When children are involved in a divorce, understanding your rights as a parent can be difficult and confusing. This is especially true if you are a father, and primary custody has been given to the mother of your children. What are child visitation rights for fathers in California, and what can you expect when it comes to seeing your kids?
Child visitation rights are usually outlined in a divorce decree or other parenting plan. As a father, you are entitled to:
- See your children during specified hours and days
- Develop activities during the visitation time that is established
- Have the police intervene if your visitation rights are violated (the police report can later be used as evidence)
- Obtain an injunction if the mother tries to take the children out of state
- Prevent the mother from threatening to deprive you of visitation time
- Modify the divorce decree or parenting plan establishing the details of visitation
If the mother tries to keep you from seeing your children, tries to move out of state with the children, or otherwise violates your divorce decree or parenting plan, you can seek court intervention. You can also seek a modification of those orders to obtain a better child visitation plan or custody situation for your children.
Don’t Forget Your Obligations
As important as it is to understand your rights, it’s equally important that you are aware of your obligations. Even if the mother of your children is not complying with court orders and violating your visitation rights, you cannot:
- Stop paying child support
- Verbally or otherwise abuse the children’s mother
Be careful that you don’t retaliate if your ex is trying to control the situation and manipulate the kids. Your actions will be scrutinized, and you want to remain on good legal terms with the court.
Child Visitation Rights for Fathers Is Not Automatic
You will not obtain child visitation rights automatically as a child’s biological father. First, you will have to establish paternity, or parentage. That means, you must prove that you are the child’s parent. In some situations, the law will assume the identity of the child’s father. For example:
- If a child is born into a marriage, then the mother’s husband is assumed to be the father.
- If a child is born and a male has been living with the mother in a family-like manner, he demonstrates commitment to the child, then he is considered the child’s father even if there is no biological connection.
A man may also sign a voluntary declaration of paternity (VDP), which is common for women who are unmarried. When a VDP is signed at a hospital, the man’s name is typically added to the birth certificate.
What Are the Best Interests of the Child?
The court will consider what is in the best interests of the child when determining visitation. They may consider your relationship with the child up to this point, your background, and your mental and physical well-being.
Domestic violence can affect the outcome of a visitation decision. Your visitation rights may be restricted or denied altogether for a conviction. You may also be put under supervised visitation, where someone must observe you during visitation with your children. If you have a significant criminal record, your visitation may also be restricted.