Family Law Specialists*
Steve Fernandez and Mark Karney are Certified Family Law Specialists*
Parenting Plan Solution
How a Parenting Plan can Solve Your Custody and Visitation Problems
The non-custodial parent has traditionally been given “the right of reasonable visitation”. Reasonable visitation is a very vague and ambiguous phrase often left to be interpreted by the custodial parent.
Each parent has an equal right to the custody of their children, absent any drug abuse, violence, or danger to the children. We believe that a parent should not have to “visit” his/her own children. We also believe that the custodial parent should not have to approve the condition for the non-custodial parent in order to exercise visitation. We believe that “reasonable visitation” is by its own definition “unreasonable.”
How a ‘Visitation’ Schedule Can be Made to Be Workable
Use a Parenting Plan in order to more clearly define the rights and responsibilities of each parent concerning the custody of their children. Parenting Plans are not new. Five states in the U.S., including Vermont, Connecticut, Florida and Oregon require them in custody cases.
A Parenting Plan is a comprehensive and detailed framework or map detailing the rights and responsibilities of both parents in the raising of their children. Attorneys work with their client and sometimes with a child psychologist to develop a detailed plan to present to the other party or the other party’s attorney.
A Parenting Plan is often developed before the mediation process in order to provide written documentation of the client’s position to the client and the mediator.
A Parenting Plan includes some general understandings which reflect the policy that states each party should get together to communicate for the sake of their children. The first portion of each Parenting Plan involves legal custody.
In addition to the specific paragraphs on health, education, and welfare, the legal rights of each party are also included in Parenting Plans, even though California law does not presently include those rights.
The last sections of the Parenting Plan involves physical custody. We have developed an extremely detailed Physical Custody Component that includes not only holidays and summer vacations, but also special conditions, should the parent be working shift work or on a rotational schedule, ( for example, firefighters).
The Parenting Plans also include provisions for persons who belong to certain religious faiths, such as Seventh Day Adventists, Latter Day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses and members of the Jewish faith.
What Happens if Communication Breaks Down Between My Former Spouse and Me?
Communication often breaks down between parents after the separation. In these cases, many problems can be solved by the parties scheduling or having their attorneys schedule a mediation conference in order to iron out their differences.
If informal mediation fails, either party can then retain an attorney to file the appropriate papers to return to court. The court will attempt to resolve the problems if the parties are unable to agree.
If one parent is bent on revenge or is unwilling to resolve the problems, the complaining parent can file what is called an “Order to Show Cause Re: Contempt”. This could involve both civil sanctions such as the payment of money or could involve criminal sanctions, such as fine or jail time.
California law provides that a person can be sentenced up to five days for each count of contempt. Contempt could include failure to abide by the custody order, nonpayment of support or physical violence.
In order for the complaining party to be successful in a contempt proceeding, that party must prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt”, the same as in a criminal case. A child custody or visitation order must be very specific so that the court can verify contempt for violations of those orders.
We therefore urge you to make all of your custody and visitation orders made as specific as possible in order to be enforceable in a court of law, should there be any problems of noncompliance.
Can I recover costs for Violation or a Custody or Visitation?
Yes. A new law in California now provides for additional support as compensation to help cover costs when one parent fails to provide for visitation. This also includes periods of time when the visiting parent fails to exercise visitation.
Can My Former Spouse Refuse Me Visitation Rights?
A custodial parent is not entitled to refuse visitation for any reason other than the safety or security of the children. If the visiting spouse turns up in a drugged, drunken or agitated condition, denial of visitation would be considered reasonable. However, excuses such as “Johnny is too sick” or “Sue does not want to see you” would often not be legitimate reasons and would entitle the complaining party to return to court to seek relief.
If you have had problems with visitation orders, you are urged to seek a competent and experienced Family Law Attorney.