Parents who wish to modify a child custody order must take specific steps to do so. The first step is to file a Petition for Modification of Child Custody with the appropriate court clerk. In addition, a parent must file an Affidavit re: Minor Children and a Notice of Filing Petition for Modification of Custody. The other parent must be served these documents prior to a court hearing.
After the other parent is served, they have 20 days to file an affidavit that contests the petition. Whether the parent contests the petition or does not respond, the next step is to file a Request for Order Granting or Denying Hearing. A family law judge will then decide whether or not to grant the request. If the request is denied, the parent will be told why it has been denied.
If the hearing is granted, each parent will be asked to attend a status review hearing. In the event that the other parent does not show up and has not contested the modification, an order may be made to change the current custody arrangement. Other orders may also be entered by the court at that time. If the other parent contests the modification and is present at the hearing, a trial date will be set.
Parents who wish to modify their current child custody agreement may wish to talk to a family law attorney. An attorney may also be helpful for those who are in the process of negotiating a child custody arrangement for the first time after a divorce. Legal counsel may be able to help establish that a parent obtaining custody rights is in the best interests of the child, which is the top priority under state law.