Establish or Modify Child Custody and Visitation

How do I get a custody order?

You may ask for custody and visitation orders in a Petition for Dissolution, a Petition for Custody and Support, a Petition to Determine Parental Relationship and during the process of requesting a Domestic Violence Restraining Order (if you share the children in common with the restrained party).  

The Petition to Determine Parental Relationship is used when there is no legal father established for a child.  

A Petition for Custody and Support is filed when there is a legal father but no orders anywhere for custody or visitation.  

Some of the ways that a person who is not the mother can be established as the legal parent is being married to the mother when the child is born, signing a Declaration of Paternity at the hospital when the child is born, or having a child support judgment entered establishing legal parentage.

If you already have an open case but do not have orders, you may wish to contact the Self-Help center for assistance and referral to the proper clinic

The Self-Help Center offers clinics that provide assistance in filling out forms requesting that the court open a case to establish an original custody or visitation order. Please check the clinic calendar for the “Petition for Custody and Support & Beginning Parentage” clinic. 

How do I change a custody order?

To change an existing custody and visitation order you must file a “Request for Orders” FL-300 with the applicable attachments, specifically telling the court what you want to change. A hearing will be set and the other party will need to be served with your request.

The Self Help Center offers clinics that provide help in filling out the forms requesting the court change your current order. Please check the clinic calendar for the “Request for Orders: Custody and Visitation” clinic. 

How Do I Get Emergency Custody Orders?

If you feel that your child is in imminent danger, you can request temporary emergency court orders. The links provided below are to instructions for completing the forms. The blank forms can be found on the California Courts website. To figure out which papers you need to complete, see below:

Is the other parent perpetrating domestic violence such that you fear for your safety or for the safety of your child?


After your hearing

After the hearing, the orders that the court makes need to be put into a formal order.  

The Self Help Center offers a clinic that can help. Please check the clinic calendar for the “Findings and Order After Hearing” clinic.

Often litigants will need their orders sooner than the next clinic.  The Self-Help Center has created an instruction packet to provide assistance with getting those forms completed if you cannot wait for a clinic.

Findings and Order After Hearing Instructions

Link to California Court Forms

For Additional information about Child Custody and Visitation:

California Courts Parenting and Visitation Information Page