Frequently Asked Questions on Child Custody and Visitation

When parents divorce or break up, custody of their children becomes a major issue. Determining child custody and visitation rights can be very difficult, as the court must consider the child’s best interests. The following are commonly asked questions about child custody and visitation:

Can either Parent Get Custody?

In general, women get primary physical custody of children after divorce. Other factors influencing custody decisions include the age and sex of the child, marital status of parents before the separation, income level of the custodial parent, whether a non-parent is seeking custody, residential schedules for each spouse during marriage, educational needs of the child, and the standard applied in that state.

How Can a Person Petition for Custody?

A family law court will determine which party should have legal decision-making authority for a child under a theory known as the child’s best interest. If no paternity action has been filed or established, the party seeking custody must show that they are a legal parent, either through adoption or court order. If paternity has been established before filing a custody action, it is presumed that this parent will have both physical and decision-making authority over the child. The non-custodial parent may rebut this presumption by showing why they are more fit for sole authority over the child. A judge will consider what arrangement is in the child’s best interest when deciding custody disputes between parents.

Can Grandparents Seek Visitation Rights?

Visitation rights are usually granted after divorce if there is no family court ruling already dealing with parental responsibility and parenting visitation. Typically, family courts will first establish a parenting schedule and then determine whether or not parental responsibility and visitation rights should be granted to the grandparents. Courts may also consider the grandparent-grandchild relationship as one of several factors when deciding.

Are Any Other Parties Allowed to Petition for Custody or Visitation?

Custody and visitation disputes between parents can be filed by third parties such as relatives, foster care agencies, and former stepparents. This is easy with the help of a lawyer like Riverside child custody lawyer. Stepparents wishing to adopt their spouse’s children must file a petition for adoption before terminating the parental rights of either parent unless both parents agree upon it. If they fail to do so, they will be unable to adopt.

Can Custody and Visitation Rights Be Modified if a Parent Moves?

The court can modify custody and visitation agreements under certain circumstances. For example, suppose a child lived with their mother for four consecutive years after the divorce. In that case, one may seek to modify custody and deny the father’s visitation rights if he had previously been granted visitation. Modifications must show that the original agreement was deficient somehow and would not harm the children to change it.

How Is Child Custody Determined if Both Parents Want Joint Custody?

If both parents seek joint custody, the court will typically order a parenting evaluation to assess their abilities to cooperate and make decisions for the children. The evaluation will also look at the parents’ relationship with the children and whether or not either has a history of abuse, domestic violence, or neglect. If the evaluator finds that both parents are fit and capable of sharing custody, the court will likely grant them joint custody. However, if one parent is deemed unfit or unable to cooperate with the other, sole custody may be awarded to one parent instead.

When making a custody determination, the court will consider relevant factors, such as the child’s wishes if they are old enough to express a preference. If one parent is not awarded primary custody, that parent will usually be granted visitation rights. In some cases, the parents may agree on their terms for custody and visitation, which the court will usually approve. However, if the parents cannot agree, the court will decide based on the child’s best interests.