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California Child Custody Procedure and Development of Court Orders

The parties may - and are encouraged to - enter into a written stipulation (agreement) on custody issues. If the parties cannot agree, custody orders may be made at any time after the filing of an underlying divorce, paternity, or domestic violence action and may be modified at any time until the child(ren) turn eighteen. In contested cases, they are most commonly made:

  • At the time of the filing of the initial documents in a "Temporary Restraining Order"
  • Within a few weeks of the filing at a hearing on application for "Order To Show Cause"
  • At the time of trial

Modification Of California Child Custody Orders

Child custody orders may be modified at any time before they terminate as long as the party moving for the modification can show that there has been a change in circumstances affecting the welfare of the child(ren) since the last order. Such changes in circumstances include (but are by no means limited to):

  • Change in residence of one of the parents. (This may require a motion for a "move-away order")
  • The desire of an older child to increase or decrease visitation.
  • Evidence of abuse of a child.
  • Alteration of the child(ren)'s school schedule


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California divorce laws recognize that both spouses make valuable contributions to any marriage regardless of their employment. Property is labeled either "community property" or "separate property." Community property is all property, in or out of the state, that either spouse acquired during the marriage. Each spouse owns one-half of all community property. It does not matter if only one spouse worked outside of the home during the marriage or if this property is in only one spouse's name.
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