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Child Visitation In California:

Parents that separate should try to work have a plan to share and divide their parenting responsibilities including both custody and visitation of children. This plan may be called a parenting plan, a time-share plan, or an agreement ("stipulation") regarding child custody and visitation.

The judge makes the final decision on these issues but usually will approve the arrangement both parents agree upon. However, if the parents can't agree, the judge will make a decision at a court hearing. The judge will usually not make a decision about custody/visitation until after the parents have met with a mediator.

If parents can't agree on custody/visitation on their own, the judge will generally have the parents meet with Family Court Services to see if an agreement can be reached with the help of a mediator.

If mediation doesn't work, custody and visitation issues will have to be decided in a court hearing by a Judge. In some courts, the mediator will make a recommendation to the judge about custody/visitation orders.

The judge may appoint an evaluator to recommend a parenting plan. A parent can also ask for an evaluation, but the request may not be granted. Parents may have to pay for an evaluation.

The law says that judges must make custody and visitation orders according to what is best for the child. Absent extenuating circumstances a judge will give substantial custodial time to both parents. Sometimes the order will give "primary physical custody" to one parent and "secondary physical custody" (formerly called "visitation") to the other party. In some cases a judge will give equal time to both parents.

The public policy of the State of California is to protect the best interests of children whose parents have a custody or visitation matter within the family courts. Sometimes, based on issues of protection and safety, a judge will decide that in order for a child to have contact with a parent, a neutral third person must be present during any visitation. A judge may make these orders on a temporary basis in order to give the visiting parent an opportunity to address specific problems or when contact is being reestablished after a prolonged absence. The court order will specify the time and duration of the visits. Sometimes, the court order will also specify who the provider is to be and where the visits are to take place.

First - Start A Court Case:

To get a custody or visitation orders for your children, you, the other parent, or the local child support agency (formerly the district attorney) must first start a court case.

The kind of case you can start depends on whether or not you're married to the other parent.

If you are married, you must start one of the following cases:

  • Divorce (also called "dissolution of marriage"),
  • Legal Separation,
  • Annulment
  • Domestic Violence Restraining Order
  • Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children
  • Local Child Support Agency Enforcement Case

If you are not married, you must start one of the following cases:

  • Domestic Violence Restraining Order
  • Parentage Case
  • Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children
  • Local Child Support Agency Enforcement Case

This section does not contain forms to file any of these court actions. You will find some of these in other sections of our free legal forms menu.

When Child Visitation Orders May Be Made:

Child custody and visitation orders may be made at a hearing held shortly after the filing of the underlying court case and may be modified any time before the child(ren) turn eighteen.

Child Custody Forms:

Description Form
Order to Show Cause FL-300
Notice of Motion
FL-301
Application for Order and Supporting Declaration (Family Law-Uniform Parentage) FL-310
Child Custody and Visitation Attachment FL-305
Temporary Orders FL-305
Income and Expense Declaration (Family Law) FL-150
Financial Statement (Simplified)
FL-155
Proof of Personal Service FL-330
Responsive Declaration to Order to Show Cause or Notice of Motion FL-320
Findings and Order After Hearing (Family Law-Custody and Support-Uniform Parentage) FL-340
Child Custody and Visitation Order Attachment FL-341
Supervised Visitation Order FL-341A
Children's Holiday Schedule Attachment FL-341C
Attachment Provisions - Physical Custody Attachment FL-341D
Joint Legal Custody Attachment FL-341E
Child Support Information and Order Attachment FL-342
Notice of Rights and Responsibilities - Health Care Costs and Reimbursement Procedures, and Information Sheet on Changing a Child Support Order FL-192
Stipulation and Order for Custody and/or visitation FL-355
Child Support Case Registry Form FL-191
Order/Notice to Withhold Income for Child Support FL-195
Additional Page-Attach to Judicial Council Form or Other Court Paper MC-020

- Gene Kinsey

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