San Diego is home to many military installations. Consequently, its courts see many requests to modify child custody and child support orders issued by courts in other states. The order modification process as set up by the courts in San Diego has many steps that must be followed, and the failure to take a required step can defeat a request for modification almost before it has been filed.
The first steps in seeking modification of an order
The first step in seeking modification of an existing child custody or child support order is determining which court has jurisdiction over the child. California is bound to follow the Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act and the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). These federal statutes were enacted to ensure that only one court can exercise jurisdiction over the child. The question of establishing jurisdiction can be legally complex, almost requiring the hiring of an experienced divorce attorney before the motion papers are filed.
Filing the motion
Once the jurisdiction of the California courts is established, the party seeking the change must obtain a certified copy of the order for child support or custody from the court that issued the initial orders. The certified copy of the order must be filed with the clerk of the San Diego Family Court. In addition, the clerk will ask the moving party to complete additional paperwork, including an order to show cause, before a new case can be opened. Once the original order has been filed, the moving party can file and serve the order to show cause to initiate the motion proceeding.
Consideration of the motion
The motion will be placed on the court’s docket as if it had been originally filed in California. The court will set a hearing date at which both parties are expected to appear. The court will first determine whether either party (or both) have experienced a “significant change in circumstances” that would justify consideration of the requested modification.
Each party will be given an opportunity to present evidence that is relevant to the motion. The court will review the evidence to determine whether the proposed modification will serve the “best interests of the child.” This test involves many factors, including how the child relates to its parents and to friends and other members of the family, how the child is doing in school, and whether the proposed modification will adversely affect the child. The court may also consider any other factors that are deemed to be relevant to the child’s best interests.
Sound legal advice
Both parties to the motion for modification may wish to be represented by lawyers. As noted, the jurisdictional issues may be complex, and the help of an experienced family lawyer can be essential to a successful outcome.