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I would like to change the venue in my child custody case from one CA county to another. Is there a form I need to file?

Oakland, CA |

I have been living and working in Alameda County for the past two years. My child's father (we were not married) lives in Contra Costa County. Currently we have joint custody, but I'm hoping to have the visitation changed as my child is beginning school. My child is also very unhappy and upset to go to his Dad's. He spends one week with me, his Mom and alternating weeks with his Dad.

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Attorney answers 4


Clearly the current visitation would be difficult once the child starts school. I'm assuming since you want to change venue that Contra Costa County is where the current case is.
What you would have to do is file a Request for Orders to modify the current custody orders. This requires that you show a material change in circumstances in that the child is going to be starting school, and the current arrangement is not in the child's best interest.
You should consult with an attorney to assist with this, because if you lose, Dad will likely have primary custody. Courts are required to consider which parent is most likely to encourage frequent and continuous contact with the other parent, so even if it is true, you will not will points saying your child is unhappy with Dad. It may even be evidence against you. Instead focus on why it would be better for your child to live primarily with you. Also discuss how you would encourage the relationship with the child's father if you had primary custody. Then, and only if, you are awarded primary custody would you be able to seek to change venue. Even then, the court may not want to give up the case.

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There is no standard or judicial council form to Request a Change in Venue. A Motion to Change Venue must be filed in the county where the case is presently filed. A Court will ordinarily allow a change in venue if both parties agree and/or for the convenience of the parties if one or more of them live in a different jurisdiction with the child.


To successfully change the venue, you are going to have to prove up the facts that the child has established a new primary residence and resided in the new County for the past 6 months. It doesn't sound like you exactly have those facts. It sounds as if you have established a 50/50 timeshare split in Contra Costa County, but the original existing outstanding parenting plan is in Contra Costa County. With the facts you have, it may be troublesome to obtain a change of venue.

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You do not seem as interested in the venue for the case, as you do in changing custody to be primarily in Alameda County. As others have suggested, I advise you not to spend any time or focus on venue, and instead address the best needs of the child with regard to primary residence. Now that he will begin school, that is a good reason to question continuing with the week on/week off schedule in two different counties. You should try to talk civilly with the father to find a solution, and you could even try meeting together with a child custody specialist (a therapist such as Shendl Tuchman in Oakland is excellent) to help you find a mutually acceptable solution that is good for your son (and not a result of either of your emotions). Once you file the Request for Order (I recommend you have an attorney help with that), the court will require you and the father to go to custody mediation at the courthouse, a worthwhile (and free) program that will try to help you agree, before it gets in front of a judge. Look that up on the court's website for more info. Good luck! David Holcomb, Berkeley attorney