Settling Child Custody and Visitation in California: 3 Steps

Settling is recommended by judges, attorneys and other family law professionals as the best way to resolve a custody dispute. Settling means parents reach an agreement and file with the court to make it a final order.

The process keeps decision making in the parents’ hands and can often lead to less animosity, faster resolution and significant cost savings. Because of these benefits, California requires parents to attend mediation and settlement conferences (both designed to facilitate a settlement) before they begin a trial.

A settlement can also be reached outside of court via private mediation, collaborative law, or informal negotiation.

Custody X Change is software that creates parenting plans and schedules for your custody settlement.

Prepare My Settlement Now

Settlement paperwork can be filed at any point after you open a family law case. When parents have negotiated a plan successfully, they’ll follow the basic steps below, with some variation by county. Ask your court whether it requires any special forms to file a settlement agreement.

If you have an attorney, he or she will guide you through this process. If not, visit your local family law facilitator or self-help center for assistance.

Step 1: Complete your paperwork

First, you'll need to complete a Stipulation and Order for Custody and/or Visitation of Children. This form works like a cover sheet, listing all the documents you want to be approved as part of your custody and visitation agreement.

Your next documents cover the details of your agreement. You have the option to submit them in a personalized format that works for you, as long as they meet the legal requirements. If you submit a Custody X Change parenting plan and schedule, you're ready to skip to Step 2.

If you don't want to use your own forms, you can submit California's standard Child Custody and Visitation Order Attachment. Then decide if you want to attach any of the following:

Make sure to have all your forms reviewed by an attorney, a family law facilitator, or someone in your superior court’s self-help center to avoid unnecessary problems.

Step 2: Get a judge’s signature

Now, turn in the completed forms and two copies to your judge.

In most cases, judges will approve any agreement between parents that is not detrimental to the child, but they may be less likely to give the green light if your family has had problems with drug use, domestic abuse or neglect.

You can pick up the forms once the judge has signed.

Step 3: File with the court clerk

Next, take all three versions of your judge-approved documents to the court clerk. The court will keep the originals, and each parent will receive copies stamped as "filed."

Your agreement is now a final order. Keep it in a safe place.

If ever you want to modify the order, you can repeat the above process to submit a change to the court. If you and the other parent don’t agree on the modification, you can ask the court to make a decision or try an alternative method of dispute resolution.

After you’ve settled

The custody journey continues after you receive final orders. Now your responsibilities include:

To do all of this and more with one tool, use Custody X Change. The app’s calendars, journal, expenses tracker and parenting plan template will make life after settlement as straightforward as they made settlement itself.

Custody X Change is software that creates parenting plans and schedules for your custody settlement.

Prepare My Settlement Now

Custody X Change is software that creates parenting plans and schedules for your custody settlement.

Prepare My Settlement