Parenting Time Agreements in California: The Basics

Parenting Plan Basics in California

In California, parenting time agreements cover important information about:

  • How much time a child will spend with each parent
  • Information on how the parents will make decisions about important issues regarding the child

Parents can share time with the kids, or the court could award physical custody to only one parent. A judge makes the final decision on custody, but it’s usually up to the parents to come up with an agreement that’s fair for everyone.

Here’s what you need to know.

Parenting Time Agreements in California: The Basics

A parenting time agreement, commonly called a custody and visitation agreement, is a written agreement that both parents are responsible for upholding. It includes time-share information, which pertains to how much time each parent gets to spend with the kids, as well as decision-making information, which pertains to how the parents will make important choices about their child’s health, education and welfare.

Related: Preparing for divorce

Time-Sharing in Parenting Time Agreements

California Parenting Time AgreementsWhen you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse come up with a parenting time agreement, you have to remember that it must be fair to everyone involved – and it must meet your child’s best interests. If it doesn’t, the judge in your case will not agree to sign it and make it an official order.

The time you share with your children is referred to as physical custody. Physical custody can be joint, which means that your children live with both of you at different times. It can also be sole or primary, which means that your kids live with one of you most of the time and visit the other parent.

California courts recognize that kids benefit most from frequent and meaningful contact with both parents, which means you should divide your time fairly. Visitation can fall into a few categories:

  • Scheduled visitation. Scheduled visitation relies on a written schedule that details exactly when the children will be with each parent. These types of visitation plans help avoid confusion and can prevent conflicts because everything is already clear-cut.
  • Reasonable visitation. If your agreement just provides time for “reasonable visitation,” it won’t have a schedule with specific details. These types of orders let you and your ex-spouse work things out on your own, and they can work if you two get along very well. However, disagreements and misunderstandings can make these types of agreements difficult to deal with.
  • Supervised visitation. If your children’s safety and well-being require supervised visitation, your parenting time agreement will reflect that. Only the judge can decide whether supervised visitation is actually necessary. You can ask your Stockton divorce attorney to request it if there’s a situation in your family that you believe warrants supervised visitation.

Related: Co-parenting definition, explanations and guide

Legal Issues in Parenting Time Agreements

Parenting Time Agreements in CaliforniaYour parenting time agreement should also include information on how you and your ex will make major decisions about your children. These decisions can be made jointly or by only one of you, and they include things like:

  • School or childcare
  • Religious activities or institutions
  • Psychiatric, psychological, or other mental health counseling or therapy needs
  • Visits to the doctor, dentist, orthodontist or other health professionals (except in emergency situations)
  • Sports, summer camp, vacations or extracurricular activities
  • Travel

If you and your ex share legal custody, you both have the right to make these types of decisions. However, if only one of you has legal custody, that parent is authorized to make all the decisions – even if they apply while the children are with the other parent. The only exception is for emergency medical care; the parent who physically has the children when an emergency arises is authorized to make those decisions.

Related: California Divorce: Family, home and children

Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About a Parenting Time Agreement?

If you need to discuss setting up a parenting time agreement with an attorney, we may be able to help you. Call us right away at (209) 546-6870 or contact us online to schedule a consultation today.