A California custody order discusses the general division of parenting time and other legal responsibilities that affect the adults in a family. A child’s parents can put together a very detailed parenting plan that talks about everything from how the family will share holidays to the disciplinary and educational expectations for the children.
It has become very common in recent years for families to seek a parenting schedule that is as close to 50/50 as possible. However, not every family reaches such a solution. Occasionally, either due to mutual agreements or a judge’s interpretation of family circumstances, one adult in the family will have much more parenting time than the other. In such cases, the adult who sees the children less can eventually ask the court to modify the custody order to grant them more time with their children.
What does a modification require?
A custody modification typically involves either the cooperation of the parents or a judge reviewing the family circumstances to see how things have changed. If a parent has stabilized their finances, improved their relationship with the children or mental health issues, like addiction, that affected their parenting previously, a modification might be a smart option.
If both adults agree on what would be best for the children in the household, they can cooperate to submit uncontested modification paperwork. A judge can update the custody order to reflect their new agreement relatively quickly. However, when the parents disagree about the division of parenting time, then the matter will involve a contested modification request and a hearing in front of a judge.
The judge will review any evidence of changed family circumstances and can then potentially make some updates to the existing custody order. Most judges would prefer to see the parents working with each other and being as involved with the children as possible. A parent who has made significant efforts to improve their circumstances will often be able to convince a judge that granting them more time with the children would be in their best interests.
A parent with clear evidence of how their circumstances have changed and of how their involvement with the children is beneficial will typically have a better chance of obtaining their desired outcome in a litigated modification scenario. Being willing to go back to court and seek more parenting time can be stressful but potentially worthwhile for adults whose challenging personal circumstances previously limited their access to and time with their children.