Before child custody and or visitation can be addressed, there must be an underlying action. If the parents are married, one must have filed for divorce, legal separation, or an annulment. If the parents are unmarried, then either parent must file an initial paternity action. Divorce paternity actions are deemed the “tree trunk”, or the main action, whereby issues of child custody and visitation are deemed the branches of such an action.
There are a number of forms of child custody, including the following:
- Legal custody, which allows a parent to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing, such as medical care, education, and religion
- Physical custody, where a child lives on a day-to-day basis
- Sole custody, an arrangement where only one parent is awarded custody of their child and is usually granted in cases where the other parent is abusive/absent. In sole custody, the child’s other parent does not have either legal or physical custody but can be entitled to periods of supervised visitation with the child, especially in the event of domestic violence or child abuse
- Joint custody, a common arrangement among divorced or unmarried parents, in which a child splits his or her time between the 2 parent’s homes
- Visitation, which is a plan for how parents will share time with their children, in which one parent shares less than half the time with a child. Visitation schedules are determined based on what is in the best interest of the child, the situation of the parents, and other factors.
Visitation can be amended according to a schedule in order to avoid inconsistencies and conflicts. You and your ex may also employ a holiday schedule through a FL-311 form, in which parents can set up a schedule for various holidays such as birthdays and summer breaks.
Another option is a reasonable visitation order, which does not contain the full details of the child’s division of time. Instead, parents may work out a schedule between themselves, which is ideal for parents who can be amicable with each other. However, disagreements or misunderstandings can immediately suspend the productivity of a reasonable visitation order.
Supervised visitation protects a child’s safety and well-being in the event one of the parents is suspected of putting the child in danger. Supervisors include the other parent, another trusted adult, or a professional agency, and there must be factual and evidential evidence as to why there is a reason for supervision. The most common reasons for this form of visitation are a history of violence or aggressive behavior, as well as drug or alcohol issues.
Lastly, you may always pursue no visitation, in which you feel any form of contact with his or her other parent would put your child in serious danger or harm, physical, emotional, or otherwise. The courts aim to always protect the best interests of the children, which is why any decision made is generally made with the child in mind.