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Custody & Visitation

 
       
 

 

 

 

Overview
Child Custory Recommending Counseling
Court Hearing

Child's Needs Come First
Changing Custody/Visitation Orders
The Goals of CCRC
What Happens in CCRC?
Is Domestic Violence a Concern?
Ways to Communicate During CCRC
Your Parenting Plan
Cases for Parents Who Are Married to Each Other
Cases for Parents Who Are Not Married

Frequently Asked Questions

Overview

Parents that separate will need to have a plan for deciding how they will share and divide their parenting responsibilities. This plan can be called a parenting plan, a time-share plan, or an agreement ("stipulation") regarding child custody and visitation. Any plan must be in writing and signed by both parents and a judge.

In California, either parent can have custody, or the parents can share custody. The judge makes the final decision but usually will approve the arrangement both parents agree upon. 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 child custody recommending counselor.

Child Custody Recommending Counseling (CCRC)

If parents can't agree on custody/visitation on their own, the judge will have the parents meet with a Court appointed mediator to see if an agreement. Parents can also hire a private child custody recommending counselorr. Click here for more information on CCRC.

Court Hearing

If CCRC doesn't work, the judge will make a decision at a hearing. The child custody recommending counselor is required to 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 judge also may appoint lawyers for children in custody cases.


Child's Needs Come First

The law says that judges must give custody according to what is best for the child. In most cases, judges give custody to one or both parents. But there are times when custody is given to a friend or relative. You should consult a lawyer for information about custody given to non-parents.

Changing Custody/Visitation Orders

After a judge makes a custody/visitation order, one or both parents may want to change the order. If the parents can't agree on a change, one of the parents must file a motion with the court asking for a change. If you want to change your order, you and the other parent will probably have to meet with a child custody recommending counselor to talk about why you want the order to change.

The goals of CCRC are to:

  1. Help you make a parenting plan that's in the best interest of your children.
  2. Help you make a parenting plan that lets your children spend time with both parents.
  3. Help you learn ways to deal with anger or resentment.

What Happens in CCRC

CCRC can be a way to make decisions about your children without going to court. You and the other parent can make your own agreement for how you will take care of your children. The legal word for this agreement is "stipulation." It is also called a "parenting plan" or a "parenting agreement."

  • Who are the child custody recommending counselors?

    A child custody recommending counselor:
    • Has a master's degree in counseling, social work, or a related field;
    • Also has at least 2 years of experience working in mental health;
    • Knows how the family court system works; and
    • May also have information about community services that might be helpful to you

  • What do child custody recommending counselors do?

    Although child custody recommending counselors are experienced in counseling, CCRC is not counseling. A mediator meets with both parents and helps them try to agree on a plan that is best for their child. The counselor's job is to:
    • Listen to both of you.
    • Be neutral.
    • Help you look at different options.
    • Help you decide when the child will be with each parent.
    • Help you decide how future decisions about your child will be made.
    • Help you consider how best to protect your child's safety and welfare.
    • Support you.
    • Make recommendations to the judge. In some counties, if you and the other parent can't agree on a parenting plan through mediation, the mediator is asked to give the court a written recommendation. It will contain the mediator's opinion about what parenting arrangement will be in your child's best interest.

  • Guidelines for CCRC:

    1. Treat each other with respect. You will both get a chance to explain your ideas.
    2. Listen to each other and try to find real solutions.
    3. Put the children first. Think about what they need and can handle.

What if I'm worried about domestic violence?

  • Tell your lawyer, if you have one.
  • Answer all of the judge or child custody recommending counselor's questions about this problem.
  • Tell your child custody recommending counselor as soon as possible.

If you've been a victim of domestic violence:

  • You can bring a support person to mediation and court.
  • You can see the mediator without the other parent.

If a child custody recommending counselor suspects child abuse, he or she must report it. (It is a crime to file false abuse reports.) Ask your child custody recommending counselor for a list of places that can help you and your children.

For more help with domestic violence problems contact Mountain Crisis Services, Hot Line (209) 966-2350, Business (209) 742-5865.

Ways to Communicate During CCRC

How you talk to each other and to your children can make a big difference. Try to think about the other parent as a business partner. Acting "businesslike" might help get your mind off the pain and stress so you can focus better on your children.

Here are some tips:

  1. Be polite, just like you would be at work.
  2. Stay on the subject. Focus on doing what is best for your child.
  3. Control your emotions, just like you would do at work.
  4. Be clear and specific when you talk to the other parent. Write things down and keep businesslike records of important agreements.
  5. Keep your promises. Your children need to be able to trust and rely on you. This is very important right now.
  6. Watch the words you use when you talk about divorce.
INSTEAD OF SAYING: TRY SAYING:
wife, husband, ex-wife, ex-husband, my "ex" children's mother, children's father
has visitation with stays with, comes over
custody and visitation agreement parenting plan

Adapted with permission from Isolina Ricci, Mom's House, Dad's House (New York: Macmillian Publishing Co., 1980).

Your Parenting Plan

Your parenting plan (also called a "custody and visitation agreement") is a legal document. It is also very personal. You need to make a plan that is in the best interest of your child.

Some suggestions:

  • Meet your child's basic needs for:

    • Love, protection, and guidance;
    • A healthy diet
    • Good medical care; and
    • Enough rest.

  • Consider your child's age, personality, experiences, and ability. Every child is different. Adjust your plan to your child, NOT your child to your plan.

  • Give your child regular, consistent times with each of you for day-to-day care, overnights, activities, schoolwork, vacations, and holidays. Use a calendar to help you.

  • Give your plan enough detail so it's easy to understand and enforce.

  • Give your child a sense of security and a reliable routine.

What to Put in Your Parenting Plan

  • "Physical custody," which means time with the children Think about activities, overnights, and day-to-day care:

    • Where should my child be during the week? On weekends?

    • Where should my child be for holidays, summer vacations, and special days?

    • Which parent will be in charge of which activities (sports, music, homework)?

    • Which parent is in charge at which times?

    • How will my child get from one parent to the other? Who will pay the costs?

  • "Legal custody," which means making decisions about the children
    Be clear and specific about which decisions each parent can make on their own and which decisions you will make together:

    • Schools?
    • Daycare?
    • Religion?
    • Medical and dental care?
    • Emergency care?
    • Jobs and driving (for older children)?

Make Your Parenting Agreement Work

  • Use a calendar.

    Have a calendar that shows where the children will be and when. Put your calendar in a place that is easy to see. If you need to make a change, explain why. Children and parents do better when things are clear.

  • Watch your children.

    You know your children, so:

    • Watch to see how they do with the schedule.
    • If they aren't doing well, talk to the other parent and try to find a way to fix things.
    • Make sure they know that the separation or divorce is not their fault.
    • Tell them you love them and will take care of them.
    • Let them tell you how they feel about all the changes and what they need from you. And try to listen without getting defensive.

  • When you and the other parent don't agree:

    Parents don't always agree on what's best for their children. This is natural. It happens in every relationship.

    • Listen to the other parent and respect his or her point of view.
    • Control your emotions, just like you do at work.
    • Read the "Ways to Communicate" section above.
    • Do what's best for your children.
    • Don't put your children in the middle of your fights with the other parent.


  • Changing your plan

    You might need to change your parenting plan when your children get older and things in their lives change. Talk it over with the other parent or see a counselor or minister to help you. If that doesn't work, you may want to go back to family court mediation.

Cases for Parents Who Are Married to Each Other

If you are married to the other parent, you can ask for custody or visitation orders in these kinds of cases:

Divorce (also called "dissolution of marriage"), Legal Separation, or Annulment

You can ask for custody and visitation orders once you file for a divorce, legal separation, or annulment.

You can get temporary orders for custody/visitation while you are waiting for the final judgment in your case.

Domestic Violence Restraining Order

If you have been a victim of domestic violence, you can ask for custody or visitation when you ask for a domestic violence restraining order.

Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children

If you don't want to get a divorce, legal separation, or annulment, you can start a case called a Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children.

This lets the court make custody and visitation orders and other orders.

Local Child Support Agency Enforcement Case

Parents who are involved in a child support enforcement case filed by the local child support agency may also be able to ask for custody and visitation orders once certain requirements are met in that case.

The family law facilitator may be able to give you information about how to do this. The facilitator may also help you find someone in your area that will help you. Contact the Court for referral to the family law facilitator.


Cases for Parents Who Are Not Married

If you are NOT married to the other parent, you can ask for custody or visitation orders in these kinds of cases:

Domestic Violence Restraining Order

If you have been a victim of domestic violence, you can ask for custody or visitation orders when you ask for a domestic violence restraining order.

Parentage Case

A parentage case is for parents who are not married and have children together.

It says who the legal parents of a child are.

The judge can make custody and visitation orders in a parentage case.

Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children

If you have signed a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity, you can file a Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children.

This type of case lets the court make custody and visitation orders and other orders.

Local Child Support Agency Enforcement Case

Parents who are involved in a child support enforcement case filed by the local child support agency may also be able to ask for custody and visitation orders once certain requirements are met in that case.

The family law facilitator may be able to give you information about how to do this. The facilitator may also help you find someone in your area that will help you. Contact the Court for referral to the family law facilitator.

 


   
 
 
   
     

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