In California, the procedure for deciding child custody and visitation issues in a family law case can vary slightly from county to county. This discrepancy is a result of the local court rules each county has in place. While the Santa Clara County child custody and visitation procedure may differ slightly depending on the particulars of a case, a general outline of the process is detailed below.
In Santa Clara County, if custody/visitation are contested, the child custody and visitation process begins when one parent files an Order to Show Cause (OSC). An OSC is a court order that requires the other parent to appear in court. After an OSC is filed, a hearing date is set. In addition, the parties are also ordered to sign up for a mediation date and a parent orientation class.
At the initial hearing on the moving party’s OSC, the judge may issue temporary custody/visitation orders at the initial hearing. In addition, in every case with contested custody/visitation issues, the parties must attend a parent orientation class. Parent orientation is a mandatory class that briefs parents about the child custody process, mediation, and proper behavior during the process. Next, the parents attend mediation. The purpose of mediation is to reduce any conflict that exists between the parties. In addition, it serves to give the parties the time to develop a mutually satisfactory custody and visitation agreement. If a successful full or partial agreement is reached, the mediator drafts the agreement into a written document. The mediator then sends the written document to the parties. Either spouse may object to the agreement by timely serving a written objection to the other party. If an objection is served, the case proceeds to a Judicial Custody Conference (JCC). If no objection is served, the mediated agreement becomes a custody order. If no agreement is reached during mediation and the mediator feels further mediation would be fruitless, the mediator will refer the parties to a Judicial Custody Conference (JCC).
A JCC is conference between the parties and the judge assigned to the case. During the conference, the judge does not make orders. Instead, the judge helps the parties reach a settlement by weighing in on the remaining custody or visitation disputes.
For information about the remainder of the Custody and Visitation Process in Santa Clara County, please see the upcoming Part II of this blog series. If you are considering a divorce, please contact our firm for more information. Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.