When a couple is married and has a child, both individuals are presumed to be the child’s legal parents under California law. When a couple is not married at the time of a child’s birth, the situation becomes more complicated. Before a person can secure and enforce a visitation agreement, they must first show that they are the child’s legal parent.

In California, the birthing mother is the legal parent of the child and automatically has custody, unless her fitness as a parent is successfully challenged in court. But the situation differs for fathers and non-birthing mothers, as may be the case with same-sex couples.

To establish legal parentage, an individual can either sign a declaration of parentage or obtain a court order. Once both parties have proven legal parentage, the parties will need to craft a visitation plan and submit it to the court for approval. The court will only approve a plan that is deemed in the best interests of the child.

Once an approved visitation plan is in place, the visitation agreement will operate just like those in place for divorced couples.

When a parent neglects to adhere to the terms of the visitation agreement, the first step the parties should take is to discuss the matter and try to resolve it, if possible, without involving the courts. Sometimes, however, the visitation violations require outside intervention. For example, a parent’s continual failure to show up for exchanges, refusal to release the child for scheduled visitations or taking the child outside of the court-permitted geographical boundaries, such as out of state or country, could call for court intervention.

If the judge finds sufficient evidence that a violation has occurred, he or she may modify the order or hold the non-compliant parent in contempt of court. Additionally, the court may grant the prevailing party court costs, including any attorneys’ fees.

At Strategic Law Command, our lawyers understand how hard it can be to get life back on track in the midst of a breakup — especially when kids are involved. Our team of skilled attorneys can guide you to the best solution in custody and visitation matters. Call our Roseville firm at 916-787-1234 or contact us online to set up a consultation.