A matter as delicate as child custody often does not end with the finalization of a court order. Although a judge will get the final say on a custody matter, one parent will have the power to request a custody modification at any time in the future, with a valid cause. The courts in California may hear a child custody modification request if the parent or guardian has a good reason to request the change. Otherwise, a judge may dismiss the petition until the guardian has a better reason to request a modification.
An Older Child Wishes to Change Custody
If the child of divorce is now old enough for the courts to consider his or her opinion on where the child would like to live, the courts may allow a hearing for a potential custody modification. Although California does not have a law mandating a judge must listen to the opinion of a child during a custody case, most will consider what the child has to say if he or she is old enough to knowledgably give an opinion. If a few years have passed since the original order and the child would prefer to live with the other parent, a judge may agree to reconsider the custody case.
The Custodial Parent Loses a Job
In a case involving a custodial parent losing his or her job, this change of situation could be enough to warrant child custody modification. The loss of a job could make it impossible for the custodial parent to continue caring for the children. The parent may, therefore, wish to request a custody modification temporarily until he or she finds a job. The parent may alternately wish to ask for greater child support payments from the noncustodial parent to cover childcare expenses between jobs. Going to the courts after the loss of a job could lead to a legal and enforceable custody modification.
The Children Are in Danger
One of the greatest motivators a parent may have to seek custody modification is the belief that the other parent is abusing, mistreating or neglecting the children. If one parent suspects the children are in immediate danger due to domestic violence, the courts may order a temporary protective order while resolving the case. A judge may then grant a custody modification request that asks for less, supervised or no parenting time for the abusive spouse. The parent seeking the modification will need proof of the other parent’s criminal or negligent behaviors for the courts to accept the request. A child custody lawyer can help with these complex cases.
One Parent Needs to Relocate
Parents who share custody must follow state laws when it comes to moving with kids. California’s relocation laws state that if the move could negatively impact the children, a judge may need to step in to modify the custody order. Otherwise, a custodial parent may be free to move as he or she likes, as long as that parent provides the other with written notice at least 45 days before the move. The other parent will then have the opportunity to request custody modification if he or she has a problem with the move. A relocation hearing can be complicated and require help from an attorney.
One Parent Dies
If the children lose a parent after a divorce, court intervention will be necessary to decide on a new custody arrangement. The surviving parent will not automatically get full custody. Instead, the courts will need to look at what would be in the best interests of the children. This may include splitting custody with other guardians, such as grandparents or godparents. In general, however, a judge will prefer children to remain with the surviving parent if it is in the children’s best interests.