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Unusual Visitation Issues

Tue 31st May, 2022 Family Law

A general rule of child visitation in California is that the agreement established by the parents should have the child’s best interest in mind. Children have the right to frequent and continuing contact with both parents after a divorce. But there is no such thing as a “typical” child visitation agreement. Parents and children form unique bonds with one another, and a divorce — as well as the underlying reasons for the divorce — can have a significant effect on post-divorce living arrangements. Visitation is a delicate issue for nearly all divorcing parents, but certain situations can add significant complications. If any of these situations apply to you, you should consider speaking with a Stockton child visitation lawyer to evaluate your options. 

Military Visitation 

Military service is one of the most common factors that can upend child custody and visitation arrangements. Generally, modifications to such agreements post-divorce must be approved by a court. But military service members on active duty have little discretion over where they live and do not have the option of declining a transfer or deployment, which can take them many states away or even overseas. 

California law recognizes that military service can significantly disrupt child visitation plans, and it makes certain exceptions for servicemembers. A parent’s failure to comply with a visitation order because of activation to military duty, mobilization in support of combat, or deployment out of state is not, on its own, a sufficient basis for modifying a child visitation order. However, if a party with joint or sole custody or visitation receives an order from the military that requires him or her to move a substantial distance or otherwise affects visitation rights, any necessary modifications to the visitation plan will be considered a temporary custody order. The court will then review the temporary order upon the servicemember’s return. 

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) also provides certain protections that can affect divorce, child custody, and visitation proceedings. Notably, it allows servicemembers to postpone court proceedings in which they are not able to participate due to their deployment and prevents default judgments from being issued against them. If you think that your co-parent may be able to invoke the protections of the SCRA during your proceedings, you should consider contacting a Stockton child visitation lawyer

Long-Distance Visitation 

It is not unusual for one or both divorcing parents to want to start fresh by moving away from where they lived when they were married, in some cases far away. But children can often add a wrinkle to post-divorce relocation plans. When developing a parenting plan that includes long-distance visitation, you should be sure to take several factors into consideration, including: 

  • Distance: The impact of long-distance visitation depends upon the distance between the parties; for example, a visitation schedule for parents who live four hours away from each other generally will be easier to follow than for parents who live on opposite sides of the country
  • Cost: Long-distance travel can be expensive, time-consuming, and stressful, which may make long-distance visitation plans difficult to follow to the letter  
  • Holidays: Major holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving can be contentious, with each parent often accusing the other of getting more time with the children or getting the “better” holidays

Negotiating long-distance visitation is difficult but not impossible. Be realistic about what you think you can handle and ensure that you and your former spouse both understand the burdens that the agreement will impose.  

Out-of-State or Country Travel

Parents who share physical custody of their children may be restricted in where they can travel with them, especially if such travel is out of state, out of the country, or otherwise may disrupt the established visitation plan. Some parents do not face this issue — for example, if your visitation order provides for out-of-state or country travel, you may be able to travel freely as you see fit. However, in most cases, you will need to obtain the other parent’s permission if you plan to travel out of the state or country with your child. If you cannot find the other parent, you will need to obtain permission from the court. Also, keep in mind that if your divorce proceedings have not been finalized, both parents are automatically prohibited from taking minor children out of the state without the other parent’s consent due to automatic temporary restraining orders.    

Child Refusal of Visitation 

Parents are usually the ones who fail to follow the terms of a child visitation order. Less common, although not unheard of, is a child who fails to follow the terms by refusing visitation. This can occur for many reasons, such as when the child does not get along with his or her other parent or when the scheduled visitation conflicts with the child’s social plans. Nevertheless, visitation orders are legally binding and must be enforced. If your child is refusing visitation, be sure to document the date and time it occurred, the child’s reason for refusing visitation, and the efforts you undertook to ensure compliance. In some cases, a child’s refusal of visitation may form the basis of a modification of the visitation order. For example, if the child is reluctant to visit a parent due to domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, or any other unsafe or unhealthy condition, the other parent may use that as evidence to seek a modification.  

Craft a Beneficial Child Visitation Agreement with Help from a Stockton Child Visitation Lawyer 

Working out a child visitation agreement is rarely easy, but some circumstances can make it even harder than normal. The best way to ensure that you come to an agreement that works for you, your co-parent, and your children is to get help from an experienced attorney. To get started, please contact a Stockton child visitation lawyer at McKinley, Conger, Jolley & Galarneau by using our online form or calling us at 209-477-8171.

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