Parents in California who are no longer in a relationship with one another will have to make the important decision of who will have the child in their care and when. Physical custody can be sole or joint, but even in joint custody situations, it is likely that one parent will have the child in their care more often that the other parent.

Visitation — also referred to in California as “time share” — is granted to the parent who has the child in his or her care less than 50 percent of the time. There are various types of visitation orders that parents may pursue.

One type of visitation is scheduled visitation. This schedule will include the exact dates, times, vacations, holidays and special occasions that the child will spend with each parent. This type of visitation is often included in a court-approved written child custody and visitation decree.

Another type of visitation is reasonable visitation. This type of order doesn’t have to include the exact dates and times the child will spend with each parent. It is up to the parents to work out together who will have the child when. Reasonable visitation can be an appropriate option if the parents can cooperate with and respect one another, communicate cordially and have the flexibility to understand when the child will need to be in the care of their ex. Miscommunications, disagreements and arguments can lead to conflict between the parents, which is not in the child’s best interests, so reasonable visitation may not be the best choice for parents who have lingering animosity towards one another.

A third type of visitation is supervised visitation. This type of order is appropriate if the child’s safety and well-being would at risk if the child is in the care of the unsupervised parent. The child’s other parent, another adult or a professional can provide the necessary supervision. Another reason to award supervised visitation is if the child and parent do not have an existing relationship and need time to get to know each other.

Finally, it is possible that if parental visitation — even supervised visitation — would harm the child, then no visitation will be awarded.

Ultimately, the type of visitation awarded must serve the best interests of the child. This post does not provide legal advice, so parents who need a child custody and visitation order should seek the assistance of family law professionals who can help them develop an appropriate plan.