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How Does a Court Determine Visitation Rights?

Divorce is already a complicated process, and when child custody and visitation rights have to be determined, it can become even more difficult. Generally, California courts strive to ensure any children of the marriage maintain frequent contact with both parents unless one parent is unfit. Get all the facts on how courts determine visitation rights.

Types of Custody Orders

In California, there are two types of child custody:

  • Legal custody. This determines who makes important decisions for the children, including health care, education, and welfare.

  • Physical custody. This determines who the child lives with.


Both of these types of custody can be either joint or sole. With joint legal custody, both parents have the right to make decisions about aspects of the children’s lives, but they do not have to agree on every decision. With joint physical custody, children split their time between parents, with one parent typically having slightly more time with the children, since it’s difficult to split the time exactly in half. 

With sole physical custody, the children reside with one of the parents, and the other parent is typically granted visitation rights.

Types of Visitation Orders


Visitation orders are varied depending on what’s in the best interest of all parties involved. There are different types of visitation, including:

  • Visitation according to a schedule. A visitation schedule helps avoid conflicts and confusion. Visitation schedules can include holidays, special occasions, and vacations.

  • Reasonable visitation. This type of order does not necessarily have details as to when the children will live with each parent, but it works well if each parent communicates and can be flexible.

  • Supervised visitation. This type of order occurs when the children’s safety and well-being require that visits with one parent be supervised by the other parent, another adult, or a professional agency.

  • No visitation. This happens when visiting the parent, even with supervision, would be physically or emotionally harmful to the children.

How the Court Determines Visitation

When determining visitation rights, the court does what’s in the best interest of the child, and takes the following into consideration:

  • The age and health of the child

  • The emotional ties between the parent and child

  • The ability of the parents to care for the child

  • Any history of family violence or substance abuse

  • The child’s ties to school, home, and community


Courts may not deny visitation rights on the basis of the parent’s sex, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, disability, or marital status. However, custody and visitation rights may be denied to either parent if it’s determined that contact with either parent would harm the children.

Need Help with Child Custody and Visitation? Contact Us Today

If you find yourself in a child custody dispute, our Folsom family law attorneys can help you through the process. We offer high-quality representation and maintain a focus on protecting your child’s well-being while keeping your best interest in mind.

Contact the Law Office of Tiffany L. Andrews at (916) 794-4576 for a consultation with our family law attorneys today.