After any divorce or legal separation that involves children in California, custody and support orders are issued. If there is a significant change in circumstances, you can petition the court to modify these orders, but the process can be complex. Below, our Salinas family lawyer explains the most important steps in the process.
Before you ask the courts to modify orders for child support, custody, or parenting time, it is a good idea to speak with an experienced Monterey County divorce and family law attorney, who can review your current orders and situation to see if a modification is appropriate and how to pursue the request.
In California, the court will only grant a modification to a support or custody order if there are specific grounds to do so. Generally speaking, there must have been a significant change in circumstances that warrants a change. It is also important to determine if a change is really necessary. For example, many people petition the court thinking they are guaranteed to get more in child support. However, while their income may have gone down, time with their child may have also decreased, which may end with them paying even more in support.
You will need to complete many forms when requesting a support or custody modification. These include the Request for Order and the Income and Expense Declaration, or a simplified Financial Statement. Make at least two copies of all of your forms.
You must file your forms with the county clerk. They will file the original and give you a stamped copy. Some jurisdictions allow for e-filing. You may have to pay a fee for filing but sometimes, this fee can be waived.
The clerk will write down your court date on Form FL-300. If you are asking to modify child custody orders, the clerk may also give you a date for a mediation session.
A third party that is at least 18 years of age must serve the other parent with the forms filed with the court. A Responsive Declaration to Request for Order, as well as a blank Income and Expense Declaration, must also be served to the other parent. The other parent can be served by mail, but service must occur at least 16 days before the court hearing, with an additional five calendar days when the paperwork is mailed. When serving the papers to the other parent in person, it must be done 16 days before the court hearing.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution. If you choose mediation to resolve your dispute, you and the other parent will meet with a mediator. The mediator is a neutral third party that will try to foster compromise and communication between each of you. If you can reach an agreement during mediation, there is no need to go to court.
It is important that you attend the court hearing listed on the form the clerk gave you. Bring all of your paperwork and work with a family law attorney that can help you prepare for the hearing.
Any time the family courts issue a new child support order, both parents have to fill out a Child Support Case Registry Form. You must fill this out even if you filled one out after the original court order. This form registers the order with the national registry, and it helps with child support enforcement. These forms are kept by the State of California and not the court records, so they do not become public.
If you need to modify a support or custody order, our Salinas family lawyer in Miranda, Magden & Miranda can help. We are very familiar with the process and will guide you through it to give you the best chance of a favorable outcome. Call us today or fill out our online form to schedule a consultation.
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