What are Post-Judgment Child Custody Modifications?


Child custody is both an involved legal issue and one of tremendous importance to people all around the world. Although understanding these intricacies is something which requires expertise, it is also something that must be comprehensible – at least in broad terms – to the layperson who is actually involved in legal custody matters. Something that can be of particular importance to these people is a post-judgment custody modification.

As the name implies, these rulings are changes which are made to an judgment which has already been rendered by the courts. Whilst occasionally this method is used almost as an appeal, where the changes in circumstances are trivial or non-existence, it is generally the case that a post-judgment modification would be pursued when a change in a parent or guardian’s circumstances justifies such an adjustment.

Relevant changes in circumstances can be varied, and matters which might be considered pertinent under the original judgment are almost always valid reasons to pursue such a modification. Nonetheless certain reasons which are particularly common motivations for seeking custody modifications are;

  • A significant change in financial circumstances, e.g. a new job, a substantial raise, losing a job, etc.
  • Moving home, or the other parent moving home
  • The expressed wish of the child to have different custody arrangements
  • The other parent failing or mistreating the child. Examples may include falling school grades, a decline in behavioral standards, substance abuse, etc. In these cases it is especially important to ensure the safety of all involved, and the California Courts website can direct you to several resources on the topic.

It is also possible to seek smaller custody modifications, for example if your work schedule changes or you wish to take a child on a holiday lasting a day or two longer than you would otherwise be permitted to. These are typically, but not always, easier to acquire as they are much less consequential when weighed against the overarching considerations the courts are obliged to take into account.

These considerations are the point on which all child custody judgments are made, and they apply to modifications just as they do to the original rulings. Furthermore, as well as weighing up the positive and negative aspects of a proposed change in itself, courts will also keep in mind any potential negatives stemming from the process of making the changes itself, as distinct from negatives that may stem from the changes in and of themselves. Therefore it is possible that a change could be denied by the courts due to the effects that adjusting to the changes might have, rather than the merits of the changes itself. It would be rare for this to be the sole or primary consideration, but it may tip the scales in certain cases.

Whilst many such modifications are pursued due to changes in circumstances, modifications to judgments can also be sought as a child ages, on the understanding that their needs and requirements will differ as they grow older. Exactly when to pursue such modifications is not always easy to figure out, and the child’s own opinions and sentiments will often come closer to the forefront the older they get.

Ideally, all child custody matters could be resolved amicably and justly without the need for direct legal involvement. However, in reality, legal judgments are often necessary to ensure that both parents as well as the children involved are given fair treatment that serves the best interests and legal rights of everyone as well as possible. If you have questions about child custody laws or wish to pursue custody modifications, please contact us for more information.