What to Include in a Basic Visitation Schedule
Once a custody agreement is accepted by the court, it will become part of the custody order and you will be legally obligated to comply with it. The agreement will serve as the rules and regulations for raising your child apart. It is wise to make the extra effort to create a good plan now in order to spare yourselves conflict in the future. All parts of your custody agreement should be created with care and contemplation.
The child visitation schedule is a part of the custody agreement. A basic visitation schedule addresses the living arrangements of the child and defines when the child will spend time with each parent. You don’t have to map out an entire year’s worth of visitation, though. You can simply create a visitation schedule that repeats on a regular basis.
For example, you could state that the father shall have visitation with the child on Wednesdays and Thursdays and then alternating weekends from Thursday night until Sunday afternoon. The schedule would begin on the day you agreed upon, go through a two week cycle, and repeat.
Aside from a regular residential schedule, your child custody schedule should include plans for holidays and vacations.
Holiday visitation has priority over regular visitation. This means that even if a holiday falls on “your” day, the parent that is scheduled to have the child for the holiday will have the child instead.
You can include any holidays you want in your basic custody agreement. There are the traditional holidays, such as federal, state, and religious holidays, and there are other special occasions (such as Father’s Day and birthdays) that may be included as well.
In fact, you can include special occasions in your holiday schedule based on your own family traditions. For example, if one parent takes an annual camping trip with extended family the same time each summer or a parent has a family reunion/cookout each fall, you may include these occasions in your schedule.
The important thing is to ensure that your child’s needs are being met and your child gets to spend an equitable amount of time with each of you on holidays and special occasions. Some parents choose to alternate having the child on holidays in even and odd years, but you certainly have the opportunity and ability to create the holiday schedule as you see fit.
The custody agreement should also account for vacation time. Work schedules may be difficult to predict and scheduling vacation time may be challenging. Instead of adding actual vacation time to the visitation schedule, you may want to include a provision in your agreement that states how many vacation days each parent will have with the child and how much advance notice should be given to the other parent. If you are concerned about the child being taken out of the state of out of the country, you can include stipulations regarding travel in your plan.
You should also address school breaks and vacations. It is common for the “non-custodial” parent, or the parent who spends less time with the child during the school year, to have the child for extended periods of time during summer vacation, spring break, and winter vacation.
Your child’s school should have a yearly calendar with all of the vacation dates included. This will help you to plan ahead during the school year in order to make arrangements for the school breaks. However, you can include provisions in your custody agreement that state the other parent “shall have the child for six weeks during the summer” or whatever you decide on. You can narrow down the actual dates as the time approaches.
Once you have submitted your custody agreement and visitation schedule to the court, you may want to create a visitation calendar. You can make a copy of the visitation calendar for yourself, your ex, and your child, so everyone will always be on the same page and there is no confusion with the schedule.
Creating a basic custody agreement and vacation schedule doesn’t have to be a chore. Think about your child’s needs, contemplate all aspects of every situation, and create a plan that works for you and your child.