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Having a court order, especially in a family law case, can provide a sense of stability and relief. But what happens when one party is not complying with the order, or when the order no longer works as well because your circumstances have changed? It might be necessary to enforce or modify the order.
Enforcement and modification of family law orders is relatively common in family law cases, especially those involving children. A custody or child support order could easily be in place for well over a decade. During that time, any number of life changes could occur that make it appropriate to revisit the order.
We know our clients may need our help to enforce or revise their court orders in the future. We are always prepared to advocate for our client’s needs.
Any type of family law order may need enforcement; for example, an ex-spouse may fail to pay spousal support or divide marital property as ordered. But the orders that most commonly need enforcement are child custody and visitation orders and child support orders.
Well-drafted orders tend to reduce the need for enforcement actions, because everyone governed by the order understands their obligations. But even the most clearly-worded order will not prevent a party from violating it if they are determined to violate the court’s orders.
If your co-parent is not following your court order, document every violation and every effort you make to get them to comply. If your co-parent continues violating the order despite your requests, you may need to ask for the police to help enforce the order. It is wise to keep a copy of your child custody order with you so that law enforcement can see that you have a right to your child on a certain date and time.
If your co-parent repeatedly and persistently refuses to comply with the order, you should consult an attorney to help you enforce the order in court. Your documentation of your reasonable efforts to get the other parent to comply will help your attorney persuade the court of your position. If your co-parent continues to violate the order, the court may hold them in “contempt” or change the order in your favor.
If you are the parent who is not complying with the order because you think doing so would put your children in danger, contact an experienced family law attorney immediately.
Because a custody, visitation, or support order may be in effect for years, it’s common for an existing order to no longer meet a family’s changing circumstances. Recognizing this, courts in California are willing to modify orders when necessary. However, stability and predictability are also important for families. To balance the needs for consistency and flexibility, courts generally modify orders only when there is a significant change in circumstances.
You and your ex-spouse or co-parent can choose to agree to a written modification of your order. If you do, the court will typically sign off on the agreement, making it a new order. Do not rely on informal agreements (even informal written agreements) to modify orders with your co-parent. If you are struggling to reach agreement, a neutral mediator, or negotiating with the help of your attorneys, may help you resolve any disputes.
If one of you wants to change an order but the other doesn’t, the one seeking a change will need to file a motion asking the court to modify the order. They will have to persuade the court that there has been a substantial change of circumstances that justifies the modification. If the order is one that affects children, like an order regarding child custody or visitation, the person who wants the change will need to convince the court that the modification would be in the best interest of the children.
Whether you are seeking to enforce or modify an existing order, or to oppose a modification, the advocacy of an experienced family law attorney greatly improves your chances of success. At Bednarczyk & Valerio, we concentrate our practice exclusively in the area of family law. We understand what evidence courts need to see to rule in our clients’ favor. And unlike many family law attorneys, we are also seasoned litigators who are comfortable in the courtroom; we know how to advocate forcefully and effectively for your position. Please contact Bednarczyk & Valerio to learn more about how we can help you.