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Legal Information: California


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January 11, 2024

If a custody order is already in place, how can I get it changed?

If you have a final custody order already in place, you can petition the judge to make changes to it (modify it) only if there has been a substantial (significant) change in circumstances since the custody order was issued. The judge may modify the custody order if, based on these new circumstances, s/he feels that the modification would be in the child’s best interests.1

It is also possible that before filing a petition to modify a current order, the parent can ask the judge to refer the matter for mediation and the judge has the power to do so.2

However, if you are looking to modify or terminate a joint custody order, the judge may do so if you can show it is in the best interests of the child without showing a substantial change in circumstances.3 Also, if both parents request it, a custody order giving one parent sole custody can be changed to a joint custody agreement if it’s in the child’s best interests.4

1 See, for example, In re Marriage of Lucio, 161 Cal.App.4th 1068 (2008)
2 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 3170(a)(2)
3 See Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 3087
4 See Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 3088