The many aspects involved in having a Court hold a hearing or trial to decide your child custody issues are too numerous to address here. However, some of the major items involved in obtaining a Court resolution of child custody issues shall be discussed so to allow you to at least have a brief introduction to the legal process.
File the Proper Legal Pleadings: Before a court can properly address child custody issues the proper pleadings must be filed and served. For example, if the parents are married, either or both parents can file for custody as part of their divorce or legal separation case. A married parent can also file a petition for custody without filing a divorce or legal separation action. If the parents were never married, either parent can filed for custody in the county in which the child is living (usually by filing a paternity action). Child custody orders can also be issued as part of a domestic violence action.
Attend Mediation: In most child custody cases parents will have to attend mediation with Family Court Services. For our purposes, meditation is when a neutral third party attempts to help the parents reach an agreement on child custody and visitation issues. Usually, but not always, mediation occurs with both parents meeting together with the mediator. Meditation can be also be conducted with the mediator meeting separately with the parents in cases where there are allegations of domestic abuse between the parents.
Alameda, Contra Costa, and Solano counties have recommending meditation. This means if the meditator cannot help the parents reach full resolution of the child custody issues, the mediator will make a recommendation to the Judge as to what the mediator thinks the Court should order as to the disputed custody and visitation issues.
Attend Hearing(s) and/or Trial on Your Child Custody Issues: While a Family Court Service mediator may make recommendations as to child custody and visitation orders, the final decision as to what child custody orders will be issued in your case is left to the Judge. The Judge will only issue on going child custody orders after the proper hearing and/or trial is held. All hearings and trials on child custody issues are subject to formal rules of court and other statutory law.