Last Updated: December 6, 2022
Many parents disagree on various things during a divorce and child visitation (also known as ‘Parenting Time’) is a big one. Each parent may want to spend as much time as possible with the children. Many parents have similar work schedules, which makes it difficult to enforce the maximum visitation rights of one without being detrimental to the other. Because of this, visitation schedule problems can become all too common of an occurrence. This is where speaking with a divorce lawyer (for a free consultation here!) is important. Parents need to understand how the specific laws will affect their personal situation.
Child Visitation Schedule Problems: The Parenting Plan
Child custody arrangements typically include a visitation schedule (parenting schedule) that details the place, time, and manner that an exchange in child custody will take place. The child goes from custody of one parent to that of the other. The parenting schedule outlines the times that each parent will have the children with them. Visitation schedule problems occur when there isn’t a detailed plan put in writing and entered by a judge.
Parenting schedules are typically broken out into weekdays, weekends, holidays, and summer vacations. It may also include special situations such as the illness of the child or the parent taking on visitation. Having a good parenting agreement helps to avoid visitation problems right off the bat! That isn’t to say that parenting issues can’t and won’t still come up, but the point is to limit it as much as possible.
Negotiating a Parenting Schedule
Making a parenting schedule (also called a “custody judgment” or “allocation judgment”) may sound simple to develop, but for many parents, that is far from the case. Both parents may want to have custody on a particular holiday, weekend, or even a certain day of the week. This is where visitation problems begin. A child visitation lawyer has experience with handling disagreements regarding visitation schedules. He or she understands how to steer the discussion to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution. And if the parties are unable to come to an agreement, court intervention might be the only logical next step.
Disagreement on Parenting Time = Visitation Problems
When determining child visitation, a family court judge will first consider the “best interests of the child.” This is a legal standard and it has multiple factors that, when looked at as a whole, help a judge to make a determination as to what is best for the child. The point of a judge deciding the best interests of the child is to avoid visitation schedule problems both now and long into the future.
Common “Best Interests of the Child” Factors
- The Relationship Between Parent and Child
- Kids fight with their parents, sometimes with one parent more than the other. This factor primarily only matters in situations where there could be issues between parent/child that are serious in nature and not just a child being broody.
- This is a huge factor. It means various things, such as having a stable living environment and not constantly moving every year or two. It also means being able to keep the kids in their same school district and in their same neighborhood (assuming it is a good school and safe neighborhood).
- Relationship Between the Parents
- People split up and get divorced, so there is clearly some issue between the parents. However, the important thing here is that the parents exhibit an ability and history of cooperating for their child’s best interests (even if the parents don’t get along). If a parent proves that he or she is unwilling to work with and cooperate with he other parent to continue to foster a relationship between child/other parent, a judge will look unfavorably on that parent.
- Ability to Care for Child / Meet the Child’s Needs
- A parent needs to be able to provide adequate shelter in a clean home and provide food and clothing for a child. Without these essentials, a parent stands no chance of any type of significant custody or parenting time.
- Mental and Physical Health of the Parents
- Mental health issues no longer have the stigma that once existed. However, if mental health conditions by one parent are out of control and not being treated, the other parent stands a better chance at getting what they want. The same goes for physical health. A parent that has certain disabilities might not be able to properly care for a child on their own, and accommodation likely need to be made for the child.
Modifying a Parenting Plan
Visitation schedule problems frequently occur after a parenting plan is in place where one parent wants to change the agreement or schedule. At a certain point, one parent may seek additional rights for visitation with the children or maybe just something different (perhaps a work schedule changes his or her days off). If the other parent opposes the petition, he or she can explain this at the court hearing or may choose to be represented by a child visitation lawyer. Either way, the goal is to draft a custody and visitation agreement that meets the needs of both parents without unduly hurting either one.
Spending time with children is important and visitation helps make this happen. Divorcing parents should be aware of their rights regarding visitation and parenting time and should attempt to work out a visitation schedule. Visitation schedule problems will occur, it is naïve to think otherwise. However, with a skilled attorney (that offers free consultations here!) and a detailed parenting plan, visitation problems can be virtually eliminated or extreme rare.