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How do you change a child custody order in California?

Under certain circumstances, California laws allow for a change in child custody order. One or both parents may seek to change a child custody order, due to a variety of reasons such as an increase in the age of the child, or his or her changing needs, activities and interests.

There could also be a change in circumstances, such as parents changing jobs, a change in income of either parents or loss of employment. When such a change in child custody order is sought, both the custodial and the noncustodial parent often need to go through the process of mediation to renegotiate their agreement before the court hearing.

The most essential element for a successful child custody modification is the presence of a substantial change in circumstances since either the entering of the child custody order, the last modification of the order or the last adjustment. When there is a substantial change in circumstances, a parent can seek a hearing at the court to modify the existing custody order. In order to ask for a hearing, court forms need to be filled up such as the Information Sheet for Request for Order and a Request for Order form. There is also a Child Custody and Visitation Application attachment which can be filled out by a parent if needed.

Following the filling up of forms, a parent can have the forms reviewed by the family law facilitator of the court. Next, the forms need to be filed with the court clerk after paying a fee. If a parent is incapable of affording the fee, a fee waiver can be requested.

The court clerk will then issue a mediation date or date of hearing whichever is applicable. The other parent needs to be served following the process of filing. The last step is to attend the mediation and the hearing where a modification is granted by the judge based on whether the judge is of the opinion that such a modification is important for the best interests of the child.

Source:, "Changing a Custody Order," accessed on Oct. 21, 2014

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John T. Chamberlin, Attorney at Law
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