8 Steps to Creating a Visitation Schedule
Upon filing for a divorce in which minor children are involved, a temporary visitation order may be granted by an overseeing judge. In these cases, visitation is often awarded to a parent who has left the shared family home, to ensure their parenting time is not interrupted. This visitation schedule is not a permanent one, and the schedule set forth in a temporary order may not be the final schedule that you and your ex-spouse agree upon. It is important, however, to ensure that visitation is made possible between the noncustodial parent and child, as long as the parent is deemed fit to parent, and is not a danger to the child or others.
1. Check with the Court
Many states have guidelines in place for visitation schedules. You can receive a copy of these guidelines by going to the City Clerk’s office and requesting them or checking your states website. You may also request these guidelines from your attorney, if you are retaining one. These guidelines will help you figure out what is preferable in your state. You can choose to deviate from these guidelines, but justifications may be needed in court before deviations from the guidelines are granted.
2. Try and Work it Out Privately
Sometimes, parents can work out child visitations and child custody without involving the court systems. While a divorce proceeding that includes minor children will award custody and initiate child support, parents can choose to work together to come up with a plan that best benefits their children. This is almost always better than having a judge who is a complete stranger to your family decide your parenting time.
3. File the Necessary Documents
When determining a visitation schedule, you’ll need to submit legal documents to the court. The court will take into account everything from the child’s age, to the distance between the two parents’ homes, to the nature of the child’s relationship with each parent when making decisions regarding visitation. A child’s special medical needs may also be taken into account. Speaking with a lawyer regarding the necessary filings is often in both parents’ best interests. It ensures that all necessary documents are submitted in a timely fashion, and will ensure the visitation schedule is completed quickly, minimizing the disruption to you and your child.
Mediation may be recommended or even mandated for parents who can’t come to an agreement without the court system. Mediation is a step below having a court ordered schedule. In such a meeting you and your ex will sit down and attempt to come to a resolution on child custody issues with the help of a third party . A properly qualified mediator will be experienced in both facilitating discussions and parenting complexities so the probability of being able reach an arrangement that is acceptable to both you and your ex is increased.
You may need to further document your child’s relationship with a non-custodial parent if you are looking to gain sole legal and physical custody. These types of arrangements are often only granted in a case where one parent is not fit to parent on their own such as when there is a history of abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, or a chronic medical condition. In these cases, supervised visitations may be granted to the non-custodial parent.
6. Court Ordered Schedules
Once you and your spouse come to an agreement, either on your own or through mediation, the visitation schedule will be submitted to the court. A judge can approve or disapprove the proposed schedule based on the documentation he or she has received. If you were not able to reach an agreement then a judge will specify the custody arrangements. Once approved, the schedule becomes a court order which can be modified at a later date to meet the changing needs of the parents or the child.
7. Stick to the Schedule
Once your parenting schedule becomes a court order , you must follow with the schedule. As a custodial parent, you’ll want to ensure you encourage your ex to see their child on the agreed upon visitation dates. Both parents have a responsibility to make parenting exchanges as smooth and uneventful as possible. If a parent chooses not to stick with the agreed upon schedule, the court can become involved again.
8. Keep it Civil
It is always in the best interest of the child for their parents to minimize the child’s exposure to conflict. That takes energy and commitment. It is also beneficial to the child for both parents to acknowledge the importance of the other parent’s involvement. Encourage your child to call, text or communicate with their other parent when they are with you. This can go a long way to building the relationship between co-parents, and will lead to a healthier and happier child.
The Bottom Line
Child custody arrangements, regardless of the type of arrangement you have can be difficult. Emotions tend to run high during divorces, and especially during divorces involving young children. Do avoid knee-jerk reactions, seek competent legal advice from family and divorce attorney, and attempt to work with your co-parent as best you can.
About the Author:
Jennifer Caughey is a content writer for Colgan & Associates LLC, a divorce lawyer in York, PA. She has contributed to many articles regarding divorce, child custody and mediation and issues for the Pennsylvania area. Before becoming a content writer, Jennifer worked in the Healthcare industry with a focus healthy relationships and children’s psychological health. Jennifer considers herself an expert surrounding family legal matters and the effects on psychological health.
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