Child Custody and Visitation

Virtually endless personal issues and circumstances arise in child custody matters. This is natural, seeing that the family unit is changing in a significant fashion in many instances. Therefore, child custody matters tend to be an emotional and contested aspect in divorce proceedings.

A divorce impacts children who have, in many situations, become accustomed to living with two parents in a particular dynamic. It is important for children, in most situations, to know and have an ongoing relationship with both parents, assuming that both are capable of providing a safe environment for the children during the time when they are together. In California, the law favors allowing “frequent and continuing contact” between the non-custodial parent and the children of a divorced or unmarried couple. The exception would be if allowing visitation with the non-custodial parent would be harmful in some way, or “detrimental to the best interest of the child.” In the absence of any compelling reason to deny it, the non-custodial parent is entitled to “reasonable visitation.”

It serves the family best when the parents create their own custody arrangements. If the parents cannot agree upon a plan, the court will make its own custody agreement determination. The court has discretion in matters of custody. As such, both parents are generally treated equally and custody determinations are made based upon the individual circumstances and fitness of each parent. The two main elements to child custody are:

  • Legal custody – the day to day decisions of the children’s education, health and general well being
  • Physical custody – which parent the children live with

A court will take into consideration such the child’s age, special needs, and maturity, along with how much travel is required and, in an older child, the child’s own preference. When faced with a dispute over appropriate visitation time, the Law Offices of Christa M. Hill can be an invaluable resource to help negotiate a solution outside of court or make a strong argument to a judge.