The parenting plan you mutually drafted or the custody order created by a California family law judge largely determines your parental rights after a divorce. Parents sharing custody after a divorce will need to defer to the existing custody order when it comes to sharing parenting time and making major decisions about the children.
Eventually, you will need to update or modify your existing custody order to make it better reflect your family’s circumstances. When do families typically need to revisit their custody arrangements?
When a child is old enough to start school
Children who are no longer infants can often enjoy very close to 50/50 shared custody arrangements between their parents. Even if one parent moves away from the family home, they can spend alternating weeks with each parent for the first few years of their lives.
Equally sharing custody when the parents live far apart will be much harder once the children reach school age. At that time, proximity to the school that they attend will likely influence custody arrangements and require that the parents make some changes. Neighborhoods and school districts may influence living arrangements for years to come.
When the parents have changes to their situations
Parental situations have a strong impact on the ability of each adult to meet the needs of the children. If a parent starts a new job with a different shift or begins a new relationship that requires that they move to a different residence, those changes can affect how the parents share parental responsibilities.
If either parent will soon change their living arrangements, household circumstances or employment, then a custody modification may be necessary to accommodate those changes.
When the children have new needs
Sometimes, something unexpected happens. Your child gets into a car accident and requires more support than they did before. Other times, it is perfectly predictable that your teenage child will want to start a part-time job and join school sports.
As the needs of your children change, the arrangements in your parenting plan may need to change as well. Recognizing that you have not fully addressed issues like sports, dating or a part-time job may require that you update your parenting plan.
Knowing when to make changes to your shared custody arrangements will make co-parenting easier.