Pasadena Visitation Attorney
If you and your spouse are getting a divorce, you are probably very concerned about the welfare of your children and maintaining as stable of an environment as possible while your family goes through this transition. In California, a
"custody and visitation agreement" is referred to as a "parenting plan." The parenting plan is the parents' written agreement about timeshare schedules (the schedule for when the child will be with each parent), and the decision-making process. Decision-making refers to how the parents will determine their children's education, medical care, participation in extracurricular activities, and general welfare.
A comprehensive written plan will help to prevent future conflicts over parents' respective timeshare schedule and decision-making. Once you and your spouse have signed off on a parenting plan, it is submitted to the court and becomes a court order. History has shown that when both parents play an active role in their children's lives and do not argue over the timeshare schedule and decision-making, the children are usually much happier, as are the parents. Change is hard on everyone, especially children, so it's important to encourage a workable parenting plan that fosters a healthy relationship between each parent and their children, providing neither parent is deemed unfit.
Basics of Creating a Parenting Plan
In California, either parent can have custody of the children, or the parents can share the responsibility. Unless the parents enter into a parenting plan on their own, the judge makes the final decision regarding custody and visitation. Nobody knows your situation or your children's personalities and needs better than you and your spouse; therefore, it is generally better for parents to reach child custody and visitation arrangements (parenting plan) on their own. However, the judge won't normally come to a decision until after the parents have tried to reach their own agreement through conciliation court, mediation or the collaborative divorce process.
Under California law, there are two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to who makes the important decisions regarding the child's welfare such as health care and education, whereas physical custody refers to the timeshare schedule. Both legal and physical custody can be sole or joint. Joint physical custody means that both parents have significant periods of custodial time. Sole or primary custody means the child lives exclusively or primarily with one parent and the other parent has visitation time.
Joint physical custody does not necessarily mean the child spends an equal amount of time with both parents. However, unless the child spends a significant period of time with both parents, one parent is considered the primary custodial parent. In some cases the judge will award joint legal custody to both parents but not joint physical custody. This means both parents share equally in the responsibility in making important decisions about the child's life, but the child lives with one of the parents most of the time. In this case, the parent who spends less time with the child has visitation with their child.
Types of Visitation Schedules
Since every family is unique, visitation schedules vary and are created taking into account the child's best interests, the parents' individual situations, and other relevant factors.
Visitation can be according to a detailed schedule that clearly defines the dates and times the children will be with each parent, including holidays, birthdays, Mother's day and Father's day, and vacations. The parents may elect to use a reasonable visitation schedule, which is more of an open-ended visitation schedule. This type of plan works best with parents who communicate well with each other and can be flexible. However, if there are disagreements or misunderstandings between the parents, it can cause tension and the children suffer as well.
When there are issues over safety, particularly in a domestic violence cases, supervised visitation may be ordered. In this case, the visits with the other parent may be supervised by specified adults or by a professional monitor. In cases where the child's safety and wellbeing is threatened by seeing the other parent, that parent may not be awarded any visitation rights if that is in the best interests of the child. This is particularly applicable in cases of child abuse, child molestation, and where the parents otherwise pose a danger to their children.
Pasadena Parenting Plan Lawyer
The California courts do not automatically give custody to the mother or the father, regardless of the age or sex of the children. When determining custody and visitation, the courts consider what is in the best interests of the children. Factors considered in deciding what's in the child's best interest include: 1) the health, safety and welfare of the child, 2) the nature and extent of contact with both parents, 3) any history of domestic violence or substance abuse, and 4) the child's ties to their school, relatives, and their community.
To learn more about child custody and visitation, please contact Pasadena visitation and custody lawyer or mediator Mark B. Baer today!