California Child Visitation Laws

California child visitation laws govern the rights of non-custodial parents to spend time with their child in the event of a divorce or separation. Visitation rights allow the parent with whom the child does not live to take physical custody of the child for specific, regularly-scheduled periods of time.

Legal disputes concerning child visitation usually arise during family law proceedings dealing with issues such as divorce, separation, alimony and custody. When a child’s parents cannot agree to a visitation schedule, the court usually steps in.

The courts settle child visitation disputes by applying a standard known as the “best interests of the child.” The court takes some factors into account when applying this standard. Some of these factors include each parent’s emotional ties to the child, ability of each parent to provide financial support and their ability to provide a safe, stable, and nurturing home environment.

California family law courts generally strive to maintain the child’s education and social support structure. There are three types of visitation orders that may be issued by a judge;

  1. Visitation – A parent who has the child less than half the time is said to have visitation. The parents are encouraged to come up with detailed visitation plans to avoid confusion and disputes.
  2. Supervised Visitation – Sometimes the court may require the presence of a supervising adult or professional agency whenever the visiting parent meets the child. This is common when the parent and child need time to get to know one another and feel comfortable around one another.
  3. No Visitation – The court may deny a parent visitation rights for a number of reasons such as when the parent has a history of domestic violence or child abuse.

While courts will always rely on the best interests of the child standard, requests to modify visitation very common. These requests are governed by the “changed circumstances” standard of proof where a parent seeking modification must prove that circumstances have changed and the previous schedule is no longer suitable.

Child visitation is a contentious issue and is greatly affected by the degree to which the parents cooperate. If parents cannot agree on visitation, an attorney can be hired by each of the parents.

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