Changing Custody Agreement in California

Changing Custody Agreement in California: A Guide for Parents

Going through a divorce or separation can be one of the most difficult experiences in life, especially when it comes to the custody of children. Custody agreements are legally binding documents that determine how parents will share custody of their children after a separation or divorce. However, circumstances may change over time, and a modification to the original custody agreement may be necessary. In California, changing a custody agreement requires following certain legal procedures. In this article, we will discuss how to change a custody agreement in California.

What is a Custody Agreement?

A custody agreement is a legal document that outlines how parents will share the care and responsibility of their children after a divorce or separation. This agreement usually covers issues such as who has physical custody of the children, who has legal custody, visitation rights, and child support. Custody agreements can be reached through mediation or negotiated by attorneys and approved by the court. Once approved, custody agreements are legally binding.

Reasons for Changing a Custody Agreement

Changes in family dynamics, such as job loss, relocation, remarriage, or the child`s changing needs, can make it necessary to modify the custody agreement. However, the California court has strict rules regarding the modification of custody agreements. The court assumes that the original custody order is in the best interest of the child and will not modify the order unless there is a material change in circumstances that warrants modification. Such changes may include:

• A parent has relocated to another state or country

• A parent has developed a substance abuse problem

• A parent has become physically or emotionally abusive

• A parent has been incarcerated

• The child`s safety or well-being is in danger

Steps to Modify a Custody Agreement

If a parent wants to modify a custody agreement, they must file a request with the court. The following are some of the steps to follow when modifying a custody agreement:

1. Filing a Request for Modification: The parent must file a request with the court in the county where the original order was issued.

2. Serving the Other Parent: The parent must provide the other parent with a copy of the request for modification.

3. Attending a Custody Hearing: The court will schedule a hearing to review the request for modification. Both parents must attend the hearing, and the judge will consider the evidence presented to determine if a modification is in the child`s best interest.

4. Presenting Evidence: The parent requesting the modification must provide evidence to support their request. This may include testimony from experts such as doctors, teachers, or mental health professionals.

5. Reaching an Agreement: If both parents agree on the modification, they can submit a joint stipulation to the court, and the judge will approve the modification without a hearing.


Changing a custody agreement can be a complicated process, and it`s essential to follow the proper legal procedures. If you want to modify a custody agreement, it`s recommended to seek the assistance of a family law attorney. An attorney can help you understand the legal requirements, navigate the court system, and represent your interests in court. Remember, the court`s primary concern is the child`s best interest, and any modification should reflect this concern.