Child Custody | Divorce
How Is Visitation Determined?
by Philip Ahn, Attorney
In most cases, courts will decide on visitation rights after considering the child’s best interests.
Factors that may influence visitation arrangements include the child’s age, mental and emotional health, the physical health of each parent, the child’s preference if they are old enough to express a meaningful opinion, and any history of abuse.
In some cases, the court may also consider the financial circumstances of each parent when determining visitation rights. Siblings and grandparents may also ask for visitation.
When determining child custody and visitation arrangements, a judge will consider what both parents can handle, balancing this with the best interests of the child. In most cases, the court will exercise visitation rights reasonably, allowing both parents to maintain an ongoing relationship with the child.
Visitation decisions are often both difficult and delicate. Visitation schedules are essential for providing structure and consistency in relationships and helping to maintain appropriate boundaries. Visitation schedules allow both parties involved to plan and coordinate activities mutually.
When creating a visitation schedule, it is important to consider the needs and preferences of everyone involved, including others who have a meaningful relationship with your child.
Generally, parents have a right to reasonable contact with their children. Custody orders often grant one parent physical and legal custody of the child while setting out certain visitation rights for the other. When non-custodial parents are awarded visitation rights, they must be respected. It is in the best interest of the child that both parents remain involved in their lives.
Types of Child Visitation
Child visitation arrangements can be as varied as the families they are designed to help. In general, however, four different kinds of child visitation arrangements are used.
- Traditional Visitation: This typically includes regular parenting time for two parents, potentially alternating every other weekend or one night a week.
- Supervised Visitation: If the court finds that a parent risks the child’s safety, supervised visitation may be ordered. Supervised visitation is monitored between parents and children via an impartial, third-party adult supervisor such as a social worker or a government agency. Supervised visitation allows families to repair relationships, establish trust, and communicate in spite of risk factors that could interfere with child and parent safety.
- Split Visitation: Also known as bird’s nest visitation, this arrangement is designed to minimize disruption for the child. In this type of visitation, the parent with whom the child primarily resides remains in the family home while the other parent moves out, and then the parents switch places at predetermined times. This allows the child to stay in one house while still spending time with both parents.
- Virtual Visitation: In virtual visitation, parents can communicate with their children via video chat, phone calls, or other forms of digital communication.
Visitation with People Who Live Far Away
If parents live apart and one parent has custody of the child, both parents can still remain involved in the child’s life. The custodial parent should strive to keep the other parent informed about a child’s:
- Progress in school
- Healthcare decisions
- Changes that would affect their relationship with their child
In any case, each parent will generally have some level of responsibility for their child’s welfare, as well as a duty to support them financially.
Sole Custody and Visitation
A sole custody arrangement is when one parent has primary legal custody of the child and provides a physical home for the child. The non-custodial parent typically has visitation rights, but their parental rights are more limited compared to the custodial parent. Additionally, a sole custody arrangement may include more control for the custodial parent regarding important decisions.
Violating Visitation Agreements
It is essential to respect the terms of a visitation agreement. Suppose either parent fails to uphold their responsibility and does not abide by the visitation agreement regarding parenting time. In that case, the other parent can take legal action against them.
Courts will decide on appropriate punishment for any violation of visitation agreements. This may include fines, visitation modifications, suspension of visitation rights for a specific period, and (rarely) jail time.
In some cases, it may be necessary to modify an existing visitation order. This can occur if there has been a significant change in circumstances or if one parent desires a change in visitation rights or parenting time. Any changes to an existing visitation order must be agreed upon by both parties or approved by the court.
Legal Help for Visitation Arrangements
As a parent, you want to respect and protect your visitation rights. Without the help of a lawyer, your visitation rights could be jeopardized and you might not even know it. You need someone who understands the legal system and will fight for your parent’s rights.
An Unbundled family law attorney can defend your visitation rights. The legal rates an Unbundled attorney charges are affordable, ranging from $500 to $1,500 when you choose the tasks you need help on. Full representation is also available at affordable rates. Other family lawyers tend to charge double this amount. Get started by connecting with an attorney.