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Legal Information: California


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Laws current as of January 11, 2024

What are the steps for filing for custody?

It depends on the particulars of your situation.  To find out what the process will be like for you, please consult a lawyer in your area. Go to our CA Finding a Lawyer page for more information.

Generally, if the parents are married, one or both of the parents files for custody as part of a divorce or legal separation action.1  However, a married parent can also file a petition for custody without asking for a divorce.2  If the parents are already divorced, there would have been a custody order in the divorce decree.  Therefore, if either parent wants to change it, s/he can file a petition for a change in custody in the county where the divorce was granted.3  If the parents were never married, either parent can file for custody in the county in which the child is living.4

1 See Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 3022
2 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 3120
3 See California Courts Self Help Center for forms and instructions needed to change your custody order
4 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 3010