Often, the biggest and most contentious issues a California divorcing couple must deal with is how child custody and visitation rights will be handled. Given the likelihood of there being a dispute as to which parent will be granted custody and the amount of parenting time the noncustodial parent will get, it is important for the participants to remember how to get a custody and visitation order. Even if these issues are understood relatively well, it is still imperative to have legal assistance as the case moves forward.
The best-case scenario and the easiest and most agreeable method to deal with custody and visitation is if the parents negotiate on their own and formulate a schedule they believe is fair. This will not be subject to court order. When the couple makes an agreement, it is binding and enforceable. However, should one of the parties not adhere to the agreement, the court will not be able to enforce it until there is a court order. When a couple negotiates an agreement and there is the possibility of future disagreements, it is wise to have a judge look at the agreement and approve it. Once that is done, it will be a court order.
When parents cannot come to an agreement, the case will be sent to mediation. Should that fail, then the couple will confer with the judge. The judge will decide how custody and visitation will be allocated. It is also within the judge's rights to seek a custody evaluation so a parenting plan can be recommended. Parents can request there be an evaluation, but it is not guaranteed that there will be one. Once the judge has made an order, one or both parents can request that it be changed. If the parents agree to the change, the judge will usually approve it. If they cannot agree, one parent can request a change and various factors -- a change in circumstances, danger to the child -- will be considered before agreeing to the change. There must be a good reason to make the change.
If parents can negotiate on their own and agree on child custody and visitation rights, it will save time, money and shield them and the child from emotional disputes. Unfortunately, that is not always possible and it is wise to get a court order. For parents who are thinking about child custody and visitation rights as they end a marriage, having legal assistance is crucial. A law firm that specializes in family law can help.