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Family Law: Child Custody and Visitation


 

Child Custody and Visitation

This guide is intended to provide information to parents seeking custody and visitation orders for their child(ren). Non-parents may obtain custody of a minor through a guardianship (see the Legal Research Guide on Guardianship on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/guardianship.aspx. For non-parents seeking visitation with a child, see the Legal Research Guide on Grandparent Visitation on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/grandparent-visitation.aspx.

 

BASICS
There are several methods parents may use to obtain custody and visitation orders. The method used depends on several factors, including whether or not paternity has been established, the parents' marital status, and the existence of a Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) child support case. The available methods include:

Divorce/Legal Separation/Annulment case
Custody and visitation orders may be made as part of a Divorce, Legal Separation, or Annulment case. Temporary orders for custody and visitation may be made pending the final judgment in your case. For more information on these types of cases, see the Legal Research Guide on Divorce, Legal Separation, and Annulment on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/divorce.aspx.

Uniform Parentage Act (UPA) case
Before custody and visitation may be ordered, there must be a legal determination of paternity. If this is not done with a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity or Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) support case, either parent may begin a UPA case to establish paternity. As part of this case, the court may make child support, custody and visitation orders. For more information on UPA cases, see the Legal Research Guide on Parentage and Paternity on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/parentage.aspx

DCSS Child Support case
DCSS may file a child support case on behalf of either parent, or because either parent is receiving public benefits for the child, such as Cal-Works or Medi-Cal. If this type of case has been filed, and if a support judgment was entered, either parent file paperwork under this case number to ask for custody and visitation orders.

Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children
Married parents who do not want to file for divorce, legal separation or annulment, or unmarried parents who have a signed Voluntary Declaration of Paternity may start a case for custody, visitation and support. This method may only be used if there has never been another case opened for the child(ren) of this relationship.

Domestic Violence Restraining Order
Victims of domestic violence may ask for custody or visitation orders as part of a domestic violence restraining order. For more information, see the Step-by-Step guide on Domestic Violence Restraining Orders on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/domestic-violence.aspx

Further information about custody and visitation is available from the resources listed below.

SELF HELP 
These books are highly regarded “plain English” explanations of the law, written by attorneys or other legal experts. They include basic legal discussion and procedures. Many of the titles include forms with instructions, and models of other documents that may be required. Some of the books have CDs that supplement the text and provide interactive forms.

Books:   

Building a Parenting Agreement that Works: Child Custody Agreements Step by Step KF 547 .L97 (Self Help)

Family Law BasicsKFC 115 .Z9 A87 (Reference)

Father's Rights: The Best Interest of Your Child Include You KF 540 .Z9 G76 (Self Help)

How to Do Your Own Divorce in California KFC 126 .S45 (Self Help)

How to Solve Divorce Problems in California KFC 126 S53 (Self Help)

A Judge's Guide to Divorce: Uncommon Advice From the Bench KF 535 .Z9 D857 (Self Help)
Electronic Access: From any computer (library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at http://www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx.

Law Office Procedures ManualKFC 77 .L44

Nolo's Essential Guide to Divorce KF 535 .Z9 D67 (Self Help)
Electronic Access: From any computer (library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at http://www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx.

Unmarried Parents Rights (and Responsibilities)KF 547 .Z9 S73 (Self Help)

PRACTICE GUIDES
Although treatises and practice guides are written for attorneys, people representing themselves may also find these resources useful. These materials provide more detailed information than the self-help books.

California Child Custody Litigation and Practice KFC 130 .C34
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.

California Civil Practice: Family Law Litigation KFC 115 .A6 B36
Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.

California Domestic Partnerships KFC 115 .C336
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.

California Family Law for Paralegals KFC 115 .W35

California Family Law Litigation Guide KFC 115 .C37
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using the Matthew Bender CD.

California Family Law: Practice and Procedure KFC 115 .L87
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using the Matthew Bender CD.

California Forms of Pleading and Practice KFC 1010 .A65 C3 (Ready Reference)
Vols. 18 and 19, "Dissolution of Marriage," Vol. 5 Chap. 23, "Annulment."
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using the Matthew Bender CD.

California Marital Settlement and Other Family Law Agreements KFC 126 .W34
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.

California Practice Guide: Family Law KFC 115 .H64 R8
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.

Complex Issues in California Family Law KFC 115 .G72

Creating Effective Parenting Plans: A Developmental Approach for Lawyers and Divorce Professionals KF 547 .H378

Dissolution Strategies: from Intake to Judgment KFC 126 .D57

Family Law Practice Nuts and Bolts KFC 115 .A75 C35

Mediating Child Custody Disputes KF 547 .S26

Practice Under the California Family Code KFC 126 .P7
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.

The Scientific Basis for Child Custody Decisions KF 547 .A7 S38

FORMS
Child custody and visitation cases require the use of mandatory statewide Judicial Council forms, as well as some Sacramento County local forms. Samples of completed forms are available in many of the books listed above. Blank forms are available from these resources:

Books: 

California Judicial Council Forms Manual KFC 995 .A65 C25

West's California Judicial Council FormsKFC 995 .W45 C3 (Ref Desk)

Websites:

Judicial Council Forms www.courts.ca.gov/forms.htm
The California Courts Online Self-Help Center provides links to the forms used in custody and visitation cases (www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-custody.htm).

Sacramento County Court Forms Packets www.saccourt.ca.gov/family/custody-visitation.aspx
Both the Judicial Council and Sacramento County local forms are required to request or modify a custody and visitation order. The court's website provides forms packets that include detailed instructions for completing the forms and filing with the court.

STATUTES
All of the materials listed above will refer you to sections of California Codes. The codes are available in the library and online.

Books:

Deering's California Code Annotated KFC 30.5 .D4 (Compact)     

West's Annotated California CodesKFC 30 .W48 

Websites:

California State Codes leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/ 

WEBSITES

Custody & Parenting Time (Visitation) - California Courts Self-Help website www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-custody.htm
Excellent comprehensive website for information, court rules, and forms. 

Custody/Visitation - Sacramento Superior Court www.saccourt.ca.gov/family/custody-visitation.aspx
Provides information and forms for custody and visitation cases.

COMMUNITY RESOURCES
The Family Law Facilitator's office provides assistance with many aspects of custody and visitation. Assistance is provided through their "E-Correspondence" service (services.saccourt.ca.gov/flfoecorrespondence/), where you can ask questions and receive answers via secure email.

updated 4/2014 mpj