Have circumstances changed with your custody order? Do you feel a modification may be needed but unsure what to do? 


Fact is, it can be a bit stressful trying to modify a final Order once the entry of judgment has been completed. But it’s not impossible. 


It’s important to know where to start. 


Under California Family Code, when there is a “final custody order” in place, before there can be any modifications made, you must first demonstrate two things:


  • There’s been a significant change in circumstances that has essentially impacted the child(ren).
  • It’s in the best of the child(ren) that the Court grants the modification.


Some reasons that can factor in a change are:


  • Any changes to the parent that make it difficult to follow the current custody plan.
  • A change in one parent’s physical or mental health.
  • The parents’ relationship has become more negative or altered in some way.
  • One or both parents’ level of involvement in the child’s life has changed.
  • Deliberate acts of interference to prevent the other parent from spending time with their child.
  • Significant change in financial stability to either parent.
  • The amount of time the child spends with each parent has changed.
  • Allegations of child abuse/neglect or substance abuse.
  • Living environment or accommodations a parent can provide has significantly changed. 


Keep in mind, any one of these factors alone might not be enough to obtain a modification of the order but two or more together may be enough evidence for the Court to grant the change.


In California, when requesting a modification of a custody order, there’s several steps that must be followed:


  1. You must first file a petition in the Family Court by filling out the Request for Order (Form FL-300) This will start the process. You’ll have to explain the necessity of the change to the existing order. You can also fill out the Child Custody and Visitation Time Application  (Form FL-311) This is optional but it has helpful information regarding visiting and holiday schedules among other things.


  1. Have your forms reviewed by a Court’s family law facilitator.


  1. Make at least 2 copies of all your forms.


  1. File your forms with the Court Clerk.


  1. Get your Court or Mediation date. (The Court may require you to go to mediation first.)


  1. Serve your papers on the other parent-Use a process server (NOT YOURSELF) to serve a copy along with a blank Responsive Declaration to Request for Order (Form FL-320) before the Court date. Keep in mind they MUST be served 16 days prior to the Court Date.


  1. File Your Proof of Service.


  1. Go to your hearing.


Once the Judge makes their decision at the hearing, he/she will sign a Court Order which will replace your existing Order. 


Filing a modification of a final order isn’t easy. The best thing to do is to consult with a family law attorney to discuss your options to help you have a successful outcome.