Can Child Custody Be Re-Negotiated in California?
Child custody issues can become increasingly difficult during divorce proceedings. The choice of which parent will have full custody is left to the court’s discretion. The judgments made by the court to carry out these agreements differ from case to case because every custody scenario is unique. Although seemingly finite, child custody agreements can be negotiated and redefined based on situational changes with either or both parents.
How Is Child Custody Decided?
Child custody is resolved in one of two ways, depending on whether the parents of a child are married or not. If a child’s parents are not married, the mother will typically be given custody. However, if the mother is unable to care for the child, the court may decide to give the child to the father if he is present. If the father is also unable to care for the child, another relative or foster parent may take on legal guardianship of the child.
When deciding custody of children when parents divorce, the court will consider each parent’s capacity for responsibility as well as any prior commitments related to the child. The court will consider all relevant factors, such as any information offered by either party that can demonstrate the parent’s suitability as a caregiver. This includes maintaining medical records, attending to school-related obligations, and generally being involved in a child’s life. Custody arrangements are often set during the divorce process. However, they can become quite contentious if one parent believes they are better able to parent a shared child than their ex-spouse.
Why Can Custody Agreements Change?
In California, parents have until their children are no longer minors to change a child custody arrangement. However, a judge may only grant adjustments if a parent asks for them. To be granted, a request must be considered necessary or appropriate for the child’s best interests. Some common reasons for changes to child custody agreements can include:
- Financial Stability: A custody adjustment may be necessary if either parent’s financial situation has significantly changed since the original custody arrangement was created. For instance, one parent loses their job or has serious health problems that prevent them from working. The judge might determine it is appropriate for a child to reside with the other parent until the situation improves.
- Parent Relocation: For some careers, moving to a different city or state can be a necessary step toward a great job opportunity. For those sharing custody of children, relocating to a city or state far away from a co-parent can mean a renegotiation of child custody terms. For example, if a parent moves from California to New York for a job, and their current custody agreement has their children staying with them on weekends, flying cross-country every week is not feasible. The custody agreement must be changed in this scenario.
- Child Endangerment: Although child custody battles are meant to place children in homes that ensure their safety, the courts can sometimes make a mistake. If a child’s home ends up being unfit to properly care for them, another parent or guardian who shares custody with the unfit parent can apply to either regain or change a custody agreement to place that child in the right home.
Can an Application for Custody Re-Negotiation Be Denied?
There are several reasons why a court can decide to change the terms of a child custody arrangement. However, there are also some reasons why the petition might be rejected. They consist of, but are not limited to:
- The child is best served by the current situation.
- One parent has exhausted all of their permitted attempts to modify custody without success.
- A proposed alteration will dramatically alter the child’s living circumstances and might even be harmful or uncomfortable for the child.
- A request from one parent has not been approved by the other parent.
It is imperative to ensure that a request for a custody change is legally sound before submitting any information to the court. Speaking with an attorney beforehand is always best in these cases.
Q: Do mothers always get custody?
A: If the mother and father are not wed, she will almost always have custody of the child. Unmarried mothers are not required to file a claim if they choose to involve the father in their child’s life. The single person responsible for the child’s general welfare, including housing, education, medical care, etc., will be the unmarried mother. However, she must be physically and mentally faultless to be granted full custody.
Q: Can parents mutually agree on custody plans?
A: In California, any parent may have primary custody, or both parents may share primary custody. Although the judge has the final say about custody and visitation, they will typically accept the parenting plan that both parents have agreed upon. If the parents cannot agree, the judge will decide at a court proceeding. A mediator from Family Court Services will typically meet with the parents before the judge decides on custody and visitation.
Q: Can custody renegotiations change child support?
A: One or both parents may seek to have a judge modify a child support agreement after the order has been made. They must demonstrate that a “change in circumstances” has occurred since the previous child support order was issued. It is permitted to request a modification of a previous child support agreement to lower the payment amounts. It is not necessary to demonstrate a change in circumstances to do so.
Q: If divorced parents get back together, does that custody agreement stay in place?
A: Child custody agreements are supposed to let split parents independently care for their children. If two parents agree to get back together, the terms of this agreement would be nullified by their union. Because both parents are now living together, they would both be considered legal guardians of the child.
Renegotiating Child Custody Agreements
Renegotiations in child custody agreements, especially for parents seeking full custody, are available for parents seeking modifications to their plans. Finding a family law attorney that can accurately and effectively review the information needed for these petitions is necessary before going to court. At Bickford Blado & Botros, our team of family law attorneys can handle any child custody case, so get in touch with us today for a consultation.
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