If you divorce in California and have children with your spouse, you must follow the state’s process for a child custody determination. Parents may agree on a parenting plan and submit it for court approval or ask the judge to make a decision.
Learn how child custody works in California if you have been considering separation and having children with your partner.
Understanding custody vs. visitation
Parents can share joint custody or children can live at one home and visit the other parent on an established schedule. California encourages parents to develop a detailed plan about how they will share time with their children, including provisions for weekends, holidays and school vacations. However, you can also opt for reasonable visitation, which does not include a set schedule. In some cases, the court may require supervised visitation for a parent who does not have physical custody.
Reviewing the process
If you have a pending divorce case, you can request custody and visitation orders along with your divorce petition. If you have children but have not married the other parent, you can start the custody process by filing California’s Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children.
When you and your partner have reached a custody arrangement outside of court, you can submit the Stipulation and Order for Custody and/or Visitation of Children along with the Child Custody and Visitation (Parenting Time) Order Attachment. Otherwise, you must submit the Request for Order.
When the judge creates or reviews your parenting plan, he or she will strive to make the decision that supports the child’s best interests.