Washington D.C. Custody and Visitation Schedules

How do I make my Washington D.C. custody and visitation schedule?

You can create your own custody and visitation schedule (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own schedule, you can use the Custody X Change software.

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How can District of Columbia laws help me as I make my schedule?

Creating a child visitation schedule in the District of Columbia can be made easier if you are familiar with the Washington, D.C. child custody and visitation laws.

These laws can be found in the District of Columbia Official Code, Division VIII, General Laws, Title 46, Domestic Relations, and in Division II, Judiciary and Judicial Procedure, Title 16, Particular Actions, Proceedings and Matters, Chapter 9, Divorce, Annulment, Separation, Support, etc.

The law contains key information such as definitions for the various types of custody and the contents of a parenting plan. If you are familiar with the law and the expectations of the court, you should be able to create a child visitation schedule the court will approve of.

What are the different types of custody in Washington, D.C.?

The types of custody the court can award are listed in DC ST § 16-914-(a)(1)(A):

  • Physical custody means the child's living arrangements and visitation schedule, and pertains to parents having physical responsibility for the daily care of the child.
  • Legal custody means legal responsibility for the child. It pertains to the authority of the parents to make legal and other important decisions for the child, the right to obtain and have access to the child's personal information, such as school and medical records, and the delegation of parental responsibilities.

Your Washington, D.C. child visitation schedule should be developed in accordance to the type of custody arrangements you wish to have.

What are the different ways a D.C. judge may award custody?

A judge may rule on custody in any manner he or she feels is in the best interests of the child.

Parents may share custody, having joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or both.

One parent may be the only person granted custodial rights, which means he or she would have sole legal custody, sole physical custody, or both.

It is possible for both parents to share joint legal custody while only one parent has sole physical custody.

Even when a parent has sole custody of their child, the other parent in usually entitled to reasonable visitation time with the child.

Sometimes visitation will be supervised or restricted, if the parent's conduct has been proven to be detrimental to the child.

Basically, the judge will award custody in any manner it deems appropriate for the individual situation.

What type of custody do the District of Columbia courts prefer to award?

The District of Columbia presumes that joint custody is in the best interest of a child (DC ST § 16-914.2), unless there is evidence of parental misconduct such as child abuse, neglect, kidnapping, substance abuse, etc. This evidence must be substantiated by an officer of the court.

In normal circumstances, both parents are encouraged to have frequent, ongoing contact and meaningful, nurturing, loving relationships with their child.

If you want a different kind of custody arrangement besides joint custody, you will need to prove to the court why the type of custody you are requesting would be better for your child.

What should my Washington, D.C. child visitation schedule contain?

In Washington, D.C., a child visitation schedule is a component of a parenting plan, which is a document created by the parents that delegates parental rights, responsibilities, and obligations.

Your child visitation schedule should include (DC ST § 16-914.c):

  • A residential schedule that specifies the days and times your child will spend time with each parent on a regular basis. Parents sharing joint physical custody will typically share time with the child in a more equitable, but not necessarily equal, manner than parents with sole physical custody and visitation would.
  • A holiday schedule that includes major holidays, school holidays and three day weekends, special occasions such as birthdays, Mother's Day, and Father's Day, and any other meaningful dates. The holiday schedule should allow your child equitable time with both parents on special occasions. Many parents simply alternate the holidays throughout the year, switching them in even and odd years, but you may create the holiday schedule according to family traditions, religious preferences, or however you wish, as long as it is in your child's best interests.
  • A vacation schedule that provides your child with extended time with each parent for personal vacations and school breaks. Provisions may be included to stipulate the amount of advanced notice a parent should give the other one prior to spending vacation time with the child, the duration of the vacation time, and whether or not the child will be permitted to leave the area or the country.

In Washington, D.C., what does the custody court consider before ruling?

The best interest of the child is the main concern of the court in child custody matters.

Some of the factors the court considers when determining the child's best interest are (DC ST § 16-914.3):

  • The wishes of the child and the wishes of the parents as they pertain to custody arrangements
  • The mental and physical health of each parent and the child
  • The nature and quality of the child's relationships with the parents, any siblings, other relatives, and people of importance in the child's life
  • The child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community
  • The proximity of the parents' home to each other and the child's school
  • The capacity of the parents to communicate and reach shared decisions about the child's welfare
  • The willingness of the parents to share custody
  • The prior involvement of each parent in the child's life
  • The potential disruption of the child's social and school life
  • The demands of parental employment
  • The age and number of children
  • The sincerity of each parent's request
  • The parents' ability to financially support a joint custody arrangement
  • The impact on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or Program on Work, Employment, and Responsibilities, and medical assistance
  • The benefit to the parents

Thinking about these factors as you make your schedule can assist you in making a schedule that really works for your child.

In addition, since these are the factors that the court considers when determining custody arrangements, if you incorporate these factors into your schedule you will have a better chance of the court accepting your schedule.

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