Fighting for a Change in Custody / by Cassandra Hearn

As children grow and families settle into the “new normal” of a family living in separate homes, it is typical for one or both parents to discover that the parenting schedule set by the court is simply not working. This could be because the needs of the children change, the parents obtain new jobs, or maybe the lifestyle choices of one of the parents is no longer beneficial to the children. Whatever the reason, one of the most common reasons to go to court to ask for a change of a previous order is to request a change in custody.

Modifying a previous custody order has specific requirements under California law. Following the entry of a final custody order, a trial court may thereafter make order for a modification of the order that the court finds to be “necessary and proper” in order to protect or promote the best interest of a minor child. However, the parent requesting the change must demonstrate more than just that the change is in the child’s best interest. The parent must also prove that there has been a “significant change in circumstances” that has occurred since the entry of the last order. The “significant” portion of that phrase means that the change cannot be a small change or a temporary change. Common significant changes include situations such as the custodial parent moving away, the custodial parent no longer being a fit parent, or in some situations, the preference of the child has changed. In each of these situations, it is key to note that the change of situation has a direct impact on the child’s day-to-day life.

It should also be noted that a change in custody and visitation is, as a practical matter, more difficult to achieve after the initial judgment is made. The reason for this is that courts typically favor stability and consistency for children. Judges tend to avoid disrupting a child’s schedule and home life without a substantial reason to do so.

Moreover, proving that the circumstances have changed is not sufficient to change custody alone. The requesting parent must also show that the new custody order is in the best interest of the child.

Changing a custody order is difficult and has many moving parts. We have experience in helping our clients to navigate this difficult issue. Call us today at (619) 800-0384 to talk about your children and their needs.