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An overview of child custody and visitation

When a Sacramento couple with minor children decides to end their marriage, one of their foremost concerns is child custody.

Child custody generally involves the physical place of the child's residence, the frequency of visits by the non-custodial parent, and general control over the child's welfare. Custody has four broad categories: scheduled visitation, unscheduled reasonable visitation, supervised visitation and no visitation. In every case, the best interests of the child will govern the type of visitation that is ordered.

Scheduled visitation mean visitation according to a schedule either agreed to by the parents or ordered by the court. The schedule usually sets out the days on which each parent will have physical custody of the children, and some schedules also prescribe exact times for commencing and ending each period of visitation. Visitation schedules also set out the dates and times that children will spend with each parent on holidays and birthdays. Reasonable visitation does not rely on an exact written schedule. Instead, the parents are expected to maintain cordial relations and to work out visitation between them. These plans require excellent parental communication and flexibility. Both scheduled visitation and reasonable visitation assume that neither parent has a barrier to taking adequate care of the child.

Two types of visitation orders are used if either parent has difficulty with taking care of the child. The first type is supervised visitation, in which the time that the child spends with one parent is supervised by the other parent, another adult or a professional agency. Supervised visitation is often used if the parent and child require an extended period of time to achieve mutual comfort. If one or both parents are deemed to pose a risk of physical or emotional harm to the child, no visitation of any kind is permitted.

Divorcing parents and their children will fare much better if the parents can negotiate the terms of visitation and custody. If, however, such cooperation is not likely, the advice of an experienced divorce attorney may be helpful in crafting a visitation arrangement that will meet the needs of all concerned.

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