How to File a Petition on Custody and Visitation in the State of California

By Heather Frances J.D.

During a divorce, California courts determine custody arrangements for the divorcing couple’s children, splitting both physical custody (who the child lives with) and legal custody (who makes important decisions for the child). However, parents don’t have to wait for divorce to determine custody issues since California allows parents to establish custody arrangements without filing for divorce.

Form FL-260

California offers Form FL-260, Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children, for use in limited circumstances, but this form is not appropriate if a child’s parents are getting a divorce. Parents can file FL-260 only if there is no other case that has been filed regarding children of the relationship. Even if a divorce was filed previously, or in another county, this form is not appropriate. When parents file this form, they must also file Form FL-210, which is a summons advising the other parent to come to court, and Form FL-105/GC-120, a Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. The filing parent must also include a proposed visitation schedule, which can be attached and presented on Form FL-311, a Child Custody and Visitation Application Attachment.

Custody Without Divorce

If parents are married to each other and wish to determine custody without filing for a divorce, legal separation or annulment, they can use FL-260. Parents may wish to use this form when they want to live apart for a period of time without going through the legal separation process. Parents can also use this form if the parents are not married but have signed a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity.

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Form FL-300

California parents who are getting a divorce use Form FL-300, a Request for Order, to file for custody as part of the divorce proceeding rather than using FL-260. If parents originally file a case with FL-260 but later decide to divorce, legally separate or file for annulment, they must file a new case as part of the subsequent action. They would use Form FL-300 to request custody and pay another filing fee. FL-300 requires parents to include basic information about their case and attachments, such as a financial statement. Parents must also attend mediation before a custody hearing is held.

Agreement and Hearing

With either type of case, the filing parent must complete all necessary forms and pay a filing fee to the local court to initiate the case. Next, the filing parent must ensure the other parent is served with copies of the filed documents. Courts encourage parents to reach a parenting agreement, but if they can’t agree, the court will decide custody issues for them. Parents must appear at a court hearing, where they will each present evidence as to why the court should grant their request for custody and visitation. The court will grant custody based on what is in the best interests of the child.

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Filing for Child Custody in Maryland


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How to File for Child Custody in California

Parental custody rights and procedures vary from state to state. In California, family courts focus on the health, safety and welfare of the child, basing decisions on what is in the best interests of the child, not the gender of the parent. During divorce proceedings, either parent can file for legal or physical custody of their minor children. In seeking custody, the parent must file child custody forms requesting a court order that awards sole or joint custody.

Do You Need to Be Divorced to File for Custody in PA?

When parents split or decide to raise their children in separate homes, each parent may need to learn more about Pennsylvania custody laws. Although a divorce between parents often includes custody issues, parents do not need to be divorced before a mother or father can file a complaint for custody. Parents may also choose to sign custody agreements without court intervention. If custody turns into a disputed issue, advice from a Pennsylvania domestic relations lawyer may be helpful.

Easy Ways to Change the Custody of Parents in Wisconsin

If parents end their relationship, they must often continue to interact as the co-parents of their children. Although parents might not always get along or may disagree with their current custody arrangement, they can more easily change their custody arrangement by coming to an agreement on their own and avoiding court intervention. If parents have a contested custody battle in a Wisconsin circuit court, the custody process may become more difficult and time-consuming.

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