When is Sole Custody with Visitation the Best Choice?

sole custodyWhen is sole custody with visitation the best choice? There are few divorce-related issues, including financial matters, that are as hotly contested as child custody issues. Many times, the divorcing couple is unable to resolve a custody dispute, and the parties therefore do not enter into a joint parenting agreement. In some of these cases, the court, instead of issuing a joint parenting order, may decide to award sole residential and/or legal custody with one parent.

Sole Custody and Reasonable Visitation Rights

As a general rule, family courts prefer to grant joint legal custody in all cases where it is practicable. There are cases, however, where the court will grant sole custody to one parent. It might be sole physical custody (the parent the child lives with), sole legal custody, or both. In any case where one parent is given sole physical custody, then the non-custodial parent is entitled to parenting time, legally referred to as visitation rights. While the word “visitation” seems short, it does not mean the non-custodial parent cannot get weekly visitation for more than one day per week.

Unfettered or generous visitation with the non-custodial parent is not always appropriate, however. In some cases, the court may severely restrict visitation, or even allow only supervised visitation. Each case is examined individually.

How Does the Court Determine the Appropriate Amount of  Child Visitation?

The court applies the “best interest of the child” standard when resolving child custody disputes. This means that if the judge determines that visiting with the noncustodial parent will result in a danger to either the physical or mental health of the child, then it might not be in the best interest of the child to spend a lot of time with that parent. The court can limit visits with the noncustodial parent, or can include supervision by a third party. In the most extreme cases, the court can actually prohibit any visitation with the noncustodial parent.

Under What Circumstances Can a Noncustodial Parent be Prevented from Visiting a Child?

If a parent is convicted of an illegal sex act and the victim is under 18 years of age, that parent is not entitled to any visitation rights during the period of incarceration, mandatory supervised release, conditional discharge, parole, or probation. Until the custodial parent completes a court-approved treatment program, visitation rights will be denied.

Parents who are convicted of first-degree murder of the child’s other parent, or of a grandparent, great-grandparent, or sibling of the child, are also prohibited from visitation with the children, unless the court decides it is in the best interest of the child to allow it. Judges also might suspend visitation entirely based on the best interest of the child in cases of drug abuse, neglect, or abuse by the noncustodial parent.

Get Legal Help

If you live in Santa Rosa, Petaluma or other towns in Sonoma County, Mendocino County, or Lake County California and you have concerns regarding parental visitation rights either as the parent with sole custody or as the noncustodial parent, you need an aggressive child custody lawyer to protect your rights and the rights of your child. Contact a Beck Law P.C. Santa Rosa child custody attorney for help today.