Modification of Temporary Child Custody and Visitation


Many people who are seeking to establish their parental rights try to handle their own custody and visitation disputes on their own without any help from an attorney. Often, a paralegal would prepare their papers and the issue would be resolved during mediation in conciliation court. Laypersons sometimes assume that this is the end of their case only to find out years later that their paternity case has not been finished. The reason for this is that laypeople assume that they have a permanent custody and visitation order after the first hearing from which they obtain an order such as an Order to Show Cause hearing.

Unfortunately, these orders are only temporary or called “Pendente Lite” orders until the more permanent order is issued in the form of a judgment. They are made to create some temporary order between the parties custody and visitation rights until either a final settlement or trial. Now the question is are these orders modifiable? The answer is yes because the Family Courts in California has continuing jurisdiction with regards to Custody and Visitation issues and the mater remains pending even after the underlying dissolution, separation, or paternity judgment is issued.

Different criteria is applied in trying to modify temporary vs. permanent custody and visitation orders. If the party is trying to modify and existing temporary custody order, the moving party need to show that the modification is “necessary or proper” in the child’s best interests. Fam. Code §3022. The primary focus of the Court evaluating this is the child's health, safety and welfare, and, so long as consistent with the child's health, safety and welfare, the preference for ‘ frequent and continuing contact‘ with both parents. However if the party is trying to modify a permanent custody order (after a judgment), the party must show “changed circumstances” in addition to showing how the change in custody would be in the “best interest of the child.” A stipulated custody order may be treated either way depending on whether it was intended to be temporary or permanent. A stipulated custody order will be treated as a ‘final judicial custody determination‘ for purposes of the changed circumstances rule only if there is a clear affirmative indication the parties intended such a result.

Please note that this article is not legal advice and is not intended as legal advice. The article is intended to provide only general, non-specific legal information. This article is not intended to cover all the issues related to the topic discussed. The specific facts that apply to your matter may make the outcome different than would be anticipated by you. This article does not create any attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Offices of Kenneth U. Reyes, P.C. This article is not a solicitation.

Attorney Kenneth Ursua Reyes was President of the Philippine American Bar Association for 2005. He is a member of both the Family law section and Immigration law section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Mr. Reyes is a Certified Family Law Specialist. He is a graduate of Southwestern University Law School in Los Angeles and California State University, San Bernardino School of Business Administration. He has extensive former CPA experience prior to law practice. LAW OFFICES OF KENNETH REYES, P.C. is located at 3699 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA, 90010. Tel. (213) 388-1611 or e-mail; visit at

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