It’s unreasonable to expect your life to continue in the same way forever. You might get a new job, you might move out of state, or you might suffer a severe injury that changes how you accomplish day to day responsibilities. When such a significant change occurs, you may have reasons for wanting to update an existing child custody order.

After a child custody order is final, courts can be reluctant to change them as it can disrupt the child’s daily routine. In California, a significant change in circumstances needs to occur for the court to modify your agreement. The following are some instances of significant change:

  • Your income increased or decreased, such as due to a promotion or job loss.
  • You received an inheritance.
  • You developed a long-term illness or injury that results in disability.
  • You or your former spouse has a new partner.
  • You or your former spouse develop an unhealthy dependency on alcohol or drugs.
  • Your child’s needs have changed.

These significant circumstances are reasons for requesting a change in custody. In which case, there are generally two options available for you:

  • You and your former spouse agree on the change. If the two of you agree on new terms for your custody order, you can file an agreement with the court directly.
  • You and your former spouse don’t agree. If you want to change the custody order, but your spouse doesn’t agree, you will have to file papers with the court for a modification. You will have to appear before the court to make your case before the court will either deny or grant modification.

In the end, modification tends to come down to what’s in the child’s best interests. As long as the change does not drastically uproot your child’s life, a court will likely approve the modification. If you’ve recently gone through major change in your life, you may want to consult with a family law attorney who can help determine if you have grounds for updating your child custody arrangement.