Understanding child custody and visitation rights is critical information for any parent going through a divorce or separation. You need a grasp on your entitled rights to ensure your children's best interests.
Someone unfamiliar with the legal system can easily confuse terms. They may think that visitation and custody are essentially the same, but this is a falsehood. The two systems are vastly different.
In this article, we explore the key differences between child custody and visitation laws.
Defining Child Custody
In California, child custody refers to making legal decisions for the child, where the child will live, and how much time they will spend with each parent.
Typically, California courts prefer that both parents share joint custody. However, in cases of domestic violence, substance abuse, or neglect, a single parent can retain sole custody.
Defining Child Visitation
Child visitation is a term that refers to a non-custodial parent’s right to spend time with their child after a divorce or separation. In California, visitation is based on the best interests of the child. Courts consider factors such as the child's age, health, and emotional wellbeing.
The court can establish a visitation schedule, outlining specific times and dates for the non-custodial parent to see the child. Visitation can occur in a variety of settings, including the non-custodial parent's home, the custodial parent's home, or in public places. You can even schedule electronic visitations that include phone calls, video chats, internet chats, and so on.
The Difference Between Legal and Physical Custody
When it comes to child custody, there are generally two types: legal and physical.
Legal custody refers to a parent’s decision-making power. This power regards important aspects of the child's life, such as education, healthcare, and religion. The parent with legal custody has the ultimate say in these matters.
Physical custody pertains to where the child resides and spends the majority of their time. This residence can be with one parent (sole physical custody), or it can split between both parents (joint physical custody).
Various Child Custody Arrangements Available
- Sole custody is where one parent has legal and physical custody of the child. This option works best if the other parent is deemed unfit.
- Joint custody involves both parents sharing legal and physical custody of the child. This option is suitable when both parents are willing to work together for the child's benefit.
- Split custody allows one child to reside with one parent and the other child with the other parent.
Each of these options comes with a myriad of variations. For instance, one parent can make legal decisions while the other handles education. Parents can share and split custody responsibilities in almost endless ways.
The Court’s Role in Visitation Arrangements
When it comes to child visitation arrangements, the courts play a crucial role. They can make rulings that significantly impact such arrangements.
A court can, for instance, grant one parent sole custody and limit the other's visitation rights. Alternatively, it could enforce strict visitation schedules or require supervised visitation.
Whatever the outcome, both parents need to follow court orders. Failing to do so can result in serious legal consequences.
Parental Rights Regarding Child Visitation
Typically, both parents have the right to visit their child, regardless of whether they share custody. Specific visitation parameters vary widely depending on the situation, and in some cases, the courts may get involved to ensure that everyone's rights are respected.
Tips for Divorced Parents Who Want to Spend Time with the Kids
Just because a marriage has ended, it doesn't mean a parent's relationship with their children has to. There are several ways that both parents can ensure they are able to spend quality time with their kids. This quality time can remain safe and beneficial for the kids.
Parents should consider:
- Creating a parenting plan
- Prioritizing the needs and wants of the children
- Communicating openly and honestly with each other
By following these guidelines, both parents can continue to provide a loving and supportive environment for their children, even after a divorce.
CA’s Penalties for Breaking Visitation Agreements
The child's best interest always takes precedence in custody and visitation rulings, and parents must follow orders. Doing so helps maintain healthy relationships among the entire family.
Despite this truth, there may be instances where one parent fails to adhere to visitation orders, and this can have serious consequences. Penalties for parents who violate child visitation rulings in California include fines, community service, or even imprisonment in severe cases.
These penalties can apply to either parent. One who fails to make their appointments can suffer consequences, and one who blocks visitation can incur the same.
Child Custody and Parental Kidnapping
Remember, after a divorce, you cannot simply take your child with you whenever you please. In such instances, your biological connection to the child does not matter.
When a parent takes their child without permission, this is called “parental kidnapping.” This is a serious issue in California. The law sees this act as a form of abduction, even when it was committed by mistake. Taking the kids without permission holds severe legal repercussions.
California law views parental abduction as a criminal offense, and any parent accused of this wrongdoing will face legal action from the state.
Moreover, parental kidnapping can disrupt the emotional and mental wellbeing of the child, making them vulnerable to trauma, stress, and anxiety. Thus, parents need to understand the implications of this crime and take legal recourse when necessary.
Samra Dhillon & Associates is here to help families handle any issues related to visitation and custody. To meet with our team, schedule time with us online or call us at (916) 571-1550.