Child Visitation Schedules
Nevada law grants a parent, married or not, a reasonable amount of time to spend with their children. The public policy is to allow parents to maintain a parent-child relationship. What is considered a reasonable amount of time tends to change based on individual circumstances and individual state rules.
Mature, forgiving and Zen-like ex-spouses, who don’t carry the memory of lost and wasted years around with them like beloved yet badly battered vintage Birkin bags, can create their own visitation schedules. The rest of us have the courts.
Whether you and the other parent can agree on a schedule or you need the courts, there are several fairly common visitation schedules.
Joint Custody Visitation Schedules.
The 60/40 child visitation schedule is often considered a “joint” or “shared” custody schedule, because both parents have frequent and significant contact with their children. This schedule works well when both parents want substantial time with their children. It also works well for parents who can communicate without problems (injuries, insults, incarceration) about their visitation schedule, who live fairly close to one another and who have created a schedule with which their kids are comfortable.
Many judges and psychologists feel it’s important for children to be a part of both parents’ lives and the 60/40 schedule allows a child to spend enough time with each parent to cultivate a close relationship. Typical 60/40 child visitation schedules include the child spending three days each week with one parent and four days a week with the other, or the child spending the weekdays with one parent and the weekends, plus Friday night, with the other.
Primary Visitation Schedules.
The 70/30 or 80/20 child visitation schedule works best when parents don’t live near each other, when a child does better with one consistent home base or when one parent is often out of town. It’s a good alternative for families that, for any reason, just can’t make the 60/40 work.
Typical 70/30 schedules is a parent having the children during the weekdays and the other parent having weekends. Every other the weekend may be exchanged for a couple of weekdays.
The main thing to remember with the 70/30 child visitation schedule is that one of you is definitely going to be spending a lot more time with your child than the other. To become more involved in the child’s life, the 30 percent parent can add overnight visits, some holidays and summer breaks to the schedule. Phone calls, texting and online chatting are also a really good way to stay involved, up-to-date and connected for those of you who can only be hands-on parents about 30 percent of the time.
Holidays, Birthdays and Summer Breaks.
All visitation schedules should include the specifics; don’t leave holidays, special occasions, birthdays and school breaks up in the air. A lot of divorced parents take turns with special holidays and events in order to be fair, both to one another and their children. For example, if your child spends Christmas with your ex one year, you get that holiday the next year. Many courts will grant extended visitation during the summer when the parent without primary custody lives in another state or country. Sometimes the court will ask parents to share the travel expenses for out-of-state summer visits. If these financial details were not outlined in your original divorce decree, and are becoming a problem, you can always ask the court for a modification to clear up who should be covering the costs, or how they should be divided. It’s also important for parents to decide if their child needs travel supervision or can make the trip alone. Children five years of age are allowed to fly without adults, but are provided with an airline escort. Regardless of what the airlines permit, you know your kids best; if you don’t think your little one is ready for his or her first solo flight, make other arrangements.
Travel notwithstanding, long summer breaks can be tough on both the parent with custody and the children involved. If your kids are visiting your ex for the summer, plan out a reliable communication schedule with your children. Set aside days and times for you to contact each other and stay in touch through the phone or using Skype. A scheduled end-of-day chat will help young kids fend off homesickness and help you shake any anxiety you might be feeling about being away from your babies (whatever their ages) for such a long-seeming period of time.
Supervised Visitation and Suspended Visitation
Sometimes a parent’s behavior can raise some very real concerns. If you are worried about the safety of your child during visits with your ex, you are not powerless. There are a variety of circumstances under which a judge can order that visitation be supervised. Among those are past instances of domestic violence, drug use, incarceration, mental illness, or past abandonment. With supervised visitation, a third party is present to watch over all visits between the child and the non-custodial parent, and those visits will take place either at a local agency or in the child’s own home.
If you truly believe that visitation with your co-parent will put your child at risk, you can request a court hearing before a judge and ask for an order restricting supervised visitation. In order to get that restriction, however, you absolutely must be able to convince the judge that your ex poses a real emotional or physical danger to your child. In a situation like this, involving a family law attorney is a good idea.
Though child visitation rights are generally granted, they are not guaranteed; they are a privilege. Supervised visitation is just the tip of the iceberg in cases where there is a risk of child endangerment; under certain circumstances the court can also suspended or completely deny all visitation. Neglect, child abuse or a parent’s severe mental illness are all factors that can put a stop to child visitation. However, as mentioned before, these restrictions are ordered only when there is solid evidence that the non-custodial parent is a physical or emotional threat to the child’s well-being.
Requests to Modify Child Visitation.
If parents could pull visitation rights every time they were angry with their exes, the family courts would be snowed under and more children of divorce (not to mention their parents) would likely end up emotional basket cases. Child visitation orders can be modified, but the court needs to be certain that the modification is in the best interest of the child. So, if you are seeking changes to a current visitation arrangement, be sure you can prove your modifications really will improve things for your child.
A few common reasons for seeking changes in child visitation include:
- Changes in the work schedule of the non-custodial parent;
- The relocation of either parent; and
- The preference of the child.
An experienced family law attorney can be a big help when it comes to putting together the details supporting your child visitation modification request. The court wants, above all else, a child visitation schedule that is a good fit for your child; the way you and your ex feel about one another may not factor into that at all.
A good child visitation schedule helps your child feel loved, secure and cared for, so it’s important to work amicably with your ex, regardless of past problems, if or when child visitation modification is needed. Even if you currently have a great relationship with your ex, don’t be careless; any changes to visitation should still be approved by the court. If they aren’t, you are risking future regrets. As a divorced parent, you already know that feelings can change. With court-ordered child visitation in place, a refusal to comply with the schedule won’t be an option if the non-custodial parent suddenly decides to be difficult.
There are so many factors to consider when deciding on your child visitation schedule. As you weigh all of the different options, before thinking about convenience, ease or your own comfort, think of what will be the very best for your child emotionally, physically and mentally. Work as closely as you can with your ex, in as civil a fashion possible, to ensure fairness. Your ex may never be your favorite person in the world, but both you and your ex are hugely important to your child. And, as a good parent, that fact should be hugely important to you.