According to the Family Code Section 3020 of the public policy of California, children should have regular and continued contact with both parents in the event of a divorce or separation.
While divorce or separation can be a stressful and an emotional moment for any couple with a child/children, child custody, and visitation can take a toll on both parties. When searching for the types of custody and visitation available in Los Angeles, it is crucial to remember that the best and most important concern is what's best for the children.
When making decisions on child custody and visitation, the courts consider elements such as each parent's health (both mental and physical), the primary caregiver, etc. It is advisable to seek the services of a divorce attorney if you cannot agree with your partner about child custody and visitations. At the Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer, we will offer you skilled representation for your child custody and visitation case.
Understanding Child Custody
Child custody refers to the control and support of a child determined by a court when the child’s parents separate or get a divorce. The state of California has an interest in the wellbeing of the child/children.
For anyone wishing to get children or for those with children, it is essential to understand what custody means in case of a divorce or separation. Child custody cases can be overwhelming, but having this information will save you from complications and stress.
In any child custody agreement, different types of custody must be accounted for. These are the sole legal custody, sole physical custody, joint legal custody, joint physical custody, and sole legal and physical custody.
Physical custody determines where a child/children will stay when parents live separately. It also means the parent given physical custody will be solely responsible for providing a stable shelter and a conducive environment for the child/children.
Legal custody means one parent will make all the significant decisions concerning the child and in the best interest of the child/children. The parent that is given legal custody will decide on where the child will school, the kind of medical treatment the child/children will get, etc. In some cases, the parent awarded physical custody can also have legal custody.
In joint custody, both parents share responsibility for the wellbeing of the child. The judge may decide on joint physical care, joint legal custody, or allow both. Where joint physical custody is issued, a child may live partly with one parent and reside with the other parent at other times. In cases where parents do not agree on exact dates, a court will decide for them.
Factors Considered by Courts Before Making Custody Decisions
Before making any decisions concerning the custody agreements, the judge will look at some of these factors to come up with what is in the best interest of the child/children:
- The age of the child
- The living environments of both parents
- The closeness of the child with each parent
- The parent’s mental fitness
- The availability of the parents to child-rearing
- Whether the child has any special needs
Unless a parent is awarded sole custody of their child/ children (which is rarely the case), one parent will have child visitation rights as determined by the court.
Understanding Child Visitations
In the event of divorce/separation and child custody, child visitations mean visitation rights are afforded to a non-custodial parent. Like child custody, the court considers the best interests of the child when making child visitation decisions.
Knowing that children need both parents for proper emotional and psychological growth, the courts give the non-custodial parent time to spend with the child/children.
Child Visitation Laws
No matter the age and sex of the child/children, the courts do not automatically give visitation to the mother/father, and it cannot deny you visitation because the two of you are not married or because of differences in religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or lifestyle.
Visitation laws allow the non-custodial parent to spend time with the child/children. The state courts typically handle visitation cases as a part of broader family law proceedings that involve issues like divorce, separation, child support, alimony, and custody.
In the case where parents do not agree on a visitation schedule, the court steps in to decide on the issue. Contention may occur after a program has been determined, requiring the court to modify the visitation plan or in the case where one parent may feel that the child/children are not receiving proper care.
When one parent request for visitation, the court looks at some of these factors before making a ruling: study reports from social workers, evidence of misconduct by one parent, for example, drug abuse and adultery, psychological evaluations, and which parent the child prefers if he/she is 12 years and above.
Sometimes the courts may find that giving custody to one parent would harm the children; it will then have to offer custody to a different person other than the parents, in the best interest of the child/children.
Child Visitation Plan
A child visitation plan is perfect if you and your partner are in a peaceful co-existence. A child visitation plan should contain comprehensive information on how both of you will provide for the child/children before the process of divorce has been finalized.
A child visitation timetable will allow both of you to have an opportunity to spend time with the child/children. For instance, a schedule will guide you on your visitation plans based on the child/children’s birthdays, vacations, and other important holidays. Providing more information on a child visitation plan will allow the judge to agree on the terms
For those parents who cannot agree on the right visitation plan, our attorneys will help you create one that will work for both of you. It is essential to understand that a child visitation plan is your best chance to receive the desired custody arrangement. It also makes the custody case easier to deal with.
Types of Child Visitation Orders
There are different visitation orders in California:
Visitation Depending on a Schedule
Visitation on a schedule is essential because it prevents confusion and conflicts. It allows parents to come up with dates and times they are supposed to spend time with the children. It includes special occasions and holidays.
This type of visitation allows parents to work out a visitation on their own without involving the courts. The orders are open-ended and work only if the parents are flexible and can communicate well with each other.
This type of visitation is used when one parent is not trusted with the child’s safety or wellbeing. A supervised visitation involves three people: a child/children, a parent, and the supervisor who can be you, another adult, or a professional.
In the case where one parent has not seen the child/children in a while, supervised visitation is used to give them time to get to know each other.
The court considers the best interest of a child/children when making visitation decisions. In the case where a parent is physically or emotionally harmful to the child/children even with supervision, no visitation option is issued.
A Visitation Schedule in Los Angeles
For a child visitation agreement to work, both parents should understand that children need both parents to put in effort in their development. Parenting time is, therefore, the time that a parent has physical responsibility for a child/children.
A consistent routine will benefit your family, especially if the child/children are still young or if the break up is still recent. It is advisable to start with a modest schedule you can both agree on then build it on from there.
Here are common types of visitation schedule you can try with your partner:
- A Freeman order is an example of a 20% visitation guidelines. This means that the non-custodial parent can spend time with the child/children 20% of the time that is every other weekend from Friday evening after school to Sunday evening.
- When parents live 25 miles away from each other, the 35% schedule is recommended for them, that is, a parent can spend time with children every weekend as set forth combined with alternate weeks (Friday to Friday).
- The 40% schedule gives parents a chance to see the kids 72 hours per week. For instance, Sunday to Tuesday.
- 50% schedule- parents can alternate three days on and four days off. For example, one parent can have the child/children every Monday through Wednesday and every other weekend from Friday to Monday.
Consistency is essential in making co-parenting easier. When coming up with a visitation schedule, understand that emergencies or work-related issues can come up. Make sure that these issues don't become an excuse to interfere with the arrangement you have with your partner. Keep in mind that being open with your partner about any interference will go a long way in ensuring that both of you are happy.
Getting a Child Visitation Order
When parents agree on their own without involving the courts, the agreement becomes binding and enforceable. A court may enforce it until it becomes a court order if one of the parents does not follow the protocol.
If parents do not agree on the agreement, the court may order them to seek a mediator from a family court service to solve the issues amicably.
Mediation is a technique that allows parents to develop a parenting plan without conflicts. It also saves time and money.
Changing a Child Visitation Order
There are many ways of modifying a child visitation order if one parent feels that a child/children are not well taken care of or if the parent-child relationship is not as expected.
- Court Petition
If a parent circumstance changes and affects the visitation schedule, he/she may petition the court to make changes to the visitation agreement. The court proceedings involve a hearing and presentation of evidence by at least a petitioning party, along with opposition from the responding party. The court then makes a ruling making, a new visitation plan.
- Making Changes Outside of Court
Parents can also make changes to the visitation agreement without going to the court in the following ways.
- Presenting a modified agreement to the court over small changes
Parents can prepare a written modified visitation schedule and submit it to courts. The court will, in turn, make an order based on the presented agreement if it is in the interest of the child/children. This mode of transaction is mainly dependent on the parents cooperating.
This method is suitable for changes like change of visitation dates, visiting time, point of pick up or drop off of the child/children.
- Presenting a modified agreement to court over significant changes
When parents need a change such as changing the custodial parent, visitation cycle, etc., they may have to write a document with the proposed changes and present it to the courts. With significant changes, the court may step. If both parents can show that they can agree to the said terms and in the best interest of the child/children, the court will issue a ruling on the new modified agreement, making it the original order. Parents are bound to the new modified order and found in contempt if they don’t follow through.
Grandparents Visitation Rights
Non-parents and grandparent visitation rights are a recent phenomenon as visitation rights only applied to the child/children’s parents.
In Los Angeles, grandparents have visitation rights over their grandchild/grandchildren, though they have to fulfill these requirements:
- There has to be a preexisting relationship between the grandparents and the grandchild/grandchildren, which resulted in a bond that is in the best interest of the child.
- They should balance the best interest of the child with the rights of the parents to make decisions about their child having visitation with grandparents.
There are exceptions where grandparents can file for, but the general rule is that visitation rights cannot be granted to grandparents if the child's parents are married.
According to California Family Code sections 3100-3105, grandparents can be given visitation rights if:
- The parents are not living together
- Stepparents have adopted a child
- A parent has been missing
- One parent supports the grandparents' petition
However, if a parent wants the grandparent's visitation rights to be terminated, the court may rule in favor of the parent only if the exceptions do not apply.
The purpose of granting grandparent’s visitation is to allow them to maintain contact with their grandchildren. Therefore, it is best if the issue is solved outside the courts with the help of a mediator if the grandparents and the parents do not agree amicably. Mediation is an effective technique to settle disputes outside the courts as it involves a neutral third party.
There are two types of laws that guide issuing rights to grandparents: restrictive visitation orders and permissive visitation orders. Restrictive visitation orders allow grandparents to have visitation rights only if the children's parents are either divorced or dead.
Permissive visitation orders allow grandparents to ask for visitation rights even when the parents are alive or married based on the best interest of the child/children.
Process of Asking for Grandparents Visitation Rights
- File a Petition
As a grandparent, if you want visitation rights, you must first file a petition in court. It is best if there is an existing case in the court involving the family, such as a child support case, divorce, or a violence restraining order. If there are no current cases, then grandparents will have to file a petition and start from the beginning.
- Fill Out your Court Forms
It is vital to fill out all the papers given, such as the request for the order that explains the type of visitation order you might prefer and why you would like the kind of visitation with your grandchild. Make use of the child custody and visitation application attachment and describe the orders you would desire on a declaration form.
- Submit your Forms for Review
When you are through with filling out the forms, submit them to the court clerk for review.
- Make Copies of all your Forms
When filing forms with the court’s clerk, you will be required to have three copies for yourself, the children’s parents, and the judge.
- A Court Date
You will then be given a date to appear in court or meet with a mediator
- Serve the Children Parents with the Papers
The service of process allows you to issue a notice to the parents. Have a person who is 18 years and above to deliver the papers to each parent
- Proof of Service
The person who served the documents to the parents will also fill out tests of service correctly.
- Attend the Court Hearing or Mediation
When given a court date, the served parties, and the grandparents must appear in court for the ruling. If there is no progress on an agreement, the court will decide on the best interest of the child/children.
Find a Child Custody and Visitation Expert Near Me
While divorce or separation could be the best option for you, fighting for child custody and agreeing on a child visitation plan can be an uphill task. You will need a skilled lawyer to help you with your case. A lawyer that understands the laws governing divorce and child custody matters will offer you experienced representation for your case. Call our Los Angeles child custody attorney 310-695-5212 to speak to the Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer regarding your case.