Close Menu

If My Child Spends a Week With My Parents, Does That Count as My Scheduled Visitation Time?

Posted on June 30th, 2024

When parents divorce or separate, one of the biggest challenges is determining custody and visitation arrangements for the children. In California, the courts aim to make decisions focused on the best interests of the child. This often results in one parent being granted primary physical custody while the other parent receives scheduled visitation times.

But what happens when your scheduled visitation time rolls around, and instead of spending it with you directly, your child goes to visit your parents or other family members? Does that still count towards your court-ordered visitation? The answer depends on the specific language in your custody order and the circumstances involved.

Child Spends a Week With My Parents

The Custody Order is Key

Your custody order from the California court lays out the specifics of your visitation schedule. It should clearly state the times you are entitled to have the children stay with you. Some orders are quite broad, simply indicating general visitation periods like “every other weekend.”

Other orders can be much more detailed and restrictive, specifying things like:

  • Exact dates and times for pick-up and drop-off
  • Whether overnight stays are permitted
  • If visits must occur at your residence or can take place elsewhere
  • Procedures for handling schedule conflicts or requests for modifications

If your order states visitation must occur at your residence, then your child staying with your parents would likely not satisfy that requirement. However, many orders provide flexibility by not specifying a location.

When in doubt, the safest approach is to strictly follow the written terms of your court order. Any deviation could potentially be viewed as a custody violation.

Importance of Advance Planning

One of the biggest factors courts consider is whether you properly planned the visit with your relatives in advance and received consent from the other parent. Surprise trips during your scheduled time usually raise red flags.

You should give your co-parent reasonable notice, preferably in writing, about your specific plans. This shows you are acting in good faith to maintain their relationship with the child and allows them to raise any objections beforehand.

Most custody orders require several weeks of advance notice for things like vacation travels. While sending your child to your parents’ house is not necessarily a vacation, you should still provide ample notice out of courtesy.

Maintaining a Child’s Routine

Another crucial consideration is whether having your child stay with relatives maintains his or her normal routine. This includes:

  • Sleeping schedule
  • Meal times
  • School attendance
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Any special medical or educational needs

It may be viewed more favorably if grandparents can reasonably continue the child’s typical daily life. However, if the visit drastically disrupts established routines like missing school, courts may see it as detrimental.

Your Involvement is Key

One of the main purposes of scheduled visitation is to allow you frequent and meaningful parenting time with your children. So, if you just use your time to pawn the kids off on relatives, it defeats the purpose.

Judges want to see children maintaining strong, independent bonds with both parents. Your involvement, interaction, and one-on-one time with your son or daughter are critical.

Having said that, many custody orders do allow reasonable periods for children to be left with appropriate childcare providers like grandparents. As long as it is a reasonable portion of your scheduled visitation and not the entirety, it likely will not violate the order.

At the end of the day, the core focus should be on what arrangements are truly best for the well-being of your children. Involving them in drama, conflict, or protracted legal battles often does more harm than good.

If you have a generally cooperative relationship with your co-parent, it is best to have open and transparent discussions. If you want your parents to spend time with the kids during your visitation, talk it over first. With proper advance notice and reasonable terms, many parents can reach informal agreements.

However, if you believe your visitation rights are being constantly violated or your co-parent is acting unreasonably, you may need to take formal legal action. Speaking with our experienced family law attorney at Harris Family Law Group can help protect your parental rights.

Let Us Help You Out

Through working together with your co-parent, extending visitation to responsible relatives like grandparents can be a positive experience for your children. It allows them to maintain meaningful family bonds and benefit from the love and wisdom of extended family members. With clear communication and reasonable boundaries, it can be a win-win for all involved. Call us at 310-745-8644 to talk to our team at Harris Family Law Group.