California Custody and Visitation Schedules
Your child custody and visitation schedule is important to you and to your child. Here's how to set up a California visitation schedule.
You can create your own custody and visitation schedule (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own schedule, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates custody schedules, calendars, and professional parenting plan documents.
Having an understanding of the law will have a significant impact on your child visitation schedule because it will help you make a comprehensive schedule that the court will more readily approve.
Division 8 of the California Family Code, found in the California Law contains laws pertaining to child custody in the State of California.
There are many laws regarding visitation and the manner in which the court decides custody. We will cover some of the more pertinent laws in the sections below.
The State of California may grant visitation to anyone with an interest in the welfare of the child (Section 3100a), including persons that are not blood relatives, as long as the court finds it to be in the best interest of the child.
This could include step-parents, grandparents, foster parents, or any other person that has played a significant role in the child's life.
Any visitation awarded to a non-parent shall not interfere with established visitation time of another parent. If applicable, this is something to keep in mind when writing a child visitation schedule in the State of California.
The State of California defines custody of a child in several terms (CA Fam Section 3000-3007).
- Joint physical custody means both parents share substantial amounts of time with the child. This does not necessarily mean that the parents have to split the time with the child equally.
- Sole physical custody means the child primarily lives with one parent, while subject to visitation with the other.
- Joint legal custody means both parents share in the responsibility of making major decisions (religious, educational, medical, etc.) regarding the child.
- Sole legal custody means one parent is designated as the person responsible for making major decisions (religious, educational, medical, etc.) regarding the child.
- Joint custody means the parents share joint physical and joint legal custody of the child.
There are several different ways that custody may be awarded in California. For example, parents may share joint legal custody while one parent has sole physical custody. It all depends on the circumstances in your case.
Joint custody is what the courts in California prefer to award in the absence of any circumstances (drug abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, etc.) that would prove to be detrimental to the welfare of the child.
However, an award of sole custody with visitation for the other parent is not always an indication of poor parenting and does not necessarily mean the other parent is unfit. This decision is always based on the specific needs and best interests of the child.
The State of California prefers and encourages parents to write their own visitation schedules. This is in the best interest of the child, as the parents are substantially more aware of the needs of their child than the court is.
It is extremely important that you make every effort to work with the other parent to create a child custody and visitation schedule that you both can agree on, otherwise the schedule may be created by an officer of the court.
If you and the other parent are having problems reaching an agreement, the California Superior Courts must provide mediation for you (CA Fam 3160). When you attend mediation, the relevant issues may be addressed and a visitation schedule will be written and (hopefully) agreed upon.
Time with the mediator is limited and certain things may be forgotten under the pressure of the clock, so it is helpful to come prepared with a proposed schedule and reasons why you feel your schedule is best.
As you create your schedule, you may use any arrangement that benefits and works for your child.
You can create an entirely unique schedule, or make modifications to (or just use) some of these typical joint custody visitation schedules in the State of California:
- One parent will have the child in her/his custody every week from a certain day and time until another certain day and time, and the child shall be in the custody of the other parent at all other relevant times.
- Parents shall alternate weeks with the child.
- One parent shall have custody of the child during the school year, and the other parent shall have them during the summer and school vacations.
- Parents shall share custody on a week to week basis in accordance to their schedules and the schedules of their child.
There are also some standard visitation schedules used in cases where one parent has sole custody and the other has visitation rights:
- The non-custodial parent shall have visitation with the child every weekend from a certain time until another specified time, with or without a mid-week visit.
- The non-custodial parent shall have visitation with the child every other weekend from a certain time until another specified time, with or without a mid-week visit.
In addition to the regular residential schedule that defines when your child will spend time with each of you on a routine basis, you should also include a schedule for special occasions such as:
- Mother's Day and Father's Day
- State, federal, and school holidays
- Special religious holidays
- School breaks
- Three-day weekends
- Any other special days
Some parents prefer to alternate holidays each year, but whatever works for your child is acceptable. You will also need to include the time that each special day begins and ends to avoid confusion and future conflict.
You should always keep your child's best interest in mind as you make decisions in your custody case as it is the best interest of the child that the court basis all decisions on.
The state has the following information (in Part 1, Chapter 2 and Part 2, Chapters 1 and 2) that you should consider when deciding what is best for your child:
- The mother and father of the child are equally entitled to custody of the child and the court will not prefer a parent or custodian because of sex.
- The court's primary concern in custody decisions is what is best for the child and what will ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the child.
- It is considered in the best interest of the child to have frequent and continuing contact with both parents.
- When granting custody to a parent, the court will consider which parent is more likely to encourage the child to have frequent and continuing contact with the other parent.
- It is not considered in the best interest of the child for the child to reside or be with a parent who has a history of abuse, domestic violence, or substance abuse.
When you use flexibility and creativity in combination with keeping your child's best interests as a priority, the needs of your child and the availability of the parents can be utilized in a way that will provide your child with optimal amounts of time with each of you.
The top twenty cities in California (by population, CDF estimates, 2009) are: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno, Long Beach, Sacramento, Oakland, Santa Ana, Anaheim, Bakersfield, Riverside, Stockton, Chula Vista, Fremont, Irvine, Modesto, Glendale, San Bernadino, and Huntington Beach.