Child custody and visitation in California

California’s approach to child custody takes a very child-centric approach and encourages parents to collaborate on the plans.

When getting a divorce in California, parents must face the challenge of determining appropriate custody and visitation for their children. The state takes a very child-centric approach to these matters and also works to encourage parents to work together to develop their ultimate time-sharing plans. The California Courts explains that plans should be made to match the needs of the children, not the other way around.

What types of custody are determined?

In California, the child custody and visitation agreement outlines details regarding physical custody and legal custody. The former stipulates where a child will reside and the latter stipulates who can make decisions on behalf of a child. Plans should be thorough and clarify which parent will have decision-making power in what areas of a child's life.

What are the basic guidelines for plan development?

The courts urge parents to create plans that appropriately care for children's basic needs for love, health and stability. They should also seek to ensure that children spend a variety of time with each parent, when appropriate, including during school, vacations and holidays. Of course, this can be different when extenuating circumstances such as abuse are present.

How can parents develop a plan?

The Superior Court of California, County of Riverside, stipulates that if parents cannot agree on their own, they must work with a Child Custody Recommending Counselor. Parents will typically meet with the counselor for one to two hours. After the appointment is over, neither parent can contact the counselor again. If a plan is agreed upon in the appointment, that is presented to the judge. If a plan is not agreed upon in the appointment, the counselor will draft an agreement and present it to the judge.

Are parents bound by a counselor's recommendations?

Parents are able to request a new counselor if they did not feel the first one adequately met their needs. Responses to such requests will be returned by an officer in Mediation Services within 30 days. In the meantime, the original counselor's recommendations can still be presented to the judge.

Reducing conflict best for children

When children experience conflict between their parents, they may have a harder time forming good relationships with one or both parents. California's focus on collaboration and time with both parents is a way of helping children. This, however, can be difficult in the course of a divorce. Working with an attorney can often help parents during this process.