California Parenting Plan and Agreement Guidelines

The general California laws about child custody are found in Division 8 of the California Family Code.

Here are the guidelines from the law that you should follow when you make your parenting plan.

Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.

Make Your California Plan Now

Required information in your parenting plan

California courts require a written parenting plan, also called a custody and visitation agreement, that contains information about physical and legal custody.

Physical custody is where your child lives and the physical care of your child. You can make a parenting time schedule to include the information you need about physical custody in your plan.

Legal custody is the authority to make decisions for and about your child. California has a preference for joint legal custody, which means that both parents are encouraged to be involved in decision making.

You can have joint legal custody with any type of physical custody arrangement. If joint legal custody isn't in the best interest of your child you can have sole legal custody.

Suggested information to include in your plan

You aren't required to have any extra information in your plan, but courts encourage parents to include specific rules and provisions so that both parents understand their responsibilities and obligations.

You may want to include information in your plan about:

Factors that affect the best interest of your child

The judge will only accept a plan that ensures the health, safety, and welfare of your child. You should make all of the decisions for your parenting plan in the best interest of your child.

The court looks at the following when deciding what is best for the child:

  • Your child's age
  • Your child's health
  • Your child's relationship with each parent
  • Your child's preference (if your child is mature enough to have a preference or 14 years and older)
  • Your child's ties to school, home, and community
  • Each parent's ability to care for the child
  • Any evidence or history of drug or alcohol abuse
  • Any history of abuse committed by a parent to the other parent or past spouses/partners
  • Any history of abuse of any child that is related to the parent or that the abusive parent has been a caretaker of
Process for making your plan a court order

A parenting plan becomes a court order when the judge signs it and it is filed with the court.

When both parents agree on a plan, they submit their plan to the judge. The judge will usually approve the plan and sign it, and the parents can file the plan with the court.

If parents do not agree on a plan, they must attend mediation to try and work out a plan together. Both parents can prepare for mediation by making sample plans and schedules. If the parents can agree to a plan in mediation they can submit it to the judge.

If the parents are not able to agree on a plan in mediation, they will attend a court hearing and a judge will decide about the plan. The judge may ask the mediator for suggestions or the judge may appoint an independent counselor to meet with each parent, evaluate the situation, and make recommendations.

Additional help

California self-help court information about child custody and making your parenting plan.

San Diego county parenting plan information

Orange county parenting plan guidelines

Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.

Make Your California Plan Now

The top twenty cities in California (by population, CDF estimates, 2009) are: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno, Long Beach, Sacramento, Oakland, Santa Ana, Anaheim, Bakersfield, Riverside, Stockton, Chula Vista, Fremont, Irvine, Modesto, Glendale, San Bernadino, and Huntington Beach.

Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.

Make Your Plan