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Changing a Parenting Plan or Visitation or Time-Sharing Schedule or Child Custody in California

Time-Sharing & Visitation Basics

In California, time-sharing refers to the arrangement divorced and separated parents have regarding the time their children will spend with each parent. Time-sharing is also often referred to as visitation. A time-sharing or visitation schedule is typically outlined in the parents' parenting plan as part of their custody agreement. A common time-sharing split is 50/50, or joint physical custody. However, every family is different, and it is not uncommon to have a different arrangement, especially in cases where the parents live a good distance from each other or one parent has to travel extensively for work.

Examples of common time-sharing schedules include:

  • 2-2-3
  • 2-3-3
  • 2-2-5-5
  • 3-4-4-3
  • Alternating weeks

Another common time-sharing situation is that the children live with one parent during the week, and the other parent on weekends, sometimes with mid-week overnights or visits going to the weekend parent (this is a variation of a 70-30 schedule). Meanwhile, in cases where a parent lives out of state, the children may spend the school year with one parent and then school breaks and summer vacation with the other parent. No matter what a time-sharing arrangement looks like, the goal is always to serve the child/children's best interests, which will look different for every family. A very specific visitation schedule custom made for your family’s needs is always best.

Below we review some common situations that will require a parenting plan modification, how modifications are handled in California, and how you can go about requesting one. Keep reading to learn more.

How To Update a Custody or Visitation Order to Accommodate New Circumstances

Did you know that co-parents may have to renegotiate their parenting plan every two to three years? This is because as your child gets older, their needs change. Additionally, as time goes on, you and your co-parent's lives will also change. Some parents will get remarried, welcome new children into their families, and/or relocate. All of these new life phases can necessitate a change to a parenting plan or visitation order.

New circumstances associated with the parents which may require a change to a custody or visitation order include:

  • A parent loses their job or gets a new job
  • A parent needs to/wants to move away
  • A parent's work schedule changes significantly
  • A parent retires
  • A parent becomes disabled
  • A parent experiences a significant change in their mental or physical health
  • A parent remarries or has a new child

New circumstances associated with the child which may require a modification to a custody or visitation order include:

  • The child begins attending a new school
  • The child starts participating in new or different extracurricular activities
  • The child's health needs change
  • The child's educational needs change
  • The child's school or extracurricular schedule changes
  • The child’s age
  • The child gets an after-school job

If your child is significantly older than when your parenting plan was originally established, you may find that the old plan is no longer appropriate or responsive to their needs. For example, a parenting plan developed when your child is five years old may no longer be relevant when they are 15. In these cases, there are often several issues with the current plan that necessitate the modification.

The Parenting Plan Modification Process in California

When a time-sharing or visitation schedule needs to be modified, the parents must register the change with the court. It is very important that parents go through this process to have the change legally recognized by the court. This ensures that the child's best interests are protected and helps protect the parents by ensuring that the court is notified and accepts the change to the original order. Failure to do so can result in a parent being found in violation of a standing court order, a situation that has very serious consequences.

If both parents agree to the change, they can file papers with the court asking for the modification without attending a hearing. Of course, this needs to be done properly for it to become an order of the Court. If parents disagree about the modification, the requesting parent will need to file papers with the court asking for the change and will likely need to attend a court hearing. In California, parents may also be required to participate in mediation before the court hearing to see if the issue can be resolved out of court.

When requesting a modification, the requesting parent will have to prove the following to the court:

  • There has been a significant change in circumstances that warrants the requested modification.
  • That the modification is in the children's best interest and promotes a stable, consistent custody arrangement between the parents.

Parents may also have to demonstrate that the change in circumstances is lasting, not temporary. Doing so can further strengthen their argument that the requested change to their time-sharing agreement is justified.

Review our blog to learn more about modifying child custody orders.

What To Do If You Think You Need a Custody or Visitation Modification

If you believe you have grounds for a modification, your first step should be to speak with an attorney experienced in handling parenting plans and custody modifications in California. Though working with a lawyer is not required, this process can be complicated, and failure to adhere to proper court procedures can result in an unfavorable resolution to your case.

I have been working with parents in the San Diego area since 1992, and I understand how the California court system processes these cases. I am a mom and an attorney. When working with clients on custody modifications, I work hard to take their unique situations into account, and I never lose sight of the fact that the outcome of your modification request will have a lasting impact on your family. When you need a strong advocate who will put you and your family's best interests first, give me a call.

To discuss your parenting plan modification case with me, Attorney Andrea Schneider, send me a message online.

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