Many California parents have difficulty establishing custody and visitation rights for their children. They may have separated and are not speaking to each other or they may have verbal agreements for custody and visitation that are not followed. This is frustrating for both parties. Parents may be unaware that the best way to handle custody & visitation issues is to go to court. There are two kinds of circumstances:
- those who are married, divorced or legally separated and have children
- those who were never married and have children
For those who are married and living separately but have not filed,and may not wish to file, for Divorce or Legal Separation–the best option is to file a ‘Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children’. This will establish temporary court orders for custody, visitation and support while the parents decide how they wish to proceed with their marriage.
However, those who wish to file for Divorce or Legal Separation may file a ‘Petition for Dissolution of Marriage’ or ‘Petition for Legal Separation’ and then file a ‘Request for Order’ for temporary orders while the Divorce or Legal Separation is proceeding through the court. Temporary orders would address a variety of issues such as spousal support, child custody, visitation and support as well as ‘move away’ orders, payment of bills and temporary use and possession of property. Temporary orders stay in place until another order is made which would occur at another temporary hearing or once a judgment has been made after trial. Court orders for custody & visitation can be modified, by filing a ‘Request for Order’ when there is a change in circumstance.
In contrast, when parents are not married and wish to establish the father legally as well as address custody, visitation and support of children, one parent would file a ‘Petition to Establish Parental Relationship’ and serve the other parent. A paternity hearing or a trial will ensue. A ‘Request for Order’ can also be filed so that custody, visitation & support can be addressed quicker. This same order can be used to modify existing orders when there is a reason for the change.
The biggest hurdle is to file the correct forms with the court in order to establish a custody & visitation order or change an existing order if there is a reason to do so. Typical reasons to change an existing order would be that one parent cannot or is not following the existing order or that one wants to ‘move away’ or there has been a change in employment. There may be other reasons. A consultation with the Attorney will determine if there is cause.
In all cases where custody & visitation are issues, the court will require mediation before any hearing–whether the parties are married or not. Remember, the courts strive for what is in the best interest of the child. Further, parents can always enter into a written agreement when they agree on the issues.
For answers to questions about the custody & visitation of children, please call Legal Action Workshop @ 800-HELP-444 (800-435-7444) or visit www.LegalActionWorkshopLAW.com for more information.