Divorce is complicated enough as is. However, when you throw children into the mix, it can become even more so, as you and your spouse must come up with a plan for how you will share your children.
California law recognizes both custody and visitation. It further breaks both custody and visitation down by type. According to the California Courts, there are four types of custody — joint physical, joint legal, sole physical and sole legal — and four types of visitation. Generally, visitation offers less parental rights than custody. How limited your rights become depends largely on the type of visitation order the courts issue.
A reasonable visitation order is the least restrictive of the four types of orders and offers much more flexibility than a traditional custody arrangement. With a reasonable visitation order, you and your ex have the freedom to decide when your children will be with which parent. You can change dates as you see fit and assume custody when it works best for either of you.
As you can imagine, not very many divorced couples can manage this type of arrangement. An open-ended order such as this requires both parties to get along and communicate effectively and leaves little room for misunderstandings or disagreements.
Visitation according to schedule
Per this type of order, the non-custodial parent gets parenting time on specific dates and at pre-specified times. To come up with this type of arrangement, both you and your spouse will work with the courts to identify dates that are important to both of you, including holidays, birthdays, familial annual events, vacation dates and the like. The courts will try to accommodate both your and your spouse’s requests.
The courts may order supervised visitation if you have not seen your children in a while or if you face accusations of adverse behavior, such as domestic violence, alcohol abuse or drug abuse. You may also receive supervised visitation if you have a criminal history that suggests you pose a threat to the safety or well-being of your children. Supervised visitation may eventually lead to unsupervised visits or joint physical custody, but not always. The supervisor may be a court-appointed professional, a friend or family member, or a member of a professional agency.
Though rare, the courts may decide that it goes against your children’s best interests to grant you any time with them. Such an outcome is a worst-case scenario.
Your relationship with your children may be on the line during your divorce. If your soon-to-be ex-spouse plans to fight for custody, make sure you have the support and advocacy you need to protect your parental rights.