Most California parents who share their kids with former partners or spouses strictly follow their child custody schedules. Often times those schedules are mandated by family law courts and carry with them significant penalties when their terms are violated. While some parents like having specific guidelines governing their rights and visitation timetables with their kids, others prefer loose arrangements with more flexibility.
Though having a loose custody arrangement can allow parents to be flexible it can also leave the door open for many problems. A recent out of state news story discusses one possible situation that can arise when parents fail to set up specific custody guidelines. In the story, a child was picked up from school by an adult man. A school employee reported the pick-up to authorities as a case of child abduction. However, the man was actually the child's father.
The mother of the child had not intended for the father to pick the child up but since the family had no child custody plan in place authorities did not pursue the matter. The mother did not fear for her child's safety and authorities had no other grounds on which to go after the dad. He managed to avoid criminal charges though the uproar that his presence created may cause others with similarly loose custody arrangements to reconsider the possible consequences of their actions.
After a divorce, a family usually sets up a child custody plan. However, when no marriage binds a couple together and that couple has a child, it can be more challenging to codify the rights and expectations that each parent has toward the person's offspring.
Source: Rapid City Journal, "Suspected kidnapping turns into child custody issue," Oct. 15, 2014