If you are beginning a divorce or separation from your partner, the end of a relationship can cause significant concern for how much time you will spend with your children. Simply living in a separate home from your partner will typically result in less time spent with them. Therefore, it is important to create a parenting plan. This should allow children to spend time with both of their parents if it is safe to do so.
When two parents who share children decide to end their relationship, a parenting plan must be created. The parenting plan will contain information for both child custody and parenting time (visitation). It will describe how to care for your children, when they will see each parent, and where they will live.
Until a court-ordered parenting plan is in place, both parents have equal rights pertaining to the child. This means no parent has an intrinsically greater right to have the children in their care than the other. Therefore, both parents still have decision-making rights. There are, however, special laws that will apply if one of the parents is abusive to the other or to the child.
Parenting time or visitation orders arise when one parent is awarded sole physical custody. The order is meant to ensure the non-custodial parent and the child spend sufficient amounts of time with each other. For example, the court may decide it is better for the child to live with one parent for stability purposes. However, they order the child to spend every other weekend with the other parent. This is intended to ensure a sustained relationship between the non-custodial parent and the child.
Types of Parenting Time
There is no right way for your parenting plan to be laid out. The unique circumstances of the parents mean parenting plans will be different for different families. There are four main types of parenting time orders:
These parenting orders are open-ended. They are flexible enough to allow the parents to work out the schedule between themselves. This works if the parents can communicate amicably. If the relationship between parents struggles, this is not the right type of parenting plan to implement.
Many parents and children may find a set schedule to be the most beneficial. This type of parenting plan will dictate the dates and times that the child will be with each parent. The schedule can go in-depth enough to include special occasions like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and birthdays, as well as holidays and vacations.
A supervised parenting plan is implemented when there are any concerns about the child’s well-being or safety. The visits with the parent requiring supervision can be overseen by the other parent, another adult, or a professional from an agency. This type of parenting plan can also be implemented when a parent and a child require time and exposure to become more familiar with each other.
- No Visitation
In some instances, even supervised time with a parent would be emotionally or physically harmful to the child. In these cases, visitation will be denied.
Determining Parenting Time
In most instances, a parenting plan will be incredibly successful if the parents can agree on arrangements. If they cannot agree, the case will proceed to litigation. A judge will then decide the conditions of the parenting plan. When this occurs, they will determine the most effective plan by considering:
- The child’s age and health
- The emotional relationships between the parents and the child
- Each parent’s ability to care for the child
- Any regular or ongoing substance abuse issues
- Domestic violence or family abuse history
Ultimately, the judge will implement a plan that has the child’s interests at the forefront.
Changing a Custody or Parenting Time Order
Your circumstances, or the circumstances of the other parent, may change and necessitate an alteration to the parenting time plan. If this occurs, there are different types of paperwork that can be filed for this request. Finding the right paperwork may require a conversation with a court employee or family law attorney. It is important to understand that the plan cannot be changed without the court’s approval.
Q: When Does Court-Ordered Visitation End?
A: There are a few situations that can end the parenting plan. These include:
- The child turning 18 years old
- The court ending the custody agreement
- The child getting married or enlisting in the military
- The child dying before the age of 18
The age of maturity occurs on a person’s 18th birthday. This means that they are legally considered an adult, and child custody agreements no longer apply.
Q: What Should I Do If the Other Parent Is Not Following the Parenting Plan Order?
A: If the parenting plan has been approved by the court and is legally implemented, the parent who does not follow the order can face serious penalties. It is important to document any violations of the agreement to create a pattern of ignoring the order. Any violations of the order can be reported to your county’s District Attorney’s Office, either through self-reporting or by speaking with your attorney.
Q: Is Child Support Affected by the Visitation Schedule?
A: The child support order can be affected by the amount of time the child will spend with each parent. For example, a parent may be obligated to pay less in child support if their child spends half of their time with them. This is different from a situation where the child only spends a quarter of their time with them. However, once the child support order is in place, child support cannot be stopped because the other parent is withholding access to the child.
Q: Will the Child’s Opinion Matter During a Visitation Schedule?
A: As of 2012, California law permits the judge to consider a child’s opinion on custody and visitation orders, both during the initial determination and a modification. If the child is at least 14, and considered mature enough to state a preference, the court will heavily consider their opinion. An exception will occur if the court finds the preferred custodial arrangement to go against the child’s interests.
Contact the Law Offices of Dorie A. Rogers, APC
It is important to protect the safe access of parents to their children. The Law Offices of Dorie A. Rogers, APC, understands how important these relationships are to children. We can help you create a plan with your child’s interests at heart. Reach out today to discuss how our office can support you through this challenging time.