Child Custody and Visitation

Law Offices of Keith Banks offers legal assistance to residents of Yolo, Sacramento, Solano and Placer counties involved in Child Custody and Visitation cases. Please be aware that in order to file a request for a child custody or visitation order with the court you must already be involved in a family law case. This can mean you have filed either for divorce or a parentage action if you were never married. We can help you seek an initial child custody or visitation order or modify a current custody or visitation order.

Determining child custody and visitation can be the most emotionally challenging aspect of any family law case for both parents and children. Furthermore, it can be very difficult to modify the custody and visitation orders once the court issues them.

Law Offices of Keith Banks will help you not only understand the types of custody that exist but also work to develop a visitation plan that the court, and perhaps the opposing party, is likely to adopt.

What is the Difference Between Legal and Physical Custody?

Legal custody is the right to make important decisions about the child's welfare, including education, medical care (except in emergencies), and religious upbringing.  The court can order joint legal custody, where both parents have equal right to make these decisions, or sole legal custody, where only one parent has the right to make all or some of these decisions.

Physical custody refers to where the children will live and who will be responsible for the daily care of the children.  The court can order joint or sole physical custody.

Joint physical custody, sometimes called "shared custody," is when the children live with both parents equally, or almost equally, according to a shared schedule. 

Sole physical custody means that the children live predominantly with one parent. The other parent, sometimes referred to as the "non-custodial" parent, generally has the right to visitation provided the court determines that it is in the best interests of the child.

What is Visitation?                    

Visitation orders set out the schedule for the time the children will spend with each parent.  The schedule can include specifics, such as where the children will be picked up and dropped off, who will have the children for certain holidays, and who will provide transportation. 

Parents will be given the opportunity to create their own parenting agreement regarding legal custody, physical custody, and visitation through California court required mediation.  If the parents are unable to come to an agreement, the court will set a custody schedule.

A popular myth is that judges are predisposed towards the mother when it comes to custody.  This is not true.  In fact, judges are not permitted to give a preference to either parent based upon the parent’s gender.

What do Judges Look For?

Judges tend to favor maintaining stability and continuity in a child’s environment.  This includes retaining established patterns of care and protecting emotional bonds with the primary caretaker of the child.  Furthermore, judges will also tend to keep siblings together except in extraordinary circumstances.

Does the Child have a Voice in Setting Custody?

One of the more challenging aspects of child custody and visitation is handling the wishes of the child, particularly when the child does not agree to the proposed (or ordered) schedule.  California law requires that the court consider the wishes of a child who is mature enough to make an intelligent choice regarding custody.  Unfortunately, the law does not specify at what age a child is considered “mature enough” to participate.  However, the older and more mature a child is, the more likely a judge is to give weight to the child’s opinion. 

In the end, the best interests of the children must come first in any discussion or plan.  Both parents must try to put aside any other emotions, or interests, when determining a custody arrangement.