Whether you and your child’s other parent have been sharing custody and co-parenting without a court-ordered child custody arrangement for years, or you are in the middle of a contentious custody battle, arguing over how much time you get to spend with your child is emotional and stressful.
Many parents who want to have more visitation time with their child go about it in a way that makes that goal less likely. This isn’t because they are bad parents, they just don’t understand what steps they need to take to meet their goal of getting more visitation time with their child.
Essential Checklist to Get More Visitation Time with Your Child in California
If you want more time with your child, no matter what the current circumstances are with your child custody case or co-parenting relationship, this checklist can help you understand what you need to do to get more visitation.
#1: Be an Excellent Parent
No eye rolling! Getting more visitation time, or parenting time, starts with showing your child, co-parent, child custody mediator, and family court judge that you are a great parent. If you aren’t involved with and attentive to your child during the visitation you have now, why would anyone want to give you more?
The first and primary thing to remember when attempting to obtain more time with your child or even custody of your child is almost comically simple: You have to be an excellent parent. Understand your child’s age and developmental needs, and parent him or her accordingly. This will require you to do your homework, take parenting classes, meet with a counselor, and read about effective parenting tactics. Parenting is not something parents just instinctively know how to do perfectly. If anyone tells you otherwise, they likely have an adult, unemployed child with a masters degree living in their basement.
If you already knew how to be a perfect parent, you wouldn’t be trying to get more time with your child, because you would already have it. You also wouldn’t be reading this blog post. Use the resources you have available to you and put in the work.
If your child is an infant, having all of the necessary baby equipment to properly care for him or her is important, as is knowing how to change your baby, hold your baby, rock your baby, feed your baby, and sooth your baby. Because there is arguably a historical bias in favor of mothers having primary physical custody of a baby, if you are a father, it is important to show that you are competent to care for your baby and that being with you more might be beneficial for him or her if you want to share custody of an infant.
If your child is a toddler or young child under the age of 5 or 6 years old, playing on the floor with him or her and knowing how to properly discipline your child in age appropriate ways is important.
Stay active with your child’s education, regardless of where your child is currently staying during the school week. Attend all parent/teacher conferences, and stay in contact with your child’s teachers. Be proactive about addressing issues your child may be having in school and attend all of your child’s extracurricular activities.
The most important thing to remember during a custody battle is what is best for the child. If you cannot show that you are an excellent parent during the time you have with your child now, you are not likely to get more time.
#2: Practice the Parenting Time You Already Have [Don’t Miss Visits with Your Child]
This cannot be said enough: If you aren’t even exercising the time you have now, the court will not give you more if you try to modify child custody.
Exercise your parental rights, especially if you’ve been granted visitation rights with your child. Spend as much time with them as you can.
It is also important to be prompt and on time for your time with your child. If you are court-ordered, or have agreed, to pick up your child or visit him or her at a specific time, always arrive on time. Little things like showing up late can be used to create a negative impression of your commitment as a parent in court. For this reason, you need to be on time when you have to pick up your child or have a visit with them. Arriving on time also communicates to your child that they are a priority to you.
Finally, don’t reschedule your parenting time with your child. Repeatedly rescheduling your parenting time could make it appear that your schedule is more important than your parenting time or your child’s time. Make sure you are there when you say you will be so that your co-parent can’t present a documented pattern to the court that reflects negatively on you. Plus, creating an emotional rollercoaster for your child by getting their hopes up and routinely dashing them because of your schedule is not in your child’s best interest.
Don’t expect your co-parent to agree to give you more time with your child, or a family court judge or child custody mediator to do so, if you are not practicing the time you currently have.
#3: Become a Master at Co-Parenting
If you are trying to get more time with your child, your first instinct may be to focus on all of the negative things about your co-parent. You may think you need to show that your co-parent is “unfit” or in some way not a good parent to your child. That is not necessarily the best way to achieve your goal. It can be more difficult to prove something negative about someone else, than to prove something positive about yourself. Instead, you need to make sure that you demonstrate a willingness to work with your co-parent while also demonstrating that your child would benefit from you having more time with them.
Respect your co-parent. Let your co-parent know about changes in your schedule, travel plans, plans to relocate, and when your child’s stepparent will be doing a custody exchange. Also, let your co-parent know if a new babysitter or romantic interest will be with your child while they are with you. Communicate where you will be while you have your child and decide together how emergencies should be handled.
Support your co-parent’s relationship with your child. If your co-parent comes by to pick up the child and the child doesn’t want to go or is hesitant to go, assure them that they will have fun, it is important that they spend time with their other parent, and that you want them to enjoy this time with their other parent.
The family court wants to give the parent who is most likely to encourage and support the child’s relationship with their other parent more parenting time. Not the parent who is constantly nit-picking and accusing their co-parent of wrongdoing. This can even be considered parental alienation, and will only hurt your custody case, and your child. This means that a father or mother can lose custody of their child or have their custodial rights reduced if they engage in alienating behaviors.
#4: Don’t Get Discouraged with Your Custody Case
Raising a child is a marathon, not a sprint. Just because you may have supervised visitation or limited parenting time right now doesn’t mean you should throw your hands up in defeat. If you keep being an excellent parent, following your court order, and effectively co-parenting, you will provide the family court everything it needs to be able to grant you more time with your child.
#5: Try to Reach an Agreement Outside of Court to Get More Visitation Time with Your Child
If you are in the fortunate situation where your relationship with your co-parent is amicable and you are on peaceful terms, approach your co-parent and attempt to come up with a child custody and visitation agreement on your own.
Generally, the best way to co-parent a child is for parents to work together to come to an agreement or modify a custody arrangement outside of court. This helps prevent a long, expensive court battle with experienced custody attorneys and makes the parenting plan easier to follow.
Try talking to your co-parent about what parenting plan and parenting time schedule that you think would be best for your child. You need to clearly detail the custody arrangements you want and provide logical reasons why you think it should be implemented. Make sure to include a day-to-day schedule, holiday visitation plan, and exchange time and location provisions.
Consider making multiple plans and schedules so that you can present options. Come to the discussion ready and willing to compromise. Remember, your co-parent loves your child too, and they may be hesitant to agree to see their child less. Approaching the topic in a reasonable and understanding way may encourage your co-parent to be reasonable and compromise as well.
Parents can negotiate the agreement through family law attorneys to ensure the terms of the agreement are enforceable and contain all required provisions.
#6: How to Request Additional Visitation with Your Child in a California Court
Things will go more smoothly if your co-parent agrees to increase your visitation. A family court judge will still need to approve the modification, but judges are more willing to do so if both parents agree it is a good idea. If the other parent disagrees, they may fight the change, and the process can become complicated.
How to File a Request for More Visitation Time in CA Family Court
If parents cannot agree on modifying a custody order, the parent seeking the modification (i.e. more visitation) will need to file a motion with the court to request it.
There are many reasons why parents want more visitation. Maybe your work schedule has changed and you now have more time to devote to your family, or maybe you have always wanted more visitation, but the family court gave you less.
If you need to go back to the family court after a custody case was concluded to have the orders changed, you can file a motion (FL-300). You you will also need to attach a persuasive declaration explaining the basis for your request and the facts that support it. The motion will also need to be properly filed and served on the other parent. California has detailed rules on correct service of process, but a skilled custody attorney can handle this for you.
Keep in mind that the family court’s main concern is always what is in the best interest of the child, so keep your requests child-centered.
When Can I Request a Modification of Visitation in CA?
Judges really don’t want to see people cycling through the courts on a regular basis asking the judge to tweak their visitation schedules. The courts are too busy, so they expect parents to follow a parenting plan that is approved in in the custody case and make it work. Nevertheless, life goes on and circumstances do change, especially with growing children.
Modifying a court order requires more than mere dissatisfaction with its terms and obligations or a desire to pay less child support. The court will assume that the prior order is reasonable and in the child’s best interests. Judges will consider a modification, but only if you have a compelling reason. In modification proceedings, the goal is to convince the family court that since entry of the prior order, changes have taken place and require a new visitation order.
Courts are reluctant to modify their orders, since they were arrived at after careful consideration of the facts in the case and the California Family Code provides that children are entitled to a certain level of stability.
Essentially, you need to show that it is in your child’s best interest for you to receive more visitation. For example, you might have been awarded very limited visitation due to a drug or alcohol problem. If you have since managed to get on top of your addiction, then additional visitation might be warranted.
Alternately, you might have relocated to be closer to your child since the current order was entered. If you’ve moved closer to them, it might be better for everyone if you have the children with you more. Also, the custodial parent might have a new work schedule that requires him or her to be away from home more. In this situation, awarding you more visitation might make sense.
Contact a California Visitation and Custody Attorney
Whether you have a valid reason for seeking a modification to a parenting plan is often a complicated legal question. Consult a knowledgeable California custody modification lawyer at Talkov Law at (844) 4-TALKOV (825568) or contact us online for a free consultation about your case.