Child Custody and Parenting Time (Visitation)
When parents separate, they have to make decisions about custody of their children and parenting time (also called “timeshare” or “visitation”).
If you cannot reach an agreement with the other parent about a parenting plan, usually one of you has to ask the court to make an order.
A good way to learn about what should be in your parenting plan is to look at the court forms for custody and visitation, like the Child Custody and Visitation Order Attachment (Form FL-341) and the Child Custody and Visitation Application Attachment (Form FL-311).
These forms can also help you when you think about your parenting plan:
- Supervised Visitation Order (Form FL-341(A))
- Child Abduction Prevention Order Attachment (Form FL-341(B))
- Children's Holiday Schedule Attachment (Form FL-341(C))
- Additional Provisions — Physical Custody Attachment (Form FL-341(D))
- Joint Legal Custody Attachment (Form FL-341(E))
These forms talk about plans that include weekdays, weekends, holidays, vacations, cost of transportation for visitation, and restrictions on traveling or moving with the children.
Another great resource is Families Change – A Guide to Separation and Divorce. It is an online guide with 3 versions—one for parents, one for children, and one for teens and pre-teens. See also the Parenting After Separation course.
Un buen recurso es Las familias cambian (Families Change). Es un sitio web con una guía para familias que están pasando por una separación o divorcio. con 3 versiones, una guía para padres, una para niños y otra para adolescentes y pre-adolescentes. Vea también el curso Crianza de los niños después de la separación.
How to Get or Change a Custody/Visitation Order
If you and your child’s other parent cannot agree to a parenting plan or need help from the court, one of you will have to file papers in court to ask for a court date and attend mediation at Family Court Services.
To ask for a court date you must either have an existing case with the other parent of your children or start a new case at the same time. The type of case you must have or start can be:
- Divorce or legal separation
- Parentage (paternity)
- Domestic violence restraining order
- Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children
If you need to start a case
If you are sure you need to start a case:
- Click for info to start a divorce or legal separation case
- Click for an online program that helps you fill out the forms to open a parentage (paternity) case
- Click for info to start a domestic violence restraining order case
- Click for an online program for a petition for custody and support case
If you don’t have one of these cases and need help, or if you are not sure, contact the Self-Help Center.
We can also give you guides for the steps to follow and review your forms before you file them.
If you already have a case
Once you have an open case and want to get your first custody and visitation order OR want to change an existing order, you will need:
Request for Order (FL-300). You can use the Information Sheet for Request for Order ( FL-300-INFO) for information. Or use an online form completion program that will fill out the Request for Order forms for you.
- You can also fill out the Child Custody and Visitation (Parenting Time) Application Attachment (Form FL-311). It is an optional form (you do not have to use it), but you may find it helpful in making sure you do not leave anything out of your request.
If you have a parenting plan or proposal for the custody and visitation orders you would like the judge to make, attach that too.
- If you cannot afford the filing fee, ask for a fee waiver using forms FW-001 and FW-003.
Once you fill out the FL-300 and any attachments, there are more steps you will have to follow. Contact the Self-Help Center for help.
Child Custody Mediation
When you ask the judge to make an order about custody and parenting time, the judge will likely first refer you to mediation in the Family Court Services department. It is a free service and is provided by mental health professionals who have education and experience in working with families, children, and custody issues.
To learn about the process of Child Custody Mediation, read the Child Custody Information Sheet—Child Custody Mediation (FL-314-INFO).
Lea, en español, la Hoja informativa sobre la custodia de los hijos—Mediación de custodia de los hijos (FL-314-INFOS) para informarse sobre el proceso.
In cases of domestic violence, you can ask to meet separately with the recommending counselor. You can also bring a support person with you. Click to learn more about the law on child custody in domestic violence cases.