When a divorce is put into motion, alimony is the first thing that comes to mind with most people. However, financial settlements should always come second to issues of custody and visitation. The children are the ones most affected by divorce, and establishing child visitation rights will help to ease them through the transition.
The ideal situation is when both parents come to a child visitation agreement. Absent extenuating circumstances, such as abuse or neglect, the child visitation agreement determined by both parents becomes the official plan. If the issue of child custody and visitation are not raised in a court action, the child visitation agreement worked out between the parents is left undisturbed. The child visitation agreement does not have to be written out and signed by both parents, but a written, a signed parenting plan is preferable for future reference. In addition, a written, signed parenting plan can typically be entered as a provision between the parties and then issued as a court order for future enforcement purposes.
When a court is used to determine the child visitation agreement it usually orders “reasonable” visitation, leaving it to the parents to work out a more precise schedule of time and place. Reasonable visitation allows the parents to exercise flexibility by taking into consideration both the parents’ and the children’s schedules.
For practical reasons, however, the parent with physical custody has the majority control over the dates, times, and duration of visits. While the custodial parent isn’t legally bound to agree to any particular schedule, the presiding judge will take note of who is and who is not flexible. Being inflexible just to give your ex-spouse a hard time can backfire when you need to ask the court for something in the future.
Cooperation & Communication
In order to come to a child visitation agreement, the parents must cooperate and communicate frequently, for the reasonable visitation approach to succeed. If from the beginning you suspect that reasonable visitation won’t work, insist on a fixed schedule. A fixed schedule will save you time, anguish, and possibly money. If you’ve already agreed to reasonable visitation and one parent is consistently late, skips scheduled visits or doesn’t inform the other parent where he or she is planning on taking the children you can go back to court and ask that the arrangement be changed.
A detailed visitation schedule will sometimes be set up by the court, including the times and places for visitation with the non-custodial parent. A child visitation agreement can mean every other weekend or every Tuesday and Thursday evening. A court will be inclined to order a fixed schedule if the parents aren’t getting along to the point that regular contact between them may be damaging to the child. A fixed child visitation agreement schedule can still be generous, but it takes away the chance for one party to control the other’s time and provides predictability for the children, in an uncertain period.
Child visitation agreements are best settled out of court, but with un-cooperating spouses, it can be impossible. If your child visitation agreement must go to court an experienced attorney can ensure that you get the child visitation you deserve.