One potential aspect of a child custody order in California is child visitation – one parent’s legal right to see or visit with a child. Visitation is not a type of custody; rather, it grants supervised or unsupervised access to a child at specific times. Child visitation may be included with a child custody order if it is in the best interest of the child to remain in continuing contact with both parents, but a joint custody arrangement is not appropriate. If you are going through a child custody battle, a San Diego child visitation attorney will be able to help you figure out the best visitation agreement for your situation.
Reasonable (Open) Visitation
There are many different types of child visitation – also known as parenting time – that could be included in a child custody arrangement in California. One is reasonable visitation, also known as open visitation. This is the least structured type; it is open-ended and flexible. For this reason, it is most suitable for co-parents who can communicate well with each other and compromise. If one parent does not trust the other for any reason or communication is fractured, reasonable or open visitation may not be the right choice.
Scheduled child visitation is more structured than reasonable visitation. It has a set schedule with specific dates and times the child will be with each parent. It maps out holidays, birthdays, special occasions, time off of school, vacations and other times when a child may have more time to spend with a parent than usual. Scheduled visitation can help a child after a divorce by keeping his or her schedule consistent and predictable. It can also prevent arguments regarding visitation from arising between parents.
Child visitation can either be supervised or unsupervised. Supervised visitation means that someone else besides the noncustodial parent and child is in the room at the time of the prearranged meeting. This may be the custodial parent, another trusted adult or a representative from a professional agency. It may be appropriate in cases where there are concerns about the child’s welfare or well-being. Supervised visitation may be used in situations where the child needs to get to know the noncustodial parent better, such as in a case of child abandonment or parental incarceration.
Unsupervised visitation refers to a parent having unfettered access to his or her child during permitted visits. While this will not go as far as allowing the parent physical custody of the child overnight, it does permit the parent to spend quality time with the child one-on-one, without a third party or the other parent supervising. It is possible to have unsupervised visitation taken away or replaced with supervised visitation if the child’s safety or well-being gets compromised.
Virtual visitation is a relatively new type of arrangement that increased in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic due to quarantines. It allows a noncustodial parent to “visit” and communicate with a child virtually, such as through video chat, messages, FaceTime or phone calls. Virtual visitation may be appropriate if the parent and child cannot get together physically for any reason, such as due to distance.
In rare cases where the courts believe that visiting with a parent could be physically or emotionally damaging to the child – even supervised visits – they may order no visitation. This could be the case if the parent poses a significant risk to the child’s safety or well-being, such as if the parent has been convicted of severe child abuse.
Child Visitation Alterations
The right child visitation arrangement may change as your situation changes. In this case, the visitation schedule may need to be altered. If you wish to modify a child visitation schedule, you can petition the courts to do so with assistance from a family law attorney. A lawyer can also help you fight back if your ex-spouse is attempting to alter child visitation in a way that you don’t want. The courts will either accept or reject an alteration request based on what is in the best interest of your child.