Can an Absent Parent Request Custody and Visitation?
For various reasons, a parent who is not actively involved, or completely absent in a child’s life, may suddenly petition for child custody or visitation. This can be stressful for everyone involved, especially the child. Yet, each family dynamic is different and there may be legitimate reasons for the absence.
Whether you are the custodial parent or the absent parent it is important to consult with a family law attorney. An experienced child custody attorney will discuss your case objectively with a focus on your situation including:
- Each parent’s relationship with the child up to the present date.
- Any evidence or history of abuse or neglect.
- Issues related to the children’s health, safety, education and general welfare.
- Current (status quo) custody arrangement.
- Reasons for absence.
These are key points that will need to be discussed to give you a better understanding of what you can expect and what is in the best interest of your child or children.
California Family Law and the Absent Parent
The family law court’s job is to apply California’s child custody laws to ensure the order protects the children. When it comes to re-establishing a relationship with a child, a family law judge will review the status quo or the current custody arrangement. Typically, if there has been a schedule that the parents followed for any significant time and that has worked for the kids, courts may look to that status quo as the basis for any ongoing orders.
Of course, this does that mean the family law court will always keep things the same, but child custody laws do place great value on stability and continuity when it comes to children; that is why the current status quo matters. If the status quo is working well for the children family courts usually do not want to disrupt the child’s routine.
Reasons for Absence
There are two main exceptions to status quo: (1) the absent parent was in the active military duty or (2) if the absence was due to a temporary absence or relocation. A family law attorney can discuss your options should these circumstances play a role in your absence or that of the other parent.
An absent parent will need to explain to a family judge why they have not been actively involved in their child’s life. The reasons will need to be compelling. It is important to understand that a parent cannot disrupt a child’s schedule because they want to avoid paying more child support or out of spite should the other parent petition for an increase in child support.
Depending on the reasons for the absence, an absent parent who regains custody and visitation might be given supervised or limited custody and visitation until the court is satisfied that parent is earnest in being actively involved in their child’s life and that is in the best interests of the child.
Final Note: Whether you are the custodial or absent parent consult with a family law lawyer for legal advice. Well-meaning friends and family will try to give you advice, but only a CA family law lawyer can provide you with legal advice to help you make appropriate decisions based on California family law and what is in your child’s best interest.