Even in the 21st century, a divorce is still always difficult in every circumstance, and when minor children are also involved in a divorce, those difficulties are multiplied. If you are going through a divorce in southern California and you are a parent, if you and the other parent can resolve between the two of you any potential dispute regarding the custody of your child or children, it will save you both a considerable amount of time and money and a great deal of aggravation. It’s actually best for the two of you to decide on a child tutelage arrangement before even going to a divorce court if you can.

Of course, developing a parenting plan is not always easy for parents or even possible during the process of divorce, especially if your divorce is contentious, but if you go to court before you resolve the matter of youngster tutelage, you can be certain that the tutelage decision will be made for you by a complete stranger – a California judge. Obviously, nothing is more important than your children, so if you are a parent and you are divorcing in southern California, your first step should be to consult with an experienced Orange County family law attorney. A good family lawyer can answer your questions, explain how the law impacts your own youngster custody dispute, and guide you through the often-confusing California family legal system.


What will happen, however, if your circumstances change after your divorce is final and you need to have an existing child tutelage agreement modified? For example, if the educational needs of your child change, if your child’s medical needs change, if one parent wants or needs to move away, becomes seriously injured, ill, or unemployed, or if one parent remarries or becomes the parent of a new child, the court order regarding child tutelage may need to be changed. Either parent can ask the court to modify the youngster tutelage order if that parent’s changing life circumstances dictate a modification.

To ask a California court to modify a youngster custody order, your family law attorney can help you fill out the forms and documents you’ll need to complete and submit to get the process started. You and the child’s other parent will be required to schedule and participate in a mediation procedure where an experienced professional mediator will help the two of you reach an agreement regarding child tutelage and visitation arrangements – if you haven’t already reached that agreement. Then a hearing will be scheduled where a judge will assess any tentative agreement that you’ve reached, consider the new circumstances in your life, and make a final decision regarding your request for a child custody modification. If your divorce took place in another county or another state, you may be able to have the case moved to Orange County, but you will need to discuss the specifics of moving the case with your family law attorney.

Orange County family law attorney


After conducting a divorce hearing – and sometimes after conducting a youngster custody evaluation as well – and then issuing a child tutelage order, California courts will not modify that order for any trivial reasons. The changed circumstances that generate the request for a child tutelage modification must be substantial life changes. The courts will consider a youngster custody modification when either parent’s income has changed, when the child’s educational or medical needs have changed, when either parent has lost a job or been injured or incarcerated, when another child has been born to either parent, or when a modification is clearly in the best interests of the child. In all child tutelage matters, California judges are required by law to make the best interests of the child the absolute highest priority.

In deciding precisely what is in a child’s best interests, the law in California states that the safety, health, and welfare of the youngster must be a court’s top concern, and that – as a rule of thumb – regular, consistent contact with both parents benefits most children in most circumstances. Based on that initial presumption, the judges who handle California youngster custody disputes may consider literally anything that may impact a child’s best interests. A recent arrest or a recent criminal conviction, illegal drug use, and even excessive consumption of alcohol can genuinely hurt your chances if you are a parent and you have to fight for the custody of your child.

In California, child custody includes both legal tutelage – the right to make decisions regarding a child’s health care, education, religious training, and other concerns – and physical custody, meaning the actual day-to-day obligations of child-raising. Thus, there are actually four “types” of child custody: sole physical custody; joint physical custody; sole legal custody; and joint legal custody. Legal custody and physical custody are typically the central issues in any custody dispute; their resolution more or less determines how the other matters regarding your youngster will be resolved. Sole custody is ordered only when the court is convinced that it is truly in the child’s best interests. When sole custody is ordered, the other parent loses any legal right to have a say about concerns such as the child’s medical care, religious upbringing, or education. Still, when a court does not order joint custody, the court must offer a written explanation for its decision.


Every child custody situation, every family, and every youngster is distinctive and unique. Even when a California court grants a child’s tutelage to only one parent, the other parent will usually be allowed to have visitation privileges. In some cases, however, a judge may order that the visitations must be supervised by a state agency or by another authorized third party. A judge may also order a child custody evaluation (sometimes called a “730” evaluation) to provide help with making the child tutelage decision. California judges ask for youngster custody evaluations in order to have an outside professional’s insights regarding the family, the parenting skills of each parent, and the child’s needs, feelings, wishes, and long-term best interests.

Court-authorized mental health professionals conduct these child custody evaluations, which conclude by recommending a specific child tutelage and parenting plan that a judge may accept, modify, or reject. Originally, child custody evaluations were conducted only in the most contentious child custody disputes, but California judges in recent years have come to lean heavily on the child custody evaluations for guidance regarding what is in the best interests of the child or children. A child tutelage professional’s advice gives a judge more confidence that he or she is making the proper decision. In fact, in most cases, judges accept and implement the recommended child custody and parenting plans without any changes. The professional in charge of the child custody evaluation may conduct psychological testing, interview family members separately or together, and may also interview third parties who can provide pertinent insights or information. A youngster custody evaluation can last up to six months. You’ll be heavily scrutinized throughout the period of the evaluation, and you’ll be expected to adhere to high standards of good parenting.

If a California judge makes a youngster tutelage determination for you and your youngster, that determination will ultimately be based on what that judge has concluded is the child’s best interests. In any child custody matter, it’s imperative that you do not go to court with an accusative, vindictive, or argumentative attitude. Judges also view very unfavorably any parent who interferes with the child’s relationship with the other parent by making defamatory or fictitious claims. A much better strategy is to work with a good family law attorney to demonstrate to the court why it really is in your child’s best interests to have you as the custodial parent.

Orange County family law attorney


Sometimes divorcing parents can resolve their child custody issues with the help of family law attorneys in arbitration or mediation proceedings and without the need for a contentious trial in front of a judge. However, in southern California, if you have to fight for the custody of your child during or at any time subsequent to a divorce, you will need to retain the advice and services of an experienced Orange County family law attorney who routinely handles child custody disputes. Child custody squabbles are always tough on everyone who’s involved, but nothing is of more importance than your relationship and your future with your child or children.

Moves, career changes, and remarriages are among the many reasons a child custody order may need to be modified; it’s not at all unusual for child custody orders to be occasionally changed after a period of time. Everyone’s life changes eventually, and the courts understand that. However, if you need to seek a child custody modification because circumstances have substantially changed in your life, you will require an attorney’s advice and services. Interested in learning more about divorce in California, child custody orders or about child custody modifications? Comment below or reach out to us on our social media channels, we’d love to hear from you. If you need legal help regarding a divorce California, contact an experienced Orange County DUI defense attorney today.

By: Bayati Brian

Brian A. Bayati has been named three times as a top Orange County divorce attorney by OC Metro Magazine. He graduated from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, where he was a judicial extern to the U.S. Court of Appeals (9th Circuit) and a public service mediator. Prior to founding Bayati Law Group, he was part of a civil litigation firm with offices across the nation. Bayati Law Group focuses exclusively on the practice of family law.