California Custody and Visitation Schedule Guidelines

The laws about child custody in California are found in Division 8 of the California Family Code.

Here are some of the guidelines from the law to help you make your custody and visitation schedule.

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Physical Custody

You must have information about physical custody in your California parenting plan. Physical custody is where your child lives and how the parents will share time with the child.

You can have joint physical custody, where your child lives with both parents, or sole physical custody, where your child lives with one parent and visits the other parent.

The type of custody you choose will impact your custody and visitation schedule. If you and the other parent agree on the type of custody and your schedule, the court will usually approve it.

If you do not agree, the court will decide your custody arrangements. California courts usually prefer to award joint custody. If you want a sole custody arrangement, you must show the court how sole custody is in your child's best interest.

Custody and visitation arrangements

Making a custody and visitation schedule is the most common way to show information about physical custody in your parenting plan.

Your schedule should show:

  • Where your child is during weekdays and weekends
  • Where your child is on holidays and special occasions
  • Where your child is during school and summer break
  • Time when each parent can take the child on vacation

You can make your schedule in a custody calendar so it's easy to see what's going on. You can include your calendar in your parenting plan, but you must also write your schedule out in legal terms.

If you don't want to make a detailed schedule, you can include general information about joint or sole custody in your plan and say that both parents agree to reasonable visitation.

A reasonable visitation arrangement doesn't have scheduled visitation. Instead, parents plan visits as they happen. Reasonable visitation can work if parents get along well and are able to communicate. If there is conflict or disagreement between the parents, then a schedule works better.

California policies about custody and visitation

You should consider these policies as you create your custody and visitation schedule::

  • Both parents are equally entitled to custody of the child and the court will not prefer a parent or custodian because of sex
  • The court decides custody matters based on 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
Custody mediation requirement

California courts encourage parents to work together to make a parenting time schedule.

If you and the other parent cannot agree on a schedule, you are required to attend mediation before going to court. You may want to prepare for mediation with schedule ideas and reasons why you feel your schedule will work.

Special circumstances for visitation

If necessary, you can have supervised visitation where your child can visit the noncustodial parent only when supervised by another adult.

You can ask the court for no visitation to a parent if that parent causes harm to the child and it's better for the child to not see or be around that parent.

The court can also grant visitation to step-parents, grandparents, foster parents, or any other person that has played a significant role in the child's life, as long as the court finds it to be in the best interest of the child.

Visitation awarded to a non-parent shouldn't interfere with the established visitation time of another parent. If applicable, you should keep this in mind when making your visitation schedule.

Additional help

You can look at the California self-help court to get more information about making your custody and visitation schedule.

You can also contact your local court to find out rules and regulations that are specific to your county or courthouse.

Custody X Change is software that creates custody schedules, calendars, and professional parenting plan documents.

Make Your California Schedule Now

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.

Custody X Change is software that creates custody schedules, calendars, and professional parenting plan documents.

Make Your Schedule