John Griffith discusses how to modify California custody and visitation orders.
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Hi my name’s John Griffith. I’m a divorce and family law attorney here in San Diego, California. This is one of the series of videos aimed at addressing common issues that come up in California divorce and family law cases. I should note that nothing I say is intended to be or should be taken as legal advice. If you need legal advice considering your case you should call a family law attorney. My office offers free consultation so feel free to give me a call to discuss the particulars of your case. Today I’ll be talking about what California law says about child custody and visitation, and specifically I’ll be addressing how to modify a current custody or visitation order. So you’re in a situation where you have a custody and visitation order. It might have been in place for years, it might have just been put in place, and you’d like to see about getting that order modified. Whether you’re the parent that’s not living with the children and you want more time with the kids, or if you’re the parent that is living with the children and you have an issue with how much time your ex-spouse spends with the children, this video’s going to be helpful to you. It’s going to explain to you what California law says about child custody modification. Now if you’re looking at getting a child custody order modified then you’ve probably already been through the process of establishing the custody order. But I’m going to run through kind of what you go through prior to the court ordering or making an order for child custody and visitation. Any time you file a motion that addresses the issue of custody and visitation the court is going to require you and the other parent to attend what’s called family court services mediation. And this is required in San Diego County specifically. So once you file your motion you’ll get two dates. The first date’s going to be the family court services mediation date, and then you’ll have a follow-up court hearing date where the court is going to address the issue of custody and visitation and make orders accordingly. And you only get that court date if the issue is still contested. If you settle your issue of custody and visitation at family court services mediation, there’s no need for the hearing. So family court services mediation is just that- it’s mediation. You can’t bring your attorney to mediation if you have the mediation appointments set; the other party can’t bring their attorneys to mediation meeting. It’s just you and the other parent in front of the mediator discussing the case. It’s very very important you are prepared for family court services mediation, I can’t stress this enough. I’ve had clients come into my office, they’ve been to family court services mediation, family court services mediation didn’t go well, and now they’re stuck with this recommendation from the family court services mediator that could have gone completely differently if they had retained me prior to them going to the family court services mediation, so that I can prepare them for what to say, what not to say, how you react to the other parent, the kinds of things that the family court services mediator is looking at. The reason I say that is because the reason I say that family court services mediation is so important is because mediation is kind of a misnomer especially in San Diego County. If you don’t come to an agreement that mediator then becomes an evaluator, and that mediator is going to write a recommendation and a report directly to the judge, directly to your family court judge, listing everything they he or she heard both of you say at family court services and mediation and is going to make a recommendation as far as what he or she thinks the new custody order should be. So if you’re not ready to go to family court services, and you end up getting a bad recommendation, when you go to the judge you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle in trying to convince the judge that the judge shouldn’t adopt the recommendations of the mediator. I would say probably in the cases that I’ve worked eight or nine times out of ten, no matter what the attorneys say, no matter what the clients say to the judge, the judge is going to adopt that family court services recommendation.
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