Existing child custody orders sometimes quit working out for one reason or another. When that happens, it's time to head back to the drawing board with your child's other parent to see if you can work out a new agreement. If you can't, then you may have to head to court to ask the judge for a modification of the previous order.
In order to be successful, it helps to understand exactly what the law requires and what the judge needs to see in order to give you that modification.
Your request needs to show the judge two things:
1. There's been a "change in circumstances" material enough to warrant a modification order.
2. That the proposed modification is in the best interests of the child.
While that might sound like a difficult order to fulfill, there are plenty of common reasons that child support modifications are sought and won:
-- An older child requests the change and is able to articulate his or her reason for the request. California's Family Code 3042 (a) gives considerable weight to the preferences of a child of "sufficient age and reason" when making custody decisions.
-- Your ex-spouse has a live-in partner or new spouse who doesn't get along with the children to the point where it seems to be having a detrimental effect on their emotional or physical health.
-- There's been an incident of domestic violence in the household where your children are living. Even if the violence wasn't directed at the child, any incident of domestic violence is enough to make the court consider a custody change because the child is still endangered by association.
-- The parent with custody develops a serious mental or physical illness. It's important to consider not just the fact that he or she is ill, but whether or not that illness is currently interfering with his or her ability to effectively parent. For example, a parent who has just received a cancer diagnosis isn't likely to be unable to care for his or her children at that particular stage of the disease.
-- The parent with custody wants to move a considerable distance away -- which could make the current visitation schedule impractical.
There are a number of other solid reasons for seeking a modification in a custody order. Since each situation is unique, an attorney can provide more information on your specific case.