How courts determine child custody and visitation rights
Many California parents become understandably anxious if they cannot spend time with their children whenever they want. Unfortunately, this is often the case when parents divorce. The noncustodial parent often has only limited visitation rights because at some point a judge determined that the other parent should be responsible for the child on a day-to-day basis. Unfortunately, not all child custody issues are always clear-cut.
In determining child custody, all state courts, including those in California, use the best interests of the child as the basis of their child-custody decisions. This standard was established to provide some stability during an often-tumultuous time and to prevent a child from being forced out of one home to relocate to the home of the other parent once the divorce has been finalized.
When it comes a child’s best interests, the parent who usually stays in the family home is more likely to become the custodial parent. In some cases, though, even if the parent lived apart from the family before the divorce process began, if that parent took care of the children during the marriage, then child custody might be awarded to that parent.
After custody is determined, the noncustodial parent is generally granted visitation rights. The custody order issued by the court will explain the noncustodial parent’s responsibilities and obligations. The custody order has the force of the law, and any violation by the noncustodial parent will usually have consequences. Visitation rights can also be granted to other relatives such as grandparents and stepparents after the divorce has been finalized.
Determining child custody can be the most important task for divorcing parents. Despite any residual negative feelings the parents may have, they should cooperate when it comes to resolving visitation rights. By cooperating, parents can maintain close relationships with their children.
Source: LA Times, “For Divorced Parents: Know Your Child Custody and Visitation Rights,” June 25, 2014