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California parents can change custody orders

Divorced California parents who have received custody and visitation orders may find it helpful to know that these orders aren't necessarily permanent. Parents with orders that don't function as intended may renegotiate their terms, and although parents that both agree to new terms can devise their own agreements for submission to the court, such consensus isn't strictly required. One parent can also formally request a modification.

Formal hearings are necessary for all changes to existing court orders, as a judge must decide on the new terms and sign any amended order. Parents may have to attend mediation sessions or similar orientations prior to their hearing dates. Mediators may assist parents with writing agreements and help prepare workable resolutions to outstanding custody or visitation problems, but because the rules requiring orientation vary, parents are advised to consult with their court clerks about the steps they need to fulfill.

People may request modifications for a range of reasons, and the court system says it's important to consider the circumstances that have changed since the previous custody and visitation order went into effect. Parents need to demonstrate that due to significant changes, their children's best interest would be better served by a new agreement.

Parenting plans don't always remain workable. Changes like losing employment, being forced to move or experiencing events like accidents may make it impossible for parents to satisfy their existing terms and thus jeopardize their right to custody. Before failure to comply results in the loss of visitation rights or other court-ordered penalties, parents may wish to learn about their legal options and the requirements for filing for modifications in their local court systems.

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