Under California law, it is public policy of the state to ensure minor children frequent and continuing contact with both parents after their separation or divorce, and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing in order to effect this policy, except when the contact would not be in the child’s best interest.
Mediation is required whenever it appears that an issue of custody or visitation regarding a minor child is contested. This requirement applies whether the order sought is an initial order or modification. Mediation has several purposes such as to reduce any acrimony between the parties, develop an agreement that furthers the state’s policy of frequent and continuing contact with both parents and that is in harmony with the best interest of the child, and to effect a settlement regarding a visitation schedule.
The court in a marital action may award reasonable visitation rights to any other person having an interest in the child’s welfare. This type of visitation order may be limited by the preference that custody be vested in the child’s natural parents.
Child custody and visitation awards are subject to modification for as long as the child is a minor. A significant change of circumstances since an order was made must be shown for the court to modify either a legal or physical custody order. A change of circumstances need not be shown, however, when there has been no prior court order, that is, when the order being made is an initial order rather than a modification of a prior order, or when the order is pending final judgment.
A custody order terminates when the child reaches 18 years, dies, or becomes emancipated.