Once you have decided to separate or file a petition for paternity, the next step involves requesting court ordered custody and visitation. You will be requesting these custody and vistiation orders as part of an existing case, or as part of petition to initiate a divorce or paternity. In most courts, custody and visitation orders are only granted as part of a preexisting court action involving both parents (i.e. a divorce or paternity).
The following Actions can be used to request child custody and visitation:
Divorce (aka Dissolution of marriage): Temporary and permanent custody and visitation orders can be requested. Once a judgment has been granted, modifications to original orders can be requested under this court case and no new action is needed.
Legal Separation: If you do not want a divorce but no longer plan on living with your spouse, you may file a motion for legal separation, and request custody and visitation orders from the court.
Paternity: When the parents are not married, a paternity action must be initiated in order to receive court orders for child custody and visitation.
Domestic Violence Restraining Order: If you are currently dealing with a situation involving domestic violence against you and/or your children, you may need to file a restraining order with temporary custody and visitation. Depending on the jurisdiction, you may need to file an additional request or order to show cause in order to receive a custody and visitation order from the court.
If you need to initiate a divorce, paternity, or domestic violence restraining order, Family Court Direct can help you complete all the necessary paperwork.
Building on an Open Case
If you have an open family law case or a prior judgment in family court, you may use your previous court action as the basis for new or modified custody and visitation orders. The first step involves filling out the court required forms to initiate a hearing for custody and visitation, and then filing those forms with the court. You will then either be sent to mediation or receive a hearing date where both parents can present their side of the story. Once the Judge has considered all the evidence, either an order will be entered by the court, or the parents may be ordered to mediation. Once the court is satisfied that the new orders are in the best interests of the child, those orders will become binding until such time as the child reaches the age of 18 or is emancipated, unless another modification is requested at a later date.
Family Court Direct can help you complete all the necessary paperwork for custody and visitation orders or modifications. We can also provide you with information on how to file your paperwork and what you will need to do to follow up once you have a hearing date.
Preparing a Custody and Visitation Schedule
Before heading to court, you and the other parent should first attempt to develop your own parenting plan. A parenting plan can map out a course of action that will allow you and the children of the relationship to better cope with the separation. In some cases, mediation can help parents quickly develop a mutually agreed upon parenting plan which can ease both parties and children during subsequent court proceedings.
When attempting to work out a parenting schedule, aim for cooperation and calm. Try to remove any feelings of animosity or defensiveness when communicating with the other parent, and try to keep an open mind. While you may not be able to agree on an ideal parenting plan, if you keep the lines of communication open you will have a better chance of coming to a decision that is acceptable to both parents while also helping the child cope with separated parents.
As your children mature, their needs and wants will change, and so you will most likely continue to revisit and modify your parenting plan. Younger children may benefit more from joint physical custody, for example, because the ability to spend more custodial time with each parent can foster a sense of stability and equilibrium. As your children get older, outside responsibilities can affect their schedule, including school events and extracurricular activities. Adolescents and preteens may benefit from having a “home base” that allows them to establish one residence while also having easy access to the non-custodial parent through shared visitation.
There are many services available to parents who need help crafting a parenting plan. Your local courts may provide counseling or guidance, and your community may also host workshops or nonprofit organizations committed to promoting healthy, happy families. The internet is also an amazing resource and can provide easy information at your fingertips. Here at Family Court Direct, through our network of independent legal professionals we have decades of experience in preparing family law documents, and we can also help direct you to the right resources for all you family law needs.