Divorces and separations are replete with hot-button issues. Perhaps no issues are more frequently contested, however, than child custody and child visitation. In a prior blog, I discussed the different types and aspects of child custody. This blog will focus on visitation, which is typically granted to the parent who has the children less than half of the time.
A visitation order spells out how the child’s time will be managed. For example, a visitation order might address where a child would spend birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, major holidays, and summer break.
The California Legislature has declared that the primary concern of courts in making custody and visitation decisions is the “health, safety, and welfare of children.” However, an additional public policy of the state is “assur[ing] that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents.” The law specifically “encourage[s] parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing” to meet this second goal, unless regular contact is not in the best interest of the children. Custody decisions are not made on the basis of a parent’s marital status, lifestyle, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation.
There are four types of visitation orders in California: (1) reasonable visitation; (2) scheduled visitation; (3) supervised visitation; and (4) no visitation.
A reasonable visitation order leaves decisions about how the parents will share the children’s time largely to the parents. These orders provide the parents with the ultimate flexibility; however, if the parents do not get along or if future disagreements may occur, these are not a good choice for the family.
Scheduled visitation provides clear direction to the parents about how the children’s time will be spent. These orders are ideal for parents who may not get along or communicate well because they provide clear expectations. If you’ve ever heard someone say that it was “their weekend” with their children, the court probably ordered scheduled visitation in their divorce. These orders dictate everything from birthdays and major holidays down to evenings and weekends.
Courts use supervised visitation orders when necessary to protect the health, safety, and welfare of children. In supervised visitation, the parent still gets to spend time with the children but only under the supervision and presence of another adult or, sometimes, a professional agency. Supervised visitation may be used in situations like the following:
- Allegations or a history of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence;
- A nonexistent or weakened parent-child relationship;
- Parental mental illness or substance abuse.
In rare cases, a court will order no visitation for a parent. This is only done when visits would not be in the best interest of the children, such as when a parent refuses to refrain from alcohol or drugs while visiting with the child.
Remember that child support is a matter separate from child visitation. That means that a parent cannot deny visitation to another for nonpayment of support; likewise, a parent cannot deny payment because the other refused visitation.
An experienced family lawyer can ensure that you understand the issues that might impact child visitation and help you present them in the best light possible to a judge. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have substantial experience in Northern California and will represent you aggressively. Please contact us today at (415) 259-6636 to learn more.