If the custody order does not provide for parent visitation rights but does not expressly withhold such rights, the noncustodial parent has an implicit right to “reasonable visitation” [Feist v. Feist (1965)]. The courts have a broad discretion on determining what is “reasonable,” but putting into paramount consideration the best interest of the child [Fam.C. § 3100(a)]. Beyond this general framework, courts consider such practical matters as the child’s age, maturity and special needs, the parent’s physical proximity to the child’s primary residence and, where appropriate, the child’s own preference [Marriage of Burgess (1996)].
If there is any dispute regarding parental visitation, it may be brought to court. But litigation is usually expensive and time-consuming, and may even be detrimental to the child’s best interest. That is why the policy preference is that custody and visitation issues be decided out of the courtroom in a nonadversary environment [Montenegro v. Diaz (2001), Marriage of Dunn–Kato & Dunn (2002)]. The superior court shall make a mediator available (Fam.C. § 3160), and the purpose of the mediation is to effect a settlement of the issue of visitation rights of all parties that is in the best interest of the child [Fam.C. § 3161 (c)].
A lawyer who is an expert in Family Law can best discuss and explain the necessary and appropriate action to take involving parental visitation issues.