Can I Modify My Custody Arrangement Without Going To Court?

Aug 1, 2023 | Blog

As your children grow and change and life brings its own changes to you and your co-parent, custody arrangements can become outdated. Nothing is more important than the happiness and well-being of your children, and you want your custody arrangement to reflect that. 

The good news is that you don’t always have to go to court to modify your custody arrangement. If you and your co-parent can agree on modifications and come up with a parenting plan together, it’s possible that a judge will sign off on the new custody arrangement.

When Can I Ask to Change the Custody Arrangement?

You can ask for a change in custody arrangement at any time in California. In most instances, a judicial officer will not second guess two parents’ agreement that a modification to their parenting plan is appropriate and in their child’s best interest. 

There are many scenarios that may motivate a parent to seek a modification to the existing custody and visitation order. This may include:

  • You or your co-parent plan on relocating.
  • Significant changes to employment such as a heavily altered work schedule. 
  • Your child wants to spend more time with you or your co-parent.
  • You or your co-parent have moved closer to the child.
  • One parent refuses to follow the custody order. 

How to Change a Custody Arrangement 

At Alaimo Boyer we often explain to parents that maintaining some level of flexibility in your co-parenting is valuable and important. You will generally get the same degree of flexibility from the other parent as you give to them. However, if changes are more than a one-off modification of the parenting plan, it is important to memorialize that change into an enforceable order.  

This is important because an oral agreement is not enforceable by California law. You must have a judge’s signature for the change to be legally enforceable. Fortunately, if you and the co-parent are in total agreement, the judge will most likely approve your agreement to  modify existing orders and, if done correctly, neither of you will have to appear in Court.  

Once a tentative agreement is reached, you can memorialize that agreement into a Stipulation which the Court will adopt as an order. Having an attorney review and advise you on the potential implications of a modification to custody and visitation is important, as the terms may have significant implications for years to come, including on issues that are not explicitly addressed in the stipulation. 

Co-Parent Not in Agreement? Hire a Mediator

If you are in disagreement with your co-parent about the change in child custody, mediation may be helpful. A mediator is a neutral third party that comes in and tries to find a solution that works with both parties to come to a consensus. 

Trial tends to be costly for both parties, can be emotionally draining for you and your co-parent as well as your children, and takes significant time to resolve. If you’re open to mediation, it can help you move through the process with more ease. 

At Alaimo Boyer, we offer child custody and mediation services to California families. We understand that your primary concern is the well-being of your child, and we will work with you to find a solution that’s in their best interest. If you’re looking for a mediator or family law attorney, don’t hesitate to contact us.