or reach out to us via email by visiting our contact us page.

The information and materials on this blog are provided for general informational or educational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. Being general in nature, the information and materials provided do not apply to any specific factual or legal circumstances. No attorney-client relationship is formed with any attorney employed by San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC nor should any such relationship be implied by the information provided or by any comments posted. The information provided is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Past performance does not guarantee future results.