How to Create an Effective Visitation Schedule
A child visitation schedule dictates when the child will spend time with each parent.
Whether you share joint custody or one parent has sole custody and the other has visitation, a visitation schedule is a key component of an effective custody agreement.
There a few things you should keep in mind if you want to create an effective visitation schedule:
Create a schedule you can follow. You should consider your work schedules and your child’s school schedule when you are preparing your visitation schedule. Your schedule should be easy to follow.
For example, if a parent gets off work at five but often has to work late or can be held up in traffic, you should start the visitation time at 6:30 instead of 6:00. This will allow the parent enough time to get there and no one will be inconvenienced.
Create a schedule you can agree on. Reaching an agreement can be challenging but it is imperative if you want to have an effective visitation schedule. It is easier to follow a schedule you create than one created for you by a judge or mediator.
As your child’s parents, you have intimate knowledge of the details and circumstances that may have an effect on your child’s schedule. You should make every effort to create a visitation schedule that both parents are satisfied with.
Take the time to include a detailed holiday schedule. It is common for parents to alternate holidays in even and odd years but you should not feel obligated to do so. Your child should be able to spend ample amounts of time with each of you on holidays and special occasions. How you choose to divide the holidays is up to you.
You may want to base the holiday schedule on family traditions. If one parent celebrates Easter and the other does not, it would make more sense for the child to spend every Easter with the parent that does.
You may include any holidays and special occasions you would like to in your schedule, including birthdays.
Be flexible with vacation time. You may want to include provisions that address vacation time instead of assigning actual vacation dates. For example, instead of stating that a parent’s vacation time with the child shall be the last two weeks of July, you can include instructions for reserving vacation time.
You may want to declare the length of the vacation time and require each parent to get the other parent a certain amount of advanced notice prior to taking the child for an extended vacation. This will benefit your child because work schedules can vary and a parent may not be able to take the time off from work during a specifically assigned timeframe.
Disregard child support. Child support should NEVER be a motive for seeking more visitation time with your child. Whether a parent is trying to receive more support or trying to avoid paying more support, financial matters should have no bearing on the amount of time you and the other parent spend with your child.
Create your schedule according to the best interests of your child and let the judge worry about the financial aspects of your custody case.
You will be legally obligated to abide by the terms of the child visitation schedule once it is approved by the court. You should create your visitation schedule with careful thought and consideration. It will have a lasting effect on the relationships your child will have with each of you.