Can an Absent Parent Request Custody and Visitation?
A parent who is not involved in their child’s life or absent in a legally significant manner may come back and petition for child custody or visitation in the future. This reemergence of the absentee parent and a new child custody battle is often stressful for the custodial parent and child. However, in limited circumstances, there may be legitimate reasons for the absentee parent to petition for custody or visitation.
Whether you are the custodial parent or the absent parent, it is essential 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.
- Any evidence or history of abuse or neglect.
- Issues related to 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 court of your jurisdiction is tasked with applying California child custody law to ensure that any custody order or modification is in the child’s best interest. As applied to re-establishing a relationship with a child, the family law judge will review the current child custody arrangement. Typically, if all parties have followed a parenting plan for a length of time, the court may favor maintaining the status quo rather than modifying the existing order.
Of course, this does that mean the family law court will always keep things the same, but child custody law places 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 don’t want to disrupt the child’s routine.
Reasons for Absence
There are two main exceptions to the status quo: (1) the absent parent was in 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.
The absent parent will need to provide a reason for why they have not been actively involved in their children’s lives. Reasons that are not in the children’s best interests are not compelling. For instance, if a parent avoided involvement in their child’s life to avoid child support or is now requesting modification of custody to punish the other parent for asking for additional child support, the court is unlikely to disrupt the status quo.
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 the 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.