Child Custody/Visitation

Child Custody

When determining custody and visitation, a judge will consider what is in the best interests of the child(ren). Some factors a judge may consider include:

  • Who has been the child’s primary caretaker;
  • The quality of each parent’s home environment;
  • How “fit” the judge thinks each parent is (stable home and lifestyle, good judgment, has a job, good mental and physical health);
  • Which parent the child is living with now, and for how long;
  • Each parent’s ability to provide emotional and intellectual support for the child; 
  • Which parent allows the other parent into the child’s life (does not try to cut out the other parent);
  • If the child is old enough, which parent the child wants to live with;
  • Whether your child would be separated from any siblings; and
  • Whether either parent has been abusive.

A judge must also consider whether there has been domestic violence.

Depending on the specific facts in your case, it may be best if a professional who conducts child custody evaluations is involved. Before such an evaluation is conducted, make sure you consult with an attorney to familiarize yourself with what a child custody evaluation entails and how best you can prepare so that the evaluation has the best chance of being favorable to your position.

Visitation (Parenting Time)

In most child visitation (also referred to as "parenting time") cases, the court wants the child to have a relationship with both parents unless there is a good reason for one parent not to have visitation.When one parent has sole custody, the court will let the parent who does not have custody have visits with the child and spend time with the child unless there is a good reason for the parent not to have visitation.

Custody and visitation are two separate matters but they are usually decided during the same hearing. A visitation petition can be filed as a separate case. The court will order visitation if it is in the best interest of the child. Visitation is also called "parenting time".

Who Can File for Visitation?

A child's parents, grandparents, and siblings can ask the court for visitation. This does not mean that the court will grant visitation. If the child is in foster care, a parent has a right to visit with the child unless his or her parental rights have been "terminated." If the parent's parental rights have been terminated, this means that they do not have a right.

There are many factors that affect a court's decision to award visitation.  And, not all people who request visitation have equal standing under the law. For instance, in most cases a parents' rights far exceed other's rights. It is important to get advice prior to asserting your right to visitation and a consult with a qualified attorney is necessary so that your chances of succeeding are increased.

The Visitation Hearing 

Usually, a child's parents can agree on a visitation schedule on their own. But, if the parents can't agree then the Judge will have a hearing to decide on a visitation schedule.