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What are the procedures for obtaining child custody in California?

If you are contemplating divorce and have children, you are experiencing one of the most stressful periods of any parent's life. However, if the separation of the parents is going to happen, you can't avoid the uncomfortable discussion of how you will continue to raise your children. Understanding some of the steps required to obtain a custody order will help you make the next decision with a little more confidence.

Parenting plans are preferred

If you are able to work through your divorce in an amicable manner, creating a parenting plan that both spouses agree upon avoids the necessity of leaving it all up to the courts. You maintain more control over deciding which holidays might be spent with which parent, and who should be entitled to more visitation depending on the situation. A judge will need to sign-off on the parenting plan, but they will have little say in the details.

Custody orders are issued by the courts

If you and your soon-to-be-ex are unable to agree upon what is best for your child, a custody order will be needed from the courts. You must have an active family law case open with the courts for a custody order to be made. A family law proceeding may involve a divorce, a restraining order for domestic abuse, a paternity case, a child support agency case or a stand-alone petition for custody.

It is not absolutely necessary for both parents to attend the court hearing for the judge to hand down a custody order. However, the absent parent's preferences will not be heard by the judge making the order. Ultimately, the judge will issue the custody order based upon what they perceive the best interest of the child to be, but if you do not inform the court of your perception of what is in your child's best interest, you can expect the court's order to be skewed in favor of the other parent.

As always, every case is different and your California family law attorney will be able to provide more detailed insight into the best way to move forward regarding the decision of where your child will be living in the future.

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