5 Things You Need to Know About Child Visitation

Developing parenting plans, also know as child visitation orders, is an art and a science. You must create an order that is tailored to the complexities of your life as well as be technically enforceable by a judge.

Here are 5 key things you must consider in developing any parenting order:

1. Parenting is for life:
Long after the child turns 18, you and your ex will be involved in the child’s life. What you do now and how you act at this stage will deeply influence how your child will view both parents and will set a tone for how that child will approach parenting if he or she elects to have children. You and your ex serve as ambassadors of your children. Every opportunity that presents itself (even parenting conflict!) is an opportunity to do the right thing on working together as parents. No one said parenting is easy in intact relationships, let alone in relationships where the parents are no longer together.

2. Everything starts with a clean, easy to interpret court order: Each parenting order should be custom designed to fit the needs of each family. Before going to court, sit down and chart out a typical year of events, school activities, summer vacation, year end holidays to be certain you are not overlooking important blocks of time. If your child has special needs concerning education, sports activities etc. these events should also be included and carefully addressed in the court order. Who picks up the child from dance class and which weekdays (if any) are shared are typical examples of events that should be spelled out in a well crafted order.

3. Always try conflict resolution before returning to court: Inevitably, conflicts will arise concerning parenting issues, timeshare or other events affecting a child’s life. A parent prepared to address these hot button issues has a better chance of working through conflict than a parent who just wishes conflict will never happen. You might consider building into your court order a provision that requires both parents to attend a specific number of co-parenting counseling meetings with a therapist trained in this field before filing a motion to return to court.The money spent on a good counselor is a wise investment in resolving the conflict rather than spending emotional and financial resources on a court battle.

4. Document problems: if co-parenting counseling doesn’t work and the problems won’t resolve, document what the problems are by keeping a clean written record of your communication with the other parent about the problem. Texting is a difficult resource to print out and use as court exhibits but it can be done. The best method of keeping a record would be to regularly use email for non emergency parenting discussions. Look into using parenting schedule software programs designed to track parenting time, children’s school performance and other relevant parenting information. These programs are useful comprehensive tools to track information and keep a ledger of communication between the parents. A printed copy of this information is useful as an exhibit attached to any motion to return to court.

5. Return to court when all else fails: waiting for the problem to resolve itself or vanish is pointless. Delay can make the parenting situation worse and can work against you if a parenting pattern that’s unsatisfactory to you is considered appropriate by the judge because so much time has passed before returning to court. Keep in mind that preparing the appropriate request to return to court is not simply an “add water and stir” or “check the box” event. Understanding California law and how it specifically applies to your situation is critical to achieving success in court. Needless to say, enlisting the services of an experienced family law attorney as your guide and advocate maximizes the chances of success before the judge.

22 Replies to “5 Things You Need to Know About Child Visitation”

  1. I grew up in California and was apart of one of the longest child custody disputes there. It lasted five years with four parties and a multitude of mixed siblings. The only thing that everybody could agree on was that they wanted us all together. However, that didn’t work out and in the end we ended up in three different homes and a severed relationship. I think that one very important thing that people need to realize when getting into these types of battles is that the kids have feelings and that they actually have an opinion about who they want to live with. Are there ever cases where what they think is actually taken into account?

    1. The courts main objective is to ensure the best interests of the children. Every case that I’ve handled I always had the court sensitized to try and keep siblings together if it’s at all possible. Obviously, if there’s half brothers and sisters with different biological parents, this becomes more complicated.

  2. There have been some recent developments in family law where a child over the age of 14 may contribute to the parenting conversation concerning their placement. The court is the ultimate determinor as to whether or not the child’s participation in this fashion is psychologically appropriate.

  3. My husband and I are currently seeing a family law attorney to talk about getting a divorce. It is something that we both want, but we want to make sure that we do what is best for the children too. I really like the part in this post about how parenting is for life, especially the part about how we are ambassadors of our children. My to-be-ex-husband and I really want to be our kids’ ambassadors, despite our conflicts. What can we do to better avoid conflict and equally be there for our children?

    1. Taking the high road on how you conduct yourselves in parenting will always pay off in the long run. Please let me know if I can be of any further service. You can contact me at my San Ramon office. 925-743-8666.

  4. I think returning to court when all else fails can be quite nerve-racking, but a necessary process. First, meeting with a custody lawyer is a good way to figure out if you even have a case. Getting representation that you know is on your side, and will want you to get whats fair as much as you do will help ensure that everything goes well.

  5. I like that you mentioned parenting at the very beginning. That is something you have to remember even when you are dealing with child custody. I think it is smart and appropriate to cooperate with your ex so that your child can still have the best life that they can. If that means that you don’t have the custody of your child then so be it. I think you should be trying to get custody if you can.

  6. Nice post..
    Child custody and visitation decisions are made from the standpoint of the child’s best interest and a court must look at all circumstances bearing on the best interest of the minor child.

    If your spouse is abusing you and your kids, get help from professionals and organizations with expertise in child abuse. These experts understand your situation, know the domestic violence family law legal system and are the people most capable of protecting kids during and after divorce and don’t forget to hire the professional lawyer.

  7. I’m trying to help out a really close friend of mine right now. I think that this post will help him out a lot, as it seems very relevant for his situation. I can see the importance of conflict resolution before returning to court, and only returning to court if all else fails. Thanks for sharing this.

  8. Great Share!!

    Child custody issues are never easy and visitation is often a primary concern of individuals going through a divorce. As an initial matter, it’s important to know your state’s child custody laws.

    Child visitation law governs the rights of non-custodial parents to spend time with their child. These cases are usually handled by state courts as part of broader family law proceedings dealing with issues such as divorce, separation, alimony, and child support and custody. Visitation rights allow the parent with whom the child does not live to take physical custody of the child for specific, regularly-scheduled periods of time.

  9. I agree that you should document everything. I think using an email is a great way to document all communication. This way you can have a more solidified case to work with.

  10. Hi Arlene,
    Good Post, Most of the time while parenting conflict will arise during that period and in those times we need some useful resources for to prevent the conflicts. Here you mentioned Software programs and those programs exclusively designed for divorced parents. If we use those programs, We list all activities related to child custody. If you have any problem with Ex because of Childcare schedule, you can refer activities to solve your problem quickly.


  11. Communication is hard during a divorce, but when a child is thrown in the mix it can get a little difficult. I like that you advised parents who need to decide visitation rights to sit down and discuss what is best for the child. Although difficult, it puts the child’s well being first.

  12. It makes sense that you would want to get a lawyer to ensure you get your rights to child’s visitation. Parenting is your life, after all. It’s important that you keep up with them!

  13. Children always make divorce proceedings highly contentious. I hate the cases when one of parents attempts to use the child(ren) as a power piece in bargaining. It makes the whole process worse than it already is.

  14. I want to make sure that I have all the knowledge possible when it comes to child custody. I would want to know all of the important things. Although I do not have any problems now it would be smart to know these things for the future.

  15. To Faylinn:
    Even though you ad your spouse are getting along at this point and both verbalize you want what is best for the children despite your differences, I think you should at the least be documenting everything. Every conversation, visitation, agreement, disagreement, children’s statements, any one you or he spends on the children, keep receipts, and be prepared for him to flip. There IS a reason you two are divorcing. The children best interest would be to have mother and father together. So theres obviously some differences there.
    My ex and i got somewhat along after i left. In the middle of our divorce, he started dating this woman and she started to take over my role as Mom to our daughter. He did some very cruel things to me unexpectedly. Had i been prepared I might have had a chance. He lied in court many times saying things i never thought imaginable. she hates me for no reason that i’ve given her. The visitation stopped and as hard as i fought, bc he had already established in court I didn’t see our daughter, despite me seeing her daily, he won custody. Moved to South Carolina and i haven’t seen my daughter in almost 3 years. Ive summons to court and his lawyer time and time again continues the case. I’ve changed lawyers gave him everything by court order to see her and the order still has the clause, “at his discretion”. So HER discretion is No I can’t see her.
    Don’t let this happen to you. Don’t let anyone do this to you. Save yourself before you need to. BE PREPARED for the WORST!

    1. Sorry about the misspelling. My computers autocorrect can’t speak english correctly!! lol

  16. It’s scary to think that you can lose possession of your child. I think it’s a good idea to get a lawyer if you’re risking that! You need to ensure that they are taken care of, after all!

  17. I like your tip on emailing everything so as to maintain documentation. My brother is going through a pretty difficult divorce and could use every helpful tip he could get. Thank you for the divorce tips, I’ll be sure to pass them along to him1

  18. My friends are going through divorce and I think it would be best for them to find a child custody attorney. Like you said, waiting for the problem is pointless, when the problem won’t resolve itself. They are struggling a lot and I know that if they got an attorney for each of them, the process could be done a lot quicker. I’ll be sure to show them this article and hopefully they will realize their need for an attorney.

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