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Child Custody Modification Process

What does it take to get child custody orders modified?

When a San Diego child custody order is made by a family court judge in California, it is subject to modification anytime there is a change in circumstances such that a change in the child custody or visitation orders would be in the best interests of the children.

The “best interest” standard is the golden rule in family court proceedings involving the custody of children. The family court judge has wide discretion when it comes to making orders in this area and can take into consideration a wide variety of factors and circumstances including the financial circumstances of both parents, the living conditions of both parents, the relationships and lifestyle of both parents, any history of drug or alcohol use or abuse, the choice of the children of sufficient age to reason, and even the school district wherein the parents reside.

The modification of child custody or visitation begins with the filing of a motion to modify. Once filed, the Court will set two dates. The first date is a date for the parties to attempt to mediate an agreement at what is called Family Court Services Mediation or “FCS” in San Diego County. The second is the Court date for the Judge to decide whether the current orders should be modified. If the parents do not come to an agreement at FCS, the mediator will write a report and recommendation to the judge. Each parent has he right to review the report at least 10 days prior to the hearing and either agree to the recommendations, or argue to the Judge why the Court should not adopt the recommendations of the mediator. At this time, each parent’s divorce lawyer can advise as to whether it is worthwhile to put the FCS mediator on the witness stand for cross examination. This is a costly process and should only be employed if the cross examination could prove helpful to the Judge in making orders counter to the recommendations of the FCS mediator.

At the hearing regarding child custody modification, each party will be given an opportunity to present documentary evidence, witness testimony and argument in support of his or her position. At the end of the day, the Judge has a very difficult decision to make that at least one parent will most likely disagree with. Leaving this decision in the hands of the family court judge is ultimately the result of two parents being unable to co-parent and work together for their children. At times this is necessary. However, it should be avoided if possible. Effective communication and willingness to bend is the key to staying out of family court. Child custody modifications can be obtained much easier by way of stipulation and agreement between the parents than by a nasty custody battle in court. The money spent on lawyers would be much better spent on a college fund for the kids. I always encourage settlement first and litigate child custody issues only if absolutely necessary.

This article is not meant to provide legal advice. Should you or someone you know require the advice of a San Diego family lawyer in a child custody matter, Griffith & Young can help. Call now for a free consultation with an experienced San Diego child custody lawyer at Griffith, Young & Lass 858-345-1720.

Meet Your Dedicated San Diego Family Attorneys
Family Attorney John N. Griffith, CFLS
Family Attorney John N. Griffith, CFLS

Family Attorney, John N. Griffith, CFLS

John Griffith has practiced exclusively in the area of family law since 2009. John is a Certified Family Law Specialist certified as an expert in the area of family law by the California Board of Legal Specialization.

858-345-1720
john@gylfamilylaw.com

Family Attorney, Catie E. Young, ESQ.
Family Attorney, Catie E. Young, ESQ.

Family Attorney, Catie E. Young, ESQ.

San Diego family lawyer Catie Young has a wide range of litigation experience. She has worked in civil litigation. She has successfully represented clients in many areas of family law including child support, child custody, divorce and domestic violence. She has a unique approach to each child custody case, so clients of Griffith, Young & Lass tend to gravitate toward her in these cases.

858-345-1720
catie@gylfamilylaw.com

Family Attorney Amy J. Lass, Esq.
Family Attorney Amy J. Lass, Esq.

Family Attorney, Amy J. Lass, Esq.

Amy Lass was born in New York and raised in San Diego, California. Amy graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 2003 with a B.S. in Economics with a concentration in Enterprise Accounting and went on to earn her law degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law and graduated cum laude in 2006. Amy takes a practical and cost considerate approach to the process while striving to balance the emotional needs and objectives of her clients.

858-345-1720
amy@gylfamilylaw.com

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The Typical Divorce Process in California
Discovery of Assets & Obligations (1-3 months)
1 Complaint for Divorce Filed Start of litigation
2 Complaint is Served Varies, but usually shortly after the complaint is filed
3 Answer to Complaint Due 30 days from the date of service
4 Mediation Anytime, but usually after initial discovery
5 Temporary Hearing Usually early in the process
6 Late Case Evaluation / Judicial Hosted Settlement Conference Usually near the end of the case
7 Trial (If Needed) The goal is to settle, but if your case goes to trial, it could take months after the start of litigation.
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