There’s still a misperception many people have that mothers have far more rights than fathers when it comes to custody and visitation (also known as parenting time). Today, family law courts in California look at fathers as having essential roles in their child’s life. However, if you’re a father seeking visitation with your child, here are some things you should understand.
What Are the Different Types of Visitation?
California law recognizes four types of visitation arrangements.
- Reasonable visitation. Reasonable visitation is a relaxed visitation system ordered by judges when they believe the parents get along well enough to coordinate their visiting schedules, and they’ll do so in the child’s best interests.
- Scheduled visitation. This is a more structured form of visitation. The court determines the schedule, including weekends, school days, holidays, vacations, etc. This will most likely come into play when the parents can’t agree on a visitation schedule. It’s also likely to occur when the parents try reasonable visitation but cannot make it work without conflict.
- Supervised visitation. If a judge thinks the noncustodial parent poses a threat to the child’s well-being and safety, they may order supervised visitation. In these cases, a third party is always present when the noncustodial parent and child meet. That third party may be the other parent, a social worker, or an adult willing to take on that responsibility. It’s also used when the noncustodial parent and child don’t know each other to give each side a way to feel more comfortable while getting to know each other.
- No visitation. This only happens in cases where the judge is convinced that the noncustodial parent is significantly at risk of causing physical or emotional harm to the child. This type of visitation means no communication between the noncustodial parent and child, including in-person visits, phone calls, emails, social media posts, etc.
Can the Type of Visitation Ordered by the Judge Be Changed?
Yes. As noted above, it’s not uncommon for parents who started with reasonable visitation to need to change to scheduled visitation. However, there usually needs to be some reason why the request for modification is made.
There aren’t specific time frames around changing child visitation (as in, there’s no minimum or maximum amount of time you need to spend on the original visitation order). What is required is that circumstances have changed since the original order, and it’s now in the best interests of the child to change visitation. There are many reasons circumstances may have changed, including:
- One parent moved closer or further away from the child.
- One parent has a new work schedule that makes a previous order unworkable.
- The child has expressed a strong preference for more or less time with the noncustodial parent.
- The child is deemed to be in danger (from physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological abuse).
- One parent isn’t following the existing child visitation order (doesn’t pick up or return the child on time, skips scheduled visits, etc.).
- One parent is not properly caring for the child when they have them (not getting them to school, not getting needed medical care, using alcohol or drugs in large quantities in front of the child, etc.).
Who Can Request a Change in the Visitation Order in California?
Either parent can request a change in the visitation order. Both parents don’t have to do it jointly or be in agreement. Each parent will be expected to respond to the request with evidence of why the change would or wouldn’t be in the child’s best interests.
Because family law is complicated and changing visitation can be a multifaceted process, it’s highly recommended that you work with an experienced custody and visitation attorney, whether you’re the parent who is requesting the change or the parent responding to the request.
What if I Disagree with the Judge’s Order for My Child’s Visitation Arrangements?
In California, the law states that you can appeal the family law judge’s ruling if you believe it’s unfair to you. As with other aspects of working on visitation rights, it’s important to note that there must be grounds for the appeal. Some of those grounds include lack of evidence, incorrect interpretation or application of the California family law code in court, or abuse of discretion by the trial court.
Something that’s critical to understand is that there’s a strict deadline for filing an appeal. When the court order is finalized, a Notice of Entry is mailed to the affected parties (in this case, the parents), which signifies the court order is complete. If an appeal is to be done, it must be done no more than 60 days after you receive the Notice of Entry or the date when the copy of the judgment was mailed to you.
It’s also important to remember that the reviewing court largely defers to the judge who issued the order. That’s not to say the order can never be appealed, but it isn’t easy.
What Can I Do to Protect My Rights as an Unmarried Father?
Call Reel Fathers Rights at 909-323-7962 to request an initial consultation. We’ll walk you through your specific case (because every custody and visitation case is unique) and determine the best approach for you to work toward the outcomes you want. Fathers deserve their rights when it comes to being involved in their children’s lives. Our team of knowledgeable, experienced family law attorneys is ready and waiting to help ensure your rights are respected and protected.