Kevin Qualls Family Law
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How can you obtain a child custody order in California?

When divorcing, some Californian parents come to an agreement on their own regarding custody and a visitation schedule for their child, while others just cannot agree. Parents who do agree can make the agreement for custody and visitation official without legal intervention. Although made without the court's order, both parties enforce the terms by following them. However, if one parent does not follow the agreement, only a court order can provide the teeth to enforce it.

To make the child custody agreement enforceable by the court, the custody agreement drafted by the parents can be submitted to the court. After analyzing the agreement, the family court judge signs the agreement to make it part of court proceedings. The court clerk will file the order to make it official.

In situations where parents cannot come to terms, the judge will send them to mediation. The mediator from a court-related program or family court services will help parents decide a custody arrangement. In certain cases, parents may still not agree, so a judge then provides the final decision regarding child custody and visitation schedules.

In some cases, the judge can appoint an evaluator to recommend a child custody plan after an evaluation of the case. Parents can also ask for an independent evaluation, but the request may not be granted.

After the custody order is executed, sometimes either one or both parents may want to change the order. In such cases, a revised agreement must be approved by the judge. If the parents do not agree, the parent requesting the agreement modification must provide documentation to prove to the judge that the circumstances have changed and the modification is in the best interest of the child. Here, also the parents will have to meet with a mediator and discuss why the agreement modification is required.

Source: Courts.CA.gov, "Basics of Custody & Visitation Orders," Accessed on Oct. 30, 2014

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