Modifying a Family Court Order in California

Posted in Divorce on January 28, 2022

Once the courts grant an order for child custody, child support or alimony in a legal separation or divorce case, it must be followed. Disobeying a court order can lead to legal and even criminal consequences. It may be possible to modify a family court order in California, however, if you go through the right channels. You must have a valid reason to request the change and submit the required paperwork, or else attend a modification court hearing.

Renegotiate With Your Ex-Spouse

The easiest way to modify a family court order in California is by working out an agreement with your ex-spouse and mutually signing off on the changes. California law gives a couple the legal right to change a court order using an agreement. A judge will only sign off on the change, however, if it is in the best interests of the parties involved. This is especially true if two parents are attempting to modify a child custody or visitation order. 

As circumstances change, you may wish to renegotiate court orders with your ex every two to three years. Once you both agree on modifications to the orders, you will need to fill out the required court forms, sign a Stipulation and Order for Custody and/or Visitation of Children, and get the judge to sign off on the stipulation. Then you will need to submit these forms to the court clerk to make them official.

Go to the Court to Request a Modification

If you and your ex do not agree on the desired modification of a family court order, your other option is filing a petition with the courts. A petition for the modification of a family court order requires specific forms in California. You can find these forms online, ask an attorney for them or visit the courthouse to request them. It is beneficial to have your forms reviewed by a family law attorney before you submit them to the courts. Once you submit your forms, you will receive your court or mediation date. The forms will then need to be served on your ex.

Attend Mediation

Many courthouses in California make mediation a legal requirement before a modification case goes to trial. Mediation is a meeting between both parties involved in a legal dispute and a third-party mediator who is there to help resolve conflicts. Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution that can help a couple reach a settlement agreement and avoid taking a modification case to court.

State Your Case at a Court Hearing

If mediation fails to help you and your ex reach an agreement on a court order modification, your case will proceed to trial. During a court case, the filing party (the petitioner) has the burden of proof. It is up to the petitioner to demonstrate proof and provide evidence that supports the request being made. If you are requesting a modification of a child support agreement, for example, you must show evidence that your financial circumstances have substantially changed from the time that a judge granted the original order. 

In general, a family law judge in California will only grant a modification request if there is adequate proof that the change is warranted. For example, the petitioner may need to prove that he or she was fired or demoted, relocated to a new state, or had a new baby with a different partner. Likewise, if the petitioner is attempting to prove a change in the other party’s circumstances, the petitioner will need to show evidence of remarriage, a new job or incapacity as a parent.

Get Assistance From a Family Law Attorney in California

Hiring a lawyer can improve the legal process if you wish to modify a family court order in California. A lawyer can help you and your ex-spouse reach an agreement on the change, for example, or prepare evidence to present during a hearing on your behalf. For more information about requesting the modification of a court order in Solana Beach, contact Ratzer|Dobis to arrange a consultation.