At the Law Office of Stephen W. Penn and Associates in California, we understand that even though you are divorced, you must maintain a post-divorce relationship with your ex-spouse if you have minor children. Regardless of how friendly or unfriendly this relationship may be, it is likely that at some point after your divorce you will want to change the custody order and parenting plan that the judge signed at the time of your divorce.
Per the California court system, you must file your modification request in the same court that granted your divorce and show that a significant change of circumstances has occurred since your divorce that makes the modification necessary and proper. Some courts require you and your ex-spouse to attend mediation sessions prior to going to court. Check with your court's family law facilitator to see if this applies to you.
Filing the documents
Make at least two copies of the document(s) you file with the court, including your Request for Order and the modification agreement you and your ex-spouse reached, assuming you have one. One copy is for you and the other for your ex-spouse. File all three copies with the court clerk, who will return the two copies to you stamped "Filed," along with the date of filing. (S)he also will give you a date for your first mediation session or, if mediation is not part of your court's procedure, your court date.
Serving your ex-spouse
Under some circumstances, the court allows you to serve these documents on your ex-spouse by mail. Other times (s)he must be personally served. If this is the requirement in your case, you cannot serve these papers yourself. The person who serves them on your behalf must fill out a Proof of Service and file it with the court.
Going to court
If you and your ex-spouse did not arrive at a new custody and visitation agreement, either by yourselves or through mediation, you both must go to court and present evidence as to why or why not the judge should approve the modification you are seeking. You will need to explain what substantial change of circumstances has occurred since your divorce and why this modification is in the best interests of your children.
How easy or difficult it will be for you to obtain a modification is entirely dependent on what type of relationship you and your ex-spouse have at this point. Maintaining the best possible relationship is always preferable, not only because it makes modifications easier, but because it truly is in the best interests of your children. For more information on this subject, please visit this page on our website.