How do you change a custody order?
When you and your spouse divorce, the court issues an order for child custody and visitation. Family law decisions involving children always make their interests a primary consideration. However, as your children get older, their needs and interests may change. At the same time, your circumstances, or those of your ex-spouse, may alter as you move on with your separate lives.
Whatever the reason, the initial court order for custody and visitation may not be appropriate in a few years. In fact, California Courts state that your custody and visitation order may only work for two to three years before you and your ex-spouse have to renegotiate it.
What is the process for changing a custody order?
As is true of many decisions involved in family law, the process of changing a custody order is easier if you and your ex-spouse can agree to the terms on your own. Then you can submit the agreement to the court together so that it can issue the new order.
If you and your spouse do not agree to terms, you have to request a hearing from the court. The court may require you and your ex to attend mediation prior to your court date. You can request a hearing by filling out the necessary forms, accessible online. You need at least two copies of each, one to submit to the court clerk, who schedules your court date, and one to serve to your ex-spouse.
You cannot serve the papers to your co-parent yourself. You must arrange for someone else to serve them directly to the other party in person. Once this has occurred, the person you choose to serve the papers must fill out a Proof of Personal Service form. You then need to file this with the court.
What are the grounds for changing a custody order?
The court considers whether you can demonstrate a significant change in circumstances that justifies a change to the order, such as a new job or a relocation. You must also be able to demonstrate to the court that the change is in your children’s interests.