Wednesday, January 15, 2020
Photos by Adam Stewart
Lake Mendocino - Photo courtesy of Adam Stewart

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.


Parenting Plans & Resources

Parenting plans can vary depending on what is in the best interest of your child, and what you, as parents, agree to.

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:

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.


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 have a new or existing case with the other parent of your children for one of the following as appropriate:

  • Divorce or legal separation
  • Parentage (paternity)
  • Domestic violence restraining order
  • Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children
  • Child support case with the local child support agency

If you don’t have one of these cases and need to start one, or if you are not sure, go to the Self-Help Center or email for help.

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.

  • 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. Go to the Self-Help Center for help or email us at


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.

© 2020 Superior Court of Mendocino County