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How Do You Ask for Custody and Visitation in California?

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Custody and visitation orders establish joint or sole physical or legal custody of your children. These matters concern who has decision-making responsibilities for your children, who your children live with, and when each parent can spend time with your children. Various steps are involved in asking a court to make custody and visitation orders. The parent who made the initial request, as well as the responding parent, have legal obligations and options for moving the case forward and ensuring that they have a say in what happens. If you and your children’s other parent can agree on custody and visitation, you can have the court sign off on your agreement. Otherwise, a judge will decide based on the law and the best interests of your children. In either case, once a judge renders orders, they become enforceable by the court. If either you or your children’s other parent don’t comply with the provisions, you could face legal sanctions.

At Claery & Hammond, LLP, we work to protect the rights and futures of our clients and their families. To schedule a consultation with one of our Los Angeles lawyers, please contact us at (310) 817-6904.

Getting Started on a Custody and Visitation Case

The first step in asking for custody and visitation orders is initiating a family law case. You do this by filling out certain forms and submitting them to the court.

The documents you complete depend on your situation:

  • Petition for divorce or legal separation: You would file this form if you and your children’s other parent are married and considering divorcing or separating.
  • Petition for custody and support: This form is used when you and your children’s other parent are married but are not asking for a divorce or legal separation, or you are not married but are both legally your children’s parents.
  • Petition to determine parentage: You would use this form if you or your children’s other parent are not their legal parent and want to establish parentage.
  • Domestic violence restraining order: If you want the court to order protection from your children’s other parent, you would fill out this form.

Along with the proper petition, you must also complete the Request for Order, asking for a determination in custody and visitation. After you submit all documents to the court, you must have your children’s other parent served with a copy. This must be done by someone other than yourself who is 18 years of age or older. Service ensures that your children’s other parent knows what orders you are requesting and when the hearing date is scheduled.

Waiting for a Response from Your Children’s Other Parent

After your children’s other parent has been served with your request for custody and visitation orders, they can file a response. Their response informs the court if they agree or disagree with the orders you’re asking for. If they disagree with your requests, they can indicate on the response form the orders they want.

Your children’s other parent must submit the response within a certain number of days after being served. They must also have you served with a copy of their response.

Your children’s other parent does not have to respond to your request for orders. They can choose to do nothing. If they go this route, the judge can make custody and visitation decisions without your children’s other parent’s input.

Attending a Hearing

You and your children’s other parent can settle custody and visitation matters outside of court by creating an arrangement together. This option gives you more control over what happens with your family. If you and your children’s other parent can agree, you must submit your agreement to the court for review and approval.

If you and your children’s other parent disagree on custody and visitation, the judge may order you to attend a mediation hearing. This is where a third party listens to both of your wants and guides discussions, allowing you to resolve disputes. You can retain the services of an attorney to provide advice during mediation. However, depending on the court's rules, they may not be able to attend the hearings with you. Still, having legal counsel throughout the process can help you make informed and confident decisions.

Mediation might not lead to a resolution for your custody and visitation matter. If that happens, a judge will hear your case and decide based on the law and what’s in the best interest of your children.

Reach Out to Claery & Hammond, LLP

Going through the process of getting a custody and visitation order is not always straightforward. You’ll encounter various legal terms, laws, and rules you may be unfamiliar with, making it difficult to know whether you are following proper protocols. A family law attorney can relieve some of your stress and worry by providing sound counsel.

To speak with a member of our Los Angeles team, please call (310) 817-6904 or submit an online contact form.

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