When the divorce is final, the terms of the settlement agreement can seem ideal for the needs of everyone at that time, especially the children. But life can roll forward in unexpected ways, leaving one or both sides scrambling to keep up or make changes if necessary.
When divorcing couples in California begin to see a strain in their lifestyles or schedules due to a job change or loss, change in schools, relocation, or other family or professional circumstances, they may need to request a modification of the original court order. Residents of Carlsbad and surrounding areas can better navigate the legal system if they have skilled advocacy to help them plan for the challenges that lie ahead in making a post-decree modification.
Changing a custody order
In any case involving children, California laws prioritize what is in the best interests of the child when considering a change to an existing custody order. Of course, it is easier if the parents can agree to a modification and have a solution worked out beforehand, but this is not always possible.
When the parents cannot agree, or if one party tries to block a change, it will be necessary for the requesting parent to file a petition and schedule a court hearing. It is still possible to arrange mediation to resolve conflict, but in contentious divorce situations, the requesting parent must show in court their reasons for needing a change that:
- Presents a case for significantly changed circumstances that would require a new court order. This can involve a drastic reduction in household income, a new job that requires the parent to move away or out of state, or another important life event.
- Advocates a change that will maintain a stable and consistent level of care for and access to the child, whether the change will be custodial or in the visitation arrangement.
Moving the child
A California parent who has sole custody has the right to move with the child unless this action would have a negative effect of the child’s health, welfare, or rights. It will be up to the other parent to prove to the judge that this is the case. Where the parents have joint custody, this is also possible, but in this case, the parent initiating the request must present the reasons that this change is in the best interests of the child.
Usually, any move out of state or out of the country will require the other parent’s permission. As this change will most likely disrupt the visitation schedule, it may be necessary to get special permission from the court to travel.