If you’re dealing with a child custody case, visitation is likely an issue in the proceeding. When making decisions on parental rights for custody and visitation, the best interests of the child are put first in California. Depending on what the circumstances are for either or both parents, the visitation rights can be great or not given at all.
The information on this webpage is written to inform you of your visitation rights as a parent. The following topics will be explained:
- Child custody and visitation
- Best interests of the child
- Types of visitation Orders
- Denying visitation rights to one or both parents
- Coming up with a parenting plan for parenting time
- Are you getting the visitation rights you deserve as a parent?
For information about grandparent visitation rights, click here.
Child Custody and Visitation Rights
There are two types of custody that a parent can have, physical and legal custody. For the purposes of this webpage concerning visitation rights, we will be referring to physical custody of the child. If you would like to learn more about the different types, please visit our types of child custody page.
Physical custody of the child determines where and with whom the child will live with. Either one or both parents may have physical custody of the child, as ordered by the court or decided between the two parents. Both parents may share 50/50 custody or one parent may have the majority of the physical custody.
When the child is in the care of a parent, that parent is called the custodial parent. During this time, the non-custodial parent may or may not have visitation rights. It is all dependent on what is best for the child. Things like a history of domestic violence or child abuse is factored into a parent’s right to visit the child. When a court makes a child custody order, the non-custodial parent must be given reasonable visitation rights too, except when it may become a danger to the child or children.
Best Interests of the Child
A judge evaluates child custody cases by considering the best interests of the child. Knowing what is best for the child, helps the judge determine custody and visitation rights. The things that the judge considers are:
- The child’s health and safety
- The child’s preference, if he/she is mature enough to make wise decisions regarding custody
- The parent’s ability to co-parent and encourage the child or children to have a positive relationship with the other parent
- The parent’ ability to provide stability for the child or children
Types of Visitation Orders
When a parent’s visitation rights are ordered by the court, the judge is the one who makes the decision on what type of interaction with the child would be safe and beneficial to the child. Below are several different types of visitation that may be ordered.
A parent that has custody of the child less than half the year is said to have visitation. Usually, there is a visitation plan agreed upon by both parents to help avoid confusion, such as who gets the children for the weekend, the child’s birthday, or for Christmas.
Supervised visitation is given to a parent or both parents when the child’s safety or welfare may be endangered. The court requires that there is a supervising adult or agency with the visiting parent(s). Sometimes, supervised visitation may also be required when the parent(s) and child(ren) need time to get to know each other before they feel comfortable being alone together. This might happen when it’s been a long time since the parent(s) and child(ren) have seen each other. Camacho v. Camacho
If visitation is withheld from a parent, it is because visitation would harm the child either physical or emotionally. No visitation is usually ordered in cases of domestic violence or child abuse. It is always the court’s top priority to ensure child safety and protect the child’s best interests. Barkaloff v. Woodward
Although not a court ordered visitation, there is another type of visitation worth mentioning. Virtual visitation is allowing the parent and child to communicate via webcam, video phone or other computer software. This is a good option for parents who live far away from the child, whether they are in the military, have been deported, or just live in a different county or state. A parent may also opt for virtual visitation when their schedule won’t allow for physical visitation.
Denying Visitation Rights to One or Both Parents
The California Family Law code places an importance on having a child and parent have “frequent and continuing contact”, except when visitation would become “detrimental” to the child or children. The court finds “detrimental” as being endangering to the child’s health, welfare, and safety. Usually this comes in the form of domestic abuse or child abuse. If there is a protective order against a parent, his/her visitation rights may also be taken away or suspended.
Frequent and continuing contact with the child is encouraged by the court. That’s why there is supervised visitation. If the court sees that it is safe for the child, the parent will have visitation privileges as long as they are supervised. Complete denial of visitation for a parent is the last resort. Devine v. Devine
Coming Up with a Parenting Plan for Parenting Time
A Parenting Plan is also called a “custody and visitation agreement.” It is just what it sounds like. The parent’s come up with a written plan to share time to parent the child. They decide on how much time each parent will get with the child, when each parent would have physical custody of the child, and who will make decisions regarding the child’s health, education, and welfare.
This written plan helps lessen the confusion for both the parents and the children, allowing a more peaceful custody and visitation arrangement. When both parents know who is in charge and at what time, there are fewer conflicts about the shared parenting time. It also allows the parents to make future plans because they know when they will have the children.
A parenting plan is more than just writing on a paper, it becomes a binding agreement between both parents once the judge signs it and you file it with the court. The parenting plan should be developed with the child’s best interest in mind. The less fighting over custody and visitation, the better the children’s relationship with the parents will likely be. When developing this plan, the mother and father of the child should consider the child’s basic needs:
- Love, safety, protection, guidance
- Medical care
- Good rest
Other things that should be considered are:
- The child’s age, personalities, and abilities
- The child’s relationship with either parent
- Providing consistency for the child to help create a good daily routine the child can get used to
- What would make your child feel secure
This parenting plan is a great way to clearly communicate and enforce custody and visitation rights for both parents, but flexibility should also be a part of it. For instance, if a child is sick when it’s time to go to the other parent’s house, consider changing the visitation day because it would be best for the child’s health. They are also good for preventing parental alienation.
Are You Getting the Visitation Rights that You Deserve as a Parent?
If you’ve been through a child custody battle, were you given the visitation rights that you deserve? If you’re getting less time with your child and you want more, first try talking to the other parent to see if you both can agree on giving you more time. If the other parent contests to changing the visitation agreement, you have the right to litigate.
If you’re a good parent and you know that more time with you can be beneficial to your child or children, you will have to prove it. The court might order supervised visitation for you, but stick with it if it’s for your child’s best interest. You may want to consult with a family lawyer to see if you have a case first.