How Do I Change My Family Court Order and When Should I Do It?

Family Law

When should you change your Family Court order?  When it no longer serves the needs of your family.  

For example, if a custody order is entered when your baby girl is two years old, it may say she stays with each parent for 2 or 3 days and then trades back.  This is an appropriate order for a small child with a developing memory. It helps the child attach to both parents and adjust to two different households. However, when your baby girl is 14 years old, she will not want to shuttle between the homes every few days and you will probably see some rebellion.  This is not the time to say, “but the Family Court Order says you have to do it!” It is the time to get a new Family Court Order.  

How do you change the Family Court Order?

If you and your former spouse get along (and good for you, if you do!) you can agree to new terms, have a family law attorney prepare the order and enter it.  This process works for any ongoing Family Court Order, custody, visitation, spousal support, or child support.  

It is important to remember to modify the Family Court Order with a new Family Court Order.  An informal agreement, even if written, will not be enforceable by a court. So, if the other party decides he or she no longer wants to honor the agreement, the court cannot enforce it. 

If you are not on friendly terms with your ex, do not worry.  You do not have to have an agreement, you may ask the court to modify an existing Family Court Order.  You must file a Request for Order with the court that issued the Family Court Order you already have. For example, if Department 2 of the San Diego Superior Court issued the order several years ago, you file the Request for Order with the same department.  

How to Modify an Existing Family Court Order with a Request for Order:

A Child Custody Family Court Order may be modified when you are able to show that there has been a “significant change of circumstances” to support the modification, and the court finds the modification “necessary and proper” for the child’s best interest.  A “significant change in circumstances” can be anything, e.g., if one of you wishes to move away, it is time to adjust the custody schedule for a good reason (the child wants to spend more time with a parent) or for a bad reason (one of the parents is no longer suitable because of neglect, abuse, substance abuse, or is unreliable).  

You may need to modify a spousal support order.  If, circumstances may have changed since your Family Court Order for spousal support order was made, and the supported spouse or the supporting spouse may request a modification of the existing Family Court Order. Good reasons to modify a spousal support order include the supported party is not making a good faith effort toward being self-supporting, the supported party remarries, and the support needs to be ended, or the income of either the party has changed.  

Child support is also modifiable, even if the parties have already agreed that child support will not be modified. If you believe that child support should be lowered or raised, you should seek advice from a family law attorney and act immediately 

If something occurs that makes it necessary for you to change an existing order, it is important that you have the proper legal representation to act as soon as possible. JWB Family Law attorneys have the experience and knowledge to provide the guidance and representation needed when you are filing a Request for Order to modify a Family Court Order. 

The Importance of the CFLS Designation

A Certified Family Law Specialist, or CFLS, is an attorney who has obtained certification in the standards of California family law and demonstrated optimal legal competence. Attorneys who obtain this certification have specific expertise in all aspects of family law, which includes divorce or the dissolution of marriagechild and spousal support, child custody, and temporary restraining orders, among other areas of emphasis.

Not every attorney practicing family law has obtained this certification. In fact, the designation remains relatively rare—there are fewer than 2,000 CFLS attorneys in California and fewer than 200 in San Diego.

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