After child custody is determined, the judge will establish visitation guidelines. When one parent has sole physical custody, the child lives with and spends more than half of the time with that parent. Visitation is a term that describes the time a child spends with the other parent, the non-custodial parent. The court has broad discretion in establishing visitation rights. Many factors are taken into consideration, including how close the non-custodial parent lives to the child, the child’s particular needs, age and maturity. When relevant, the child’s preference will also be considered.
The Supreme Court of California requests that parents set up a schedule outlining the dates and times for visitation. The purpose of establishing a schedule is to keep confusion at a minimum and coordinate dates and times when a child will be picked up and returned.
During visitation, the decision making authority remains with the parent who has legal custody and doesn’t shift to the other parent due to visitation.
In order to protect the safety and well being of a child, the court may rule the other parent, another adult or a professional agent must supervise that visitation. In severe and unusual circumstances, when a parent could be physically or emotionally damaging to a child, the court may deny visitation rights. However, visitation rights can’t be denied based on failure to pay child support. Nor can visitation be denied because of religious beliefs or an unconventional lifestyle.
Likewise, if the child is a teenager and refuses visitation, there is no choice but to go along with the child’s wishes. The court doesn’t hold custodial parents responsible for a teenage child’s denial of visitation. On the other hand, the court does hold the custodial parent responsible when younger children are refusing visitation because they are more easily influenced by the parent’s control.