What does visitation mean?



One of the biggest misconceptions about parenting time (visitation) is that 50-50 with the children is the norm.  Simply not true.  While sharing the children on a 50-50 schedule may work for some parents, by and large, it is not workable in the long term (and Judges know this).  As much as you would like it to work, it usually doesn't.  Many factors go into the ability to keep a 50-50 schedule intact, but the factors having the largest impact is the proximity that the parents live to one another.  The longer the distance, the less likely a 50-50 parenting plan will work.   


Visitation is the word used to describe the usual parenting time schedule between the non-custodial parent and children.  The term visitation is gradually being phased out for the preferred term of “parenting time.”  Generally, parents enjoy parenting time with their children on alternating weekends and one evening during the week.  Usually, in addition to this standard schedule, parents share summer breaks from school and alternate holidays and school vacations.  The parenting time schedule can be flexible (when parents work together) and can be altered by agreement of both parents.  When both parents can cooperate to work out a schedule, the agreement is generally called a Joint Parenting Agreement.


Acting in good faith and being flexible is the keystone to a workable joint parenting schedule.  Sometimes a fixed schedule is not practical.  In those cases, parents some time opt not to have a firm schedule due to work and other commitments.  Most standard schedules only apply to children over the age of 3.  Toddlers and infants are generally provided for a different schedule to accomodate their young age and the need to bond with both parents.  In those cases, the mental health professionals generally suggest a parenting time schedule where the non-custodial parent have frequent contact with the very young child (daily or every other day), for a few hours (no overnights).  This special schedule isn't designed to hurt the non-custodial parent, but rather tailored to ensure the child forms healthy bonds with both children.


If you already have a parenting agreement (with a visitation schedule) and there is some dispute, there should be a provision within the agreement that mandates you and the other parent attend and attempt mediation to remedy the problem.  It is now a requirement that all parenting agreements contain this mediation requirement. The purpose of the mediation agreement is to assist parents avoid the cost and expense of court.


Common standard parenting time schedules usually include language that provides the non-custodial parent alternating weekends from Friday after school to Sunday evening at 8:00 p.m.  In addition to these weekends, a non-custodial parent would also have parenting time on one weekday, every week, from after school to 8:00 p.m.  (usually this weekday is in the middle of the week - like a Wednesday).  This "standard visitation" arrangment can be highly flexible given the parents willing to accomodate the other and taking into consideration work and school schedules. 


Parents do deviate from this schedule all the time (unless control issues are in the mix).  One such deviation, which divorce professionals believe is a good idea is extending the alternating weekends to include Sunday overnights where the non-custodial parent takes the child to school on Monday mornings.  This deviation resolves the constant litigated issue that the non-custodial parent didn't get the homework done, feed the child, and or shower the child for bedtime on a Sunday night before school. If the non-custodial parent keeps the child on Sunday night, those tasks naturally fall on his or her lap.  No more passing on those responsibilities at the visitation exchange on Sunday night.


If a 50-50 schedule is being considered, theres no magic way of doing it.   There are many variouations of a 50-50 schedule, but as noted above, not preferred, and likely unworkable in the long run.


Please contact Paul D. Nordini for any questions about this topic.

You can reach him by phone at (630) 306-6300

or email at:  paul.nordini@divorceinfosite.com