How Is A Parent/Child Visitation Schedule Determined?
Who determined the child visitation schedule?
Once a determination has been made regarding parental rights and responsibilities the court (or the parties) must then decide the parent-child contact (aka, visitation) schedule. The legislature informs us that maximum contact between the parents and the child is in the best interest of the child. This obviously assumes abuse is not an issue. And visitation is every bit as enforceable as a person’s custody award. The person with custody has no right to tell the other what the schedule is going to be.
How often should I be able to see my child?
A typical visitation schedule, or benchmark, that is often used is one where the non-custodial parent gets the kids every other weekend, plus a mid-week visit or overnight depending on the distances involved, alternating major holidays, split school vacations and 2-3 weeks in the summer. This is by means NOT what the court awards in every case. But it is a sort of typical guideline. Sometimes, the court can be persuaded to allow alternating weeks of visitation: One week at Mom’s, one week at Dad’s. That is the exception, though, not the rule. Or giving the non-custodial parent three weekends per month; and/or weekends that go from Friday to Monday morning. There are lots of possibilities.
Sometimes the non-custodial parent wonders why they can’t have the kids every weekend since the other party has them all week. Except in cases where very young children are involved, the court considers weekdays and nights to be filled with the hustle and bustle of school, work, homework, etc., and that weekends are down times to be enjoyed equally by each parent.
Can the parties follow a visitation schedule other than what is court-ordered?
It is typical for the court or the parties to add the proviso “unless otherwise agreed to by the parties,” which means in practice you can do anything you both agree to, any schedule. However, if push ever comes to shove, then what is written in the court order is what will be enforced.
Other (minor) issues to iron out are drop-off and pick-up times and locations, as well as who drives which leg of the trip. It is also sometimes a good idea to have a journal go back and forth with the (younger) kids so that assignments or doctor’s appointments or an update on the kids’ health can be relayed, especially if the parties aren’t always able to speak amicably with each other.
Once visitation is determined and the parties’ incomes are known, child support can be addressed.
If you are facing a divorce and interested in learning more about shared custody and visitation, contact experienced Vermont family lawyer, Kevin Volz at 802.775.0700.