Parenting Time & Visitation

When the parents have shared physical care, the child spends about half of the time with one parent and half of the time with the other parent. When and how often the children go from one parent to the other is up to the parties if they can agree and up to the court if they cannot.

How Visitation Schedules Affect Your Children

One of the most important things to consider when setting up parenting time is the effect on the child. Children are flexible, but there is a limit. Generally, a parenting schedule where the child is with one parent for two days and the other parent for three days on some sort of alternating schedule is not in the child’s best interest.

Remember, the child is now living in two different households where there are two different sets of rules, two different houses with two different floor plans and potentially two different groups of people. It takes a child time to switch from one household to another and “settle in”. A short stay with a parent means the child never really adjusts to the household before they have to switch again. It also means they are essentially living out of their suitcase. It also means they have to remember which parent they are going home to. That is a lot to ask of a child. It is harder on the parent, but easier on the child, to have the child stay at least a full week with one parent.

Setting Up a Visitation Plan

When one parent has primary physical care and the other parent has visitation, a visitation plan needs to be set up.

Visitation plans and shared physical care plans should be specific so as to avoid any possible conflicts and avoid confusion. While it is best if both parents can be flexible and work with the other; if they cannot, having a detailed plan in place can avoid another trip to the court to get it figured out.

A visitation schedule depends on the child’s age and whether there is somewhere for the child to sleep during the overnight visits. A typical arrangement, depending on the child’s age, consists of every other weekend usually from Friday through Sunday, one evening each week and every other holiday. However, for a child younger than 6 years of age, it is generally recommended by child development experts that visitation may be scheduled for 2 or 3 days weekly of 2 to 8 hours each visit.

Refusal by one parent to allow the other parent to exercise their visitation or shared physical care time is punishable by contempt and can be punished by fines, jail or in extreme cases, changing the visitation schedule and/or custody arrangements.