Last Updated: October 21, 2022

When married couples with children divorce, they must determine who will be the primary caregiver. If a judge awards full custody, (also called primary allocation of parental responsibility), to one parent, the children will reside with that parent the majority of the time. The other parent is typically provided with some child visitation rights (in some states, called “parenting time”. While going through the divorce process, many couples wonder how much visitation / parenting time is normally granted.

Types of Child Visitation / Parenting Time

Joint custody and sole custody are the two main types of custody that exist. Many aspects of them can be similar, but there are some main differences between the two when it comes to a parenting time / child visitation schedule. Although a parenting schedule might look similar, the legal aspects of joint vs. sole custody are different.

Joint Custody / Shared Parenting Time

Joint custody can refer to both the legal rights (decision making / allocation of parental responsibilities) and it can refer to the type and amount of parenting time each person has. Joint custody as it relates to parenting time is popular because it features some flexibility since the parents can likely work together. When parents receive joint custody, they decide the visitation schedule. The goal is to allow the children to spend time separately with each parent. The parents determine reasonable places and times for children to visit one or both parents, developing a schedule that may change daily or weekly.

Sole Custody / Primary Parenting Time

Sole custody, like joint custody, can either involve the legal decision making for kids (things like education, healthcare, extracurricular activities, etc.). It can also include the amount of parenting time each parent is awarded by the divorce judge. When a parent is awarded sole custody, it normally means that the other parent (known as the ‘noncustodial parent’) has significantly less parenting time than the other parent (the custodial parent).

Parenting Plan’s for Child Visitation

With the two main types of custody being joint custody or sole custody, many different scenarios present themselves for parenting time. Whichever type custody is awarded to each parent the court will want a set parenting plan written for each parent to follow. Parenting plans involve a consistent schedule determined by the parents or the court. If one parent is awarded sole custody and the other is considered a threat or dangerous to the child, supervised visitation with a third-party present, such as a counselor or therapist, may be the only acceptable arrangement.

A typical parenting plan for parents that are awarded sole custody might allow for the noncustodial parent to have parenting time (child visitation) every other weekend (Friday-Sunday) and maybe dinner one night every week. A typical parenting plan for an award of joint custody might actually be the same child visitation schedule for the noncustodial parent, but it could also be something like alternating weeks. An alternating weeks schedule means the parenting time is equal (50/50).

Parenting Plans – Decision Making

Parenting plans also deal with decision making (known as the allocation of parental responsibilities). For cases that are joint custody in nature, both parents would have equal rights to decision making for the kids. This means the parents discuss significant child rearing decisions and agree. For cases where one parent is granted sole custody, that parent typically is awarded all decision-making ability and they only have to provide notice to the other parent of what decision they alone made.

Agreed Parenting Arrangements

In an amicable divorce, parents may make a mutual decision regarding visitation rights. If the parents are not in agreement, a judge will make the final visitation decision. All parties involved must testify and factors like testimony from the child, which parent serves as the primary caregiver to-date, and the criminal background of the parents may carry weight. One or both parents may petition to change the visitation agreement by revisiting the judge who initially made the decision in the future even. Although, mediation is typically the first step when a parenting plan modification is requested by a parent.

Next Steps

In order for each parent to ensure they are granted a reasonable amount of child visitation, either the parents must agree on a written plan, or a lawyer needs to get involved. Establishing a consistent routine is important for children of any age, especially those who are products of divorced families. Many couples seek the assistance of a child visitation lawyer when determining the visitation schedule. Divorce lawyers offer free consultations to people to determine what a parents needs and wants are – and to provide a realistic idea of what to expect.

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3 thoughts on “How Much Child Visitation is “Normal?””

  1. I share custody with the Paternal Grandma, whose son is the Father of the 8 year old girl of whom we share custody. The Mother is very unstable and has supervised visitation. The Dad has had supervised but now wants unsupervised visitation . My question is can’t we try to work something out without going to court? I am willing to let him have unsupervised now. IT is 6 years since court order and he has become more reliable. But I am wondering, who he answers to when it comes to taking her off. As it is he gets to see her a lot since he lives with his Mom. The child is at their house from Friday at 4 to Saturday at about 5, so that I can can do supervised visitation with the mother for a few hours. Then the child goes back to the grandma’s and dad’s house Sunday after I take child to church until about 8 Sunday evening. The grandma also takes child after work on Tues till about 8 pm. Child just turned 8 and we might have to change that during this coming school year because she will be going to a harder private school and will probably have more homework during week. The dad wants to be able to take her off but I am wondering if it is kosher for me to ask that it be while she is at his Moms house and that he call me and let me know where they will be? I mean, since his mom has joint custody, do I have to let her be the one to monitor that or can I ask to be informed of where he is taking her. I would rather come to an agreement than go to court. I also do supervised custody with the actual Mom on Thursdays also. I seem to be back and forth with letting them see her already. Bottom line is child sees Grandma on Tues afternoon and evening , Fri and Sat till 530 and Sunday from 2 till 8pm. She sees her Mom on Thursday evening from 530 to 8 and SAt evening from 530 to 8. Now he wants to take her off. I am hoping it he will agree to hours he is already over at his mom’s, her grandma’s house. Any help?

  2. I let my ex see his daughter every other weekend and he is supposed to take her out to dinner once a week as well. He is now threatening to take more time with my daughter, he wants visitation 2-weekdays every week also, and to have her overnight even. She has school and he lives almost 20 miles away so this would be bad for her schedule. What are my rights to stopping this visitation?

    1. Sharon, one thing to keep in mind when dealing with visitation is that judges and courts do want both parents to have a significant impact in a child’s life. Your reservation about your daughter needing to get to school and him wanting to have parenting time is a good argument against this type of arrangement. Judges do not like to mess with a child’s school schedule and having visitation times in the middle of the week, and unless the parties live very close to each other, is generally frowned upon. Speak to a local attorney about your options for fighting this by filling out the form on this page for a free consultation and good luck!

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