Permanent Custody Orders:
Although child custody & visitation orders are always modifiable with a showing of a substantial change of circumstances, a so-called ‘Permanent’ order is one that is contained in, or intended to be contained within a Judgment. Since the required standards to modify a custody order differ between the two, it is important to make sure that your order states that it is either temporary or permanent. A permanent order usually contains more details than a temporary order, for instance it will contain information about holiday visits, electronic visits, and the conduct of the parents while they share the children.
In Santa Clara County, permanent orders can be issued after the parties reach an agreement. If there is no agreement the parties will be ordered to participate in mediation, either through a privatly retained child mediator, or through Family Court Services. If mediation produces no agreement, the parties will be referred back to the Judge for a Judicial Custody Conference, wherein the parents will have the opportunity to state their positions and the Judge will try to obtain at least a partial, if not a complete settlement.
If a complete settlement is not made the Judge will either order the parties back to another Judicial Custody Conference, or will order the parties to a mental health based evaluation. It is only after an evaluation by a mental health professional coupled with a trial on the matter, that the court will be able to make orders over the objection of one parent.
Other counties in the area have different procedures. For information about what to expect in your county see the attached map: