MODIFYING FINAL CUSTODY ORDERS IN CALIFORNIA DIVORCE AND CUSTODY CASES
Final custody orders can be modified only if the moving party shows how a material fact has changed since the last order was made that require the court to reconsider its earlier decision and order.
The court will preserve the established mode of custody "unless some significant change of circumstances indicates that a different arrangement would be in the child's best interest." Marriage of LaMusga (2004) 32 C4th 1072, 1088.
Determination of the "best interest of the child."
Under Fam C §3011
(a) In making a determination of the best interests of the child, the court shall consider all of the following:
(1) The health, safety, and welfare of the child.
Need to Show Changed Circumstances If a request for order to modify an existing final custody order is filed, a party will need to prove a change of circumstances before the court determines the request. To justify ordering a change in custody there must generally be a persuasive showing of changed circumstances affecting the child. And that change must be substantial: a child will not be removed from the prior custody of one parent and given to the other 'unless the material facts and circumstances occurring subsequently are of the kind to render it essential or expedient for the welfare of the child that there be a change.' [Citation.]
The reasons for the rule are clear: 'It is well established that the courts are reluctant to order a change of custody and will not do so except for imperative reasons; that it is desirable that there be an end of litigation and undesirable to change the child's established mode of living.'