Visitation is an important part of a child custody arrangement between divorcing parents or unmarried parents. When the parents do not receive 50/50 custody (in other words, when one parent is granted “primary custody” of the child), they must try to work out a visitation arrangement. In California, visitation of one’s child is considered an implicit right and Family Code Section 3020 explicitly states that the policy of the State of California is “to assure that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents” after a separation.
As with child custody, it is preferable for both parents to agree upon a visitation arrangement outside of court. If they are incapable or coming to an agreement, the court may appoint a mediator. Should the parents show complete unwillingness to cooperate, then litigation will become necessary.
Take note that, as with battles over custody, heated, emotional battles over visitation can cause problems for the children being battled over. It is of paramount importance to reduce the degree of conflict on either side. It is wise to have a skilled lawyer on your side to keep the conflict from escalating more than is necessary.
Again, as with determinations of child custody, the first priority of the court is the “best interests of the child.” They may consider a number of factors when attempting to reach a decision on the matter, including: the availability of the parent, physical distance between the parent and the child, the wishes of the child, how the continuing relationship with the parent may benefit the child, and the degree of tension or disagreement between the parents.
Possible restrictions on Visitation
While, in California, a parent is considered to have a right to visitation, certain factors can result in that right being denied or modified. This can happen in circumstances where the non-custodial parent has a provable history of substance abuse, child abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse towards others, or other illegal or harmful behaviors that may affect the child. If the burden of proof is met, then the non-custodial parent may be required to undergo substance abuse treatment or anger management counseling, be prohibited from having third parties present during visits, or be required to have their visits supervised. In extreme cases, a protection order may be granted, which will prohibit all contact from the non-custodial parent.
It is important to note that such accusations should not be made lightly. California has a very high burden of proof, requiring concrete evidence of nefarious activities on the part of the non-custodial parent. A simple claim of “bad parenting” is not nearly enough. Should an accusation of such behavior be found to be false, then the court may consider the accusation an attempt to interfere with and restrict the rights of the other parent at the expense of the child’s well-being, which will have consequences for the accuser. A skilled lawyer can help you meet California’s burden of proof for an accusation or, if necessary, assist you in defending yourself from such an accusation.
At the Law Offices of Glenn R. Wilson (FamilyLawFresno.com) we are experienced in handling child visitation matters and can provide aggressive legal assistance in your visitation matter.
By Connor Douglas Johnson