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Child Custody / Visitation

ESSENTIAL RESOURCES & DOCUMENTS

Overview

How To Use This Guide

This guide is intended for those seeking advice in the following scenarios:

  • Anyone in the position responding to a petition for child custody and child support of minor children
  • Anyone who is looking to file a Request For Order (RFO) in regards to Child custody and/or visitation orders

This guide will take you through both of these processes, guiding you on which forms you need, how to fill them out, and how to start the filing process. While this guide is informative, it is not a replacement for legal advice. If you require legal help, we do advise you to reach out to the LA Family Law Help Centre so we can consult you on your case.

 

Key Terms

PETITIONER: The person who began the case by filing the first court forms.

RESPONDENT: The person who responds to the first court forms.

 

Child Custody Process Overview

Response To a Petition For Child Custody

Warning

IF YOU ARE MARRIED TO THE CHILD’S OTHER PARENT: This action WILL NOT terminate the marriage or award and/or dispose of community/separate property assets and debts. You will still need to initiate a dissolution of marriage, legal separation or nullity action to address these issues.

IF YOU ARE NOT MARRIED TO THE CHILD’S OTHER PARENT: This action WILL NOT establish a parental relationship unless both parents have signed a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity. You will still need to initiate an action to establish the parental relationship.

RESTRAINING ORDER: There is a restraining order located on the back of the summons (page two of said form) that applies to both parties. The restraining order is effective against the petitioner upon filing of the petition. It is effective against the respondent once the respondent has been personally served with the service documents or on waiver and acceptance of service by respondent.

The restraining order is in effect until the judgment is entered, the petition is dismissed, or the court makes a further order.

Step-By-Step Guide For Respondent

These instructions provide the basic information you need to respond to the Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children action. It is not designed to provide you with legal advice regarding your specific problems and cannot take the place of a consultation with a lawyer.

If you follow these instructions, you will be able to respond to the Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children.

Key Forms
  •  FL-270: Response to Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children
  • MC-025: Blank Attachment Page – Optional
  • FL-311: Child Custody and Visitation Attachment – Optional
  • FL-312: Request for Child Abduction Prevention Orders – Optional
  • FL-341(C): Children’s Holiday Schedule – Optional
  • FL-341(D): Additional Custody Provisions – Optional
  • FL-341(E): Joint Legal Custody Provisions – Optional
  • FL-105: Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
  • FL-105(A): Continuation Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
  • FL-150: Income and Expense Declaration
  • FL-155: Financial Statement (Simplified)
  • FL-335: Proof of Service by Mail
  • FW-001: Request to Waive Court Fees – Optional
  • FW-003: Order on Court Fee Waiver – Optional
Filing Requirement

The Respondent has THIRTY (30) DAYS from the date of service to file the Response with the required proof of service form attached with the Filing Clerk (located in Room 426 on the 4th floor of the Los Angeles Superior Court). There is filing fee that will be charged when you submit the documents for filing, which currently is $435.00, unless you qualify for a “Fee Waiver.” If you believe that you will be unable to pay the filing fee, ask for the “Fee Waiver” forms from the Family Law Information Center (Central only).

Filling Out The Forms

The documents should be typed (which is the preferable method) or printed using black ink (printing neatly and legibly). It is important that you understand the names of Petitioner and Respondent. The Petitioner is always the person who began this case by filing the first court documents. The Respondent is always the person who responded to the first court documents. The Petitioner and Respondent remain the same throughout the entire case, no matter who files documents.

To formally respond in a timely fashion,

  • Forms 1-14: Must be filled out completely.
  • Forms 2-7: Are optional forms.
  • Form 9: It is only necessary to complete this form if you have more than two minor children of the relationship. If you do not, this form can be thrown away too.
  • Forms 10 and 11: You must complete either the Income and Expense Declaration or the Financial Statement Simplified. You do not need to prepare both but there are limitations on the types of parties that can use the Financial Statement (Simplified). See the form for qualifications.
  • Forms 13-14: If you fill these out do not serve them to the other party. You only need to file them with the filing clerk.

Make two (2) copies of the documents once completed.

  • Form 12: The person mailing the copy of the completed Forms 1-11 to the Petitioner, must complete this form. This individual must be someone over the age of 18 who is not a party to this action. (THIS MEANS THAT YOU CANNOT PERSONALLY DELIVER OR MAIL A COPY OF THE FORMS TO PETITIONER.) If you elect to have the third person personally serve the Petitioner, you will need to obtain a different proof of service form (FL-330, Proof of Personal Service).

Make two (2) copies of the completed Form 12. One copy of this form should be included in the package mailed to the Petitioner by the third person.

Service On Petitioner

As a reminder, copies of the following documents should be mailed to the Petitioner:

  1. FL-270 Response to Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children (Form 1)
  2. Any optional forms that are attached and are a part of the Response such as:
    • Attachment Page (Form 2)
    • Child Custody and Visitation Attachment (Form 3)
    • Request for Child Abduction Prevention Orders (Form 4)
    • Children’s Holiday Schedule (Form 5)
    • Additional Custody Provisions (Form 6)
    • Joint Legal Custody Provisions (Form 7)
  3. FL-105 Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (Form 8)
  4. FL-105(A) Continuation of Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act – if there are more than two minor children of this relationship (Form 9)
  5. FL-150 Income and Expense Declaration (Form 10) -OR-
  6. FL-155 Financial Statement (Simplified) (Form 11)
  7. FL-335 Proof of Service (Service by Mail) (Form 12)

The Filing Clerk will not accept the original documents for filing without the Proof of Service showing that copies of the completed Forms 1-11 have been mailed or personally served on the Petitioner PRIOR TO FILING THE ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS.

Filing

Take the original and one copy of the completed Forms 1-12 to the Clerk in Room 426 on the 4th floor of the Los Angeles Superior Court (111 N. Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012). The Filing Clerk will keep the original documents submitted and return your conformed copy to you. You will need to bring either the filing amount or have a Fee Wavier application packet completed for approval with you at the time of filing.

Note:

  • Keep copies of all your court documents for your own records
  • These forms simply respond to the action. A Request for Order is required to obtain custody, visitation and support orders.
  • Nothing further will be done on your case until one or both of the parties file additional documentation.

Request For Order (RFO)

This document contains instructions to guide you through the process of filing a “Request for Order” regarding Child Custody and/or visitation Orders.

These instructions are NOT designed to provide you with legal advice and DO NOT take the place of consulting with a lawyer. If you follow these instructions, you will be able to get a court hearing at which you will represent yourself. A checklist is included to help you through the Request for Order process.

Warning

BEFORE FILLING OUT FORMS: Read the Family Code Section 3044 “Presumption Against Person Perpetrating Domestic Violence.” It says that a parent who has committed domestic violence in the last 5 years may not get custody of their children unless the court decides that it is in the child’s best interest to live with that parent. *If you think this is an issue, you should speak with a lawyer.

Step-By-Step Guide

Tips For Filling Out Forms

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Standard Terms For Forms

The forms should be typed (which is the preferred method) or hand printed neatly and legibly using black ink.

It is important that you understand the terms “Petitioner,” “Respondent” and “Other Parent/Party.”

  • The Petitioner is always the person who began this case by filing the first court forms.
  • The Respondent is always the person who responds to the first court forms.
  • The “Other Parent” is found only in “BY or BZ” cases (discussed below). “BY or BZ” cases are cases about child support started by the County of Los Angeles, The Other Parent is the parent receiving/entitled to child support in a case started by the County of Los Angeles.

The Petitioner, Respondent and when used, Other Parent, remain the same throughout the entire case, no matter who files paperwork for a hearing or trial.

Tips For Filling Out Forms

Write the Judge’s name and Courtroom number on each form you file. This will help ensure that your forms get to the right courtroom and into your file. If your case was filed after July 17, 2006, you should have received a ” Notice of Case Assignment,” with your courtroom number and Judges name, when you filed your “Petition.”

Keep in mind:

  • When preparing these forms, you must explain to the Court why you are asking for any custody or visitation orders (starting orders) or why you want to change the existing custody or visitation orders. The Court makes its decision based on what it believes is in THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD. If modifying (changing) a current Court Order. The Court will consider what changes have occurred since the orders were made.
  • The optional forms “Declaration” (form MC-031) is used if you need more space to write your declaration that will not fit on the “Request for Order.”
  • The Court has a busy calendar. The Judge relies on the information you write on your forms at the time of the hearing. The judge may not be able to hear all of your oral testimony. Make sure you explain in your forms the most important information and keep it short and direct. You may want to include declarations from other people such as teachers, doctors, or counselors who have important information about your child(ren). You may also want to attach report cards, medical records, etc. If you do, attach copies, bring the originals to the hearing. You may want to talk to an attorney about the admissibility of these documents. REMEMBER: YOU must convince the Judge that the requested order should be made, or the current order changed.
Los Angeles County Cases

If your children live in Los Angeles County and there is a case started by the County of Los Angeles with a case number that begins with the letters “BY or BZ” you may use this packet to ask for custody or visitation orders for yourself or the other parent if the case meets two conditions:

  1. The case number is higher than BY223901.
  2. There is a child support order in effect.

Both conditions must be met. If not, you will need to file more forms in addition to this Request for Order. See Staff in the Resource Center for more information.

If both conditions have been met and the children live in Los Angeles County, the caption on your forms should read:

  • Petitioner: County of Los Angeles
  • Respondent: Name of the Respondent listed in the CSSD action.
  • Other Parent: Name of the other parent.

All forms must show the Central District courthouse address and be filed at that location.

If this is the first time that you have requested a custody or visitation order in a “BY or BZ” case, you must complete the “Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act” form.

Court Forms

After you complete all the forms in your case, make 2 copies of the completed forms (3 copies if it is a “BY” or “BZ” case number) and keep them in order.

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Key Forms
  • FL-300: Request for Order
  • FL-311: Child Custody and Visitation Application (Parenting Time) Attachment – Optional
  • FL-312: Request for Child Abduction Prevention Orders – Optional
  • FL-341(C): Children’s Holiday Schedule Attachment – Optional
  • FL-341(D): Additional Provisions-Physical Custody Attachment – Optional
  • FL-341(E): Joint Legal Custody Attachment – Optional
  • MC-031: Declaration – Optional
  • FL-150: Income and Expense Declaration
  • FL-105: Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)
  • FL-330: Proof of Personal Service
  • FL-335: Proof of Service by Mail
  • FL-334: Declaration Regarding Address Verification-Post Judgment Request to Modify a Child Custody, Visitation, or Child Support Order
Extra Forms

You can find EXTRA forms that you might need to complete:

  • In Room 426 of the Los Angeles Superior Court (you will have to pay a fee for the forms).
  • OR on the internet at https://www.courts.ca.gov/forms.htm
  • Please note: Forms from the internet can be printed, but cannot be saved.

Court Costs

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Filing Fee

You need to pay a filing fee when you file your forms at the courthouse unless you qualify for a “Fee Waiver.” Currently there is a filing fee ($60 or $85) AND a court reporter fee ($30).

  • If it is the first time that you are filing a custody or visitation order, the fee will be about $90.00.
  • If you are applying to have your custody or visitation order hanged, the fee will be about $115.00.
Fee Waivers

If you can’t pay the fee, applications for a “Fee Waiver” are available in the Family Law Information Center, Room 426 of the Los Angeles Superior Court, or on the internet.

*YOU MUST FILE THE “FEE WAIVER” FORMS AT THE SAME TIME YOU FILE THE ORIGINALS AND COPIES OF YOUR OTHER FORMS.

If You Are The REspondent

If you are the RESPONDENT and this is the first time you are filing any forms in this case, you will need to pay a “first appearance fee” (about $435) and a “hearing fee.”

In “BY” and “BZ” cases stated by Los Angeles County the Respondent and Other Parent will be charged the first appearance fee (about $435) and the bearing fee (either $90 or $115).

 

Filing

  • Take the original and 2 copies of all of the completed forms to the Clerk in Room 426. The Clerk keeps the original and returns the 2 copies to you, after they have been stamped with the case number and the date that it was filed.
    • These stamped and dated forms are now called “conformed forms.”
  • The Clerk will give you a hearing date that will be 30-45 days away.
  • The Clerk will write the mediation appointment date, time, and location on the RFO form.

    Mediation Appointment

    When you file your forms in Room 426 of the Los Angeles Superior Court, the Clerk will give you a mediation appointment. At this appointment, both parents meet with a trained counselor and try to agree about the custody or visitation of the children before going to court.

    • You must attend this appointment before you go to court for child custody or visitation.

    If there has been domestic violence in your home, you can ask to speak with the counselor alone, but you need to ask before the appointment begins.

    If you live out of the area, ask Family Court Services if you can have an appointment by telephone instead. The phone number for the Los Angeles Superior Court Family Court Services is: (213) 974-5524.

    Parent Education Program

    When parents don’t get along, it affects the children. This program teaches parents how to avoid putting their children in the middle of the conflict with the other parent. It is MANDATORY that you attend this program before you go to mediation or any court hearing regarding custody or visitation.

    When you file your original forms, you will receive 2 copies of the parenting education program schedule. Serve 1 copy, along with the other service documents, on the other party.

    When you attend parenting education you will receive a proof of completion. Bring proof of the completion to your hearing. If you have already attended the parenting education program you will not need to attend the program again.

    Preparing The Service Package

    After you have filed the original forms with the Clerk and received your 2 stamped copies, you must serve a copy of all the documents to the other party. This is called a “service package” and must be done at least 16 court days (do not include weekends or national holidays) from the hearing date. It is YOUR responsibility to make sure the other party is given the documents on time.

    IMPORTANT: If you do not deliver the documents to the other party on time, the judge will NOT hear your case! If you are not able to deliver the documents to the other party, tell the Clerk on the day of your hearing and ask for a new hearing date.

    THE SERVICE PACKAGE MUST HAVE:

    • One conformed copy (stamped and dated by the court) of the forms you filed with the court.
    • One blank copy of forms that the other party needs to fill out, see below. You must also include any optional forms you used.
      • FL-320: Responsive Declaration to Request for Order
      • MC-031: Declaration
      • FL-335: Proof of Service by Mail

    How To Serve/Deliver Forms To THe other Party

    The other party must be served with the “service package.” There are many ways to serve the other party, but the most common way is by Personal Service.

    • If the other party lives in California they must be personally served.
    • Sometimes you are allowed to mail the forms to them, but please check with Staff beforehand.

     

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    Personal Service
    • Any adult over the age of 18 (EXCEPT YOU) may give the service package to the other party in person.
    • If the other party is jail or prison in California, contact that facility and ask them how you can personally serve them.
    • For about $30, the Sheriff’s Department can give the service package to the other party, however, it might not be delivered on time. If it is not delivered on time (more than 16 court days from the hearing date) you need to either start the entire process again or tell the Clerk so you can get a new hearing date.
      • The Sheriff’s Office is on the 5th Floor of the Los Angeles Superior Court.
      • If you cannot afford the $30 fee, fill out a “Fee Waiver” form and take it to the Sheriff’s Department.
    Serving The Other Party By Mail

    *Please check with staff to see if these can be used in your case before you deliver the forms to the other party this way.

    • If the other party lives IN CALIFORNIA:
      • The forms can be mailed to the other party by an adult over the age of 18 who is not involved with the case (NOT YOU).
      • Delivery must be made more than 16 court days plus 5 calendar days from the hearing if mailed in California
    • If the other party lives OUTSIDE California, but in the U.S.:
      • The forms can be mailed to the other party by an adult over the age of 18 who is not involved with the case (NOT YOU).
      • Delivery must be made more than 16 court days plus 10 calendar days from the hearing.
    Proof Of Service/Delivery

    The adult who delivered (served) the documents to the other party must fill out a Proof of Personal Service form (FL-330).

    • The adult must type/write all of the forms that were in the service package (including blank forms), as well as the date, time, and place of service.
    • The adult must also type/write in their address, print their name, and sign the bottom of the form.
    • Make one copy of the completed Proof of SERVICE (FL-330).

    Take the original and the copy to the Clerk in Room 426 of the Los Angeles Superior Court at least 10 days before your hearing. The Clerk will file one copy and stamp the other copy and give it back to you. This stamped copy is called a “conformed copy.”

    *Take the conformed (stamped) copy of the Proof of Service with you to court on the date of your hearing.

    Hearing Day

    On the date of your hearing, go to the Los Angeles Superior Court and look at the list of cases outside of the Courtroom. Find your name and calendar number. The calendar number is the number to the left of your name on the list. Please write this number down because you will need it later.

    Check in with the Clerk or Bailiff in the Courtroom. They will ask you what your calendar number is. When the court is ready listen carefully for your name and number. When the judge asks you a question, listen carefully and answer it as clearly as you can.

    How To Write A Declaration

    The following information is NOT designed to provide legal advice and DOES NOT take the place of consulting with a lawyer. The following guidelines are merely suggestions on how to organize your declaration.

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    What Is A Declaration?

    A declaration is your chance to explain your story in writing. Your judge will read your declaration before he/she makes orders at your hearing.

    Why is my declaration so important?

    You may not be given enough time to speak at your court hearing, so it is important that you put everything you think is important in writing.

    How do I organize my declaration?
    • Use separate headings, subheadings, and paragraphs for each issue (See Page 2).
    • Discuss the most important issues FIRST!
    • If you are filing an Ex Parte, explain what the emergency is.

    Always include:

    1. WHAT orders you want
    2. WHY you want them, and
    3. FACTS/EXAMPLES/INCIDENTS that support your request

     

    Is there specific language I should include?

    YES. You should explain why your proposed orders would be in the “best interest” of your child(ren). The Court is required to consider the following factors:

    1. The health, safety, and welfare of the child (the Court’s priority)
    2. History of child abuse or abuse of the other parent/significant other
    3. The nature and amount of contact with both parents:
      • The state’s public policy is to promote “frequent and continuing contact” with both parents. The Court wants to know if either parent has interfered with the other parent’s regular contact with the child.
    4. History of drug or alcohol abuse
    5. In addition, the court may consider “any other factors it finds relevant.”

    If you want to modify custody orders after your Judgment has been signed, you need to prove that there has been a “significant change of circumstances” since your last orders were made.

    REQUEST CONSULTATION

    If you would like to schedule an appointment online, please fill out the following form and a member of our team will call you within 24 hours to schedule a time to meet with you.

     

    The Los Angeles Family Law Help Center