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Need to Change Your California Custody or Visitation Order?

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Even in normal (non-pandemic) circumstances, our lives can change so much from year to year. We can anticipate some of these changes, but life is mostly about adapting to changes. Those who have children with an ex understand the need for modifying one or more court orders that have to do with the children’s care. Children’s needs change, and parents sometimes aren’t able to provide the same level of support as they were when the order was originally finalized. 

As a reminder, there are two types of child custody in California: legal and physical.

  • Legal custody refers to the right of parents to make certain decisions about a child’s upbringing. This typically involves religious, educational, and health care matters. 
  • Physical custody simply has to do with a child’s living arrangements. 

Either type of custody can be held solely by one parent or jointly between both parents. It’s common in California for one parent to have primary physical custody of children; the other parent usually has at least some visitation time. Parents with joint physical custody don’t always have exactly the exact same amount of time with their children.

Procedure for Changing a Family Court Order

If both parents do not agree on new custody arrangements, a petitioner in California uses Form FL-300 to change or request temporary emergency orders connected to child custody (in addition to child support, domestic violence orders, visitation, spousal support, and attorney’s fees). If you are the petitioner, be sure to make at least a few copies of the document. You’ll need to file it with the court clerk and have someone qualified serve your ex-spouse with the papers. Don’t do it yourself. 

You should get your court date soon after submitting Form FL-300. Some petitioners are required to attend mediation before going to court for modifications. After your ex gets served with the papers, you will need to file Form FL-330 (Proof of Personal Service) with the court. 

You Can’t Petition For a Change Just Because You Want To

Again, as long as you and the other parent agree on the modification, all you need to do is sign a few forms and submit it to the court for approval. If, however, your ex is fighting you on the change, you will need to prove that you have a good reason for petitioning. The law refers to these reasons as “significant changes in circumstances.” What could that look like? 

  • A parent, who has joint physical custody, relocates to another state. 
  • A child expresses his preference for changing residences. The courts give more weight to this factor the older the child is. 
  • A parent begins abusing alcohol or drugs and is thus an unfit parent. 
  • Another significant change that’s unforeseen and likely to last a long time. 

You Need An Attorney
Well, you aren’t required by law to have an attorney represent you when you’re requesting a modification in California. Any judge or person with knowledge of the legal system would advise you to have one, though. There are many rules and complex requirements that an attorney knows about, but might not be apparent for everyone else. Anthoor Law Group represents Californians dealing with a diverse array of family law and estate planning matters. What can we do for you?

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The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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